Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Things that can help

I have two concrete things I want to write about, but as I did mention the structural issue as an impediment, we should take that into consideration.

Sexual harassment and assault is built around a power imbalance. The abuser can not only leverage access to jobs and wealth, but also tends to have the social and political power so is less likely to be questioned. I don't know that we can really call it trust, because not believing the victim is not quite the same thing as making a choice to ignore it, but still, it's a factor.

Bearing that in mind, one potential solution comes from a New York Times op-ed by Lupita Nyong'o:

After recounting her own experiences with Weinstein, she says that she has not had an similar experiences since. She attributes this not to her actions, but that the projects she has worked on have had women in positions of power, and men who were feminists. This has created good environments.

Yes, there are women who are abusive, as well as abusive men who are self-proclaimed feminists, but there are people who don't abuse. You can hire them and then you don't need chaperones and people wearing wires because you are not giving the predators free rein.

I have written about how some of this is luck, and perhaps an area in which Nyong'o has been lucky is that more women are slowly getting more directing gigs, and they are making some pretty profitable films. Putting more women into production roles and onto boards could be a great step toward reducing harassment, and the odds are good that it will still be profitable. Weinstein didn't rape and sexually harass everyone, but he was a bully to a lot of people too. What if you don't need to put up with people like that to make money?

It doesn't mean that you fire all the men either, but if Hollywood truly cares about this, then they need to quit hiring the open secrets. They need to quit resolving issues with Non-Disclosure Agreements. That is so blatantly obvious that you have to wonder if they would care if no one were talking about it.

But we are talking, and that's the second thing.

Tarana Burke started "Me too" ten years ago in the absence of community outreach for survivors. It is supportive and provides a way of finding your own voice. I have been planning on writing about that as a way forward for days. It has gone far beyond that now.

It's not just that other names have been added to the list in Hollywood. It is not just that Condé Nast has cut ties with Terry Richardson anymore, though that is huge. It is not just that legislators are getting called out.

It is that people are talking and listening. Many people remain terrible, as expected, but others have been much better than expected. This moment has gained momentum.

A few days ago I was thinking of how to build on the moment. Should there be a drop-in event where people can talk, or a chat room? How do you make it easier for people to speak out?

There are still many people for whom it is hard to speak, but at least there is an existing conversation they can join. There are still people with a lot of trauma to work through, and careers that have been lost, but this feels like forward motion.

A male acquaintance who had been simply watching the conversation asked about what to do with his own sexual harassment experience. There are some different obstacles there, where men are more likely to be attacked on their masculinity instead of their moral worthiness. It is progress that more men can feel safe divulging their stories too. There is room for encouragement here.

There is a tangent or two that I want to explore next week, but where we are in this moment is better than I expected. Listening matters.

And don't be surprised that both of those examples came from listening to Black women.

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