Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence Book Review

Rape and sexual assault are unfortunately a part of human history. For as long as anyone can remember, women have dealt with this reality on a daily basis.

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, by Ken Auletta, was published in July. This biography tells the story of former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the 2017 revelation of the numerous women he forced himself on.

Born to a Jewish family in Queens, Weinstein was an insecure boy who grew into an insecure man. Though this business acumen is notable, how he treated people (and women specifically) is another story. Though there were instances of kindness and generosity, those events were few and far between. He was temperamental, impatient, arrogant, and threw his power around like a frisbee.

The stories of the women Weinstein assaulted are basically the same. He would turn on the charm and make them believe that he was genuinely interested. He would then invite them to his hotel room to discuss possible career opportunities. Once that hotel room door closed, it was just a matter of time.

For obvious reasons, this book is hard to read. It is a long read and the subject is obviously a difficult one.

The psychological profile that Auletta presents is that of a bully. Like all bullies, he has unresolved issues. Instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner, he lashes out and takes his anger out on others.

If nothing else, it should get us all angry. The problem is not just Weinstein’s actions, it is the complicity of everyone around him. As Auletta points out, his sexual reputation was not unknown. Instead of rallying around his victims, the majority stayed silent. If they had the gall to speak out, there were consequences. It was only after the initial revelations in 2017 that the silence was acknowledged and genuine change started to occur.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also state that this is one of the top five books of the year.

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Andrew Cuomo Has No Place in NY Politics

After a political scandal, the wise thing to do is to keep your head down and hope that in time, you will no longer be front-page news.

Former NY Governor Andrew Cuomo believes otherwise. He has announced that he will re-enter politics, though to what end remains unclear at this point. In his most recent ad, he claims that he made “mistakes”.

What he did was not a mistake. A mistake is accidentally brushing against someone in a crowded elevator. What he did to those women was textbook sexual harassment. This is a moral failing that in my mind, automatically knocks him out of whatever race he intends to run on. What is worse is that there appears to be a growing number of people who are supporting him.

This is nothing but a way to inflate his ego. He knows what he did was wrong. In this #MeToo era, actions like these do not go unnoticed or unpunished. The fact that he is downplaying it tells me everything I need to know about Andrew Cuomo. If he decides to run for office, he will not get my vote. I hope my fellow New Yorkers will do the same.

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Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement Book Review

Some people are born to change the world. Others change the world by a twist of fate, forcing them to step into the spotlight and speak for those who for any number of reasons, cannot do so themselves.

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, by #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, was published last month. Born in the Bronx, Burke was sexually assaulted as a girl. Believing that she was at fault, she let the shame settle into her emotional bones and change her. She thought it could be simply hidden away and life would simply go on. But the experiences would force her to not just confront her own past, but how other women have lived with similar traumatic experiences. She specifically explores how those responsible for such heinous acts are often given a free pass. At the same time, their victims must live with the scarlet letter that is forced upon them for something they were not responsible for.

This book should be on every must-read list of 2021. In telling her own story, Burke speaks for the millions of women across the world, past, and present, who were called all sorts of names simply because some man thought they were there for his sexual pleasure. By calling out those who would shelter sexual predators and supporting those who have suffered, she is challenging all of us to break the status quo and make assault/rape the criminal act it should have been all along.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Bill Cosby’s Release is Both Wrong and Disgusting

Once upon a time (the 1980’s and early 1990’s to be specific), Bill Cosby and his family sitcom, The Cosby Show was everywhere. He was America’s TV dad, breaking boundaries and telling stories that we all could relate to, regardless of skin color.

Cut to nearly 40 years later; Cosby was a felon, found guilty of sexual assault. But as of yesterday, he was released from prison due to the accusation that his due process rights were violated.

Adding fuel to the fire, his TV wife, Phylicia Rashad initially supported him by the following tweet on Wednesday:

“FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”

By Thursday, it had been retracted and replaced with another tweet.

Starts at 6:09

This is why the #Metoo movement exists. To make sure men like Cosby are given their day in court and then locked in jail for the rest of their natural lives. While I understand that Rashad and Cosby have been friends and colleagues for years, she should not be excusing his behavior. She should be calling him out on what he did and standing by the victims.

As a response to her initial tweet, Howard University, where Rashad is a Dean of the College of Fine arts, has received complaints from students, parents, and potential students. Honestly, I don’t blame them. By condoning him, she sends the message that these kinds of act are not just acceptable, but those found guilty will get just a slap on the wrist.

When it comes to rape and sexual assault, we have finally reached the place in which the victims are believed and the perpetrators get what is coming to them. Bill Cosby’s release is not just wrong and disgusting, it is a cold reminder why we still need #Metoo.

Promising Young Woman Review

We’ve all heard stories about women who after getting drunk, have been raped. When the police start to dig into the facts, the man’s defense is that she was wasted.

Promising Young Woman hit theaters last Christmas. Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was once a medical school student with a bright professional future ahead of her. When her best friend was sexually assaulted, her life turned upside down. Now she works at a coffee shop by day and takes her revenge by night. Hitting different bars, she pretends to have had one too many. Letting the man of the evening take her home, she lets him believe he will be able to take advantage of her. When Cassie reveals that she is sober and questions him, he does not know how to respond. When one of her former classmates, Ryan (Bo Burnham) walks into the coffee shop, he seems to be different. All seems well on the romance track between Cassie and Ryan. I would love to say that there is some version of happily ever after, but alas, there is not.

Written and directed by Emerald Fennell (The Crown), this is one amazing film. This is one of Mulligan’s best roles in years. She is vengeful and angry, but not in an obvious way. Her way of getting revenge is cold, sweet, and thoroughly delicious. The fact that the male characters are unnerved by Cassie’s actions is nothing short of a dream come true. All of this is backed by an amazing soundtrack, led by the Britney Spears song, Toxic.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Promising Young Woman is in theaters and available for streaming on VOD.

Pretending: A Novel Book Review

The romance genre has been part of our literary world since the creation of stories. It is therefore, up to every writer to do what they can to make their particular narrative stand out.

Pretending: A Novel, by Holly Bourne was released in November. In her early 30’s, April is living a relatively normal life. But there is one thing she longs for: a boyfriend. Every relationship April has had up this point has ended in heartbreak.

Her way of dealing with this is to create an alter ego: Gretel. Gretel is everything that April wishes she was. Via a dating app, April/Gretel starts chatting with Joshua. After one dating dumpster fire after another, it finally looks like April has the romantic life she has longed for. But, she also knows that she will have to tell Joshua the truth eventually.

Some books hook you right away. Others take a little time to pull the reader in. Pretending: A Novel falls into the second category. I liked this book and I liked the main character. April is not your average “someday my prince will come” romance novel heroine. She is real, complicated, and has a past that is not completely dealt with. Adding elements of the #Metoo movement and mental health issues beefs up the narrative, elevating the overall novel from your typical modern romance.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

#MeToo in the Corporate World: Power, Privilege, and the Path Forward Book Review

Since the dawn of time, some in the upper echelons of the business world have believed that underlings (especially female underlings) are solely there for sexual pleasure.

#MeToo in the Corporate World: Power, Privilege, and the Path Forward , by Sylvia Ann Hewlett was published in the beginning of the year. In the book, Ms. Hewlett talks about how the #metoo movement has altered the way the sexual assault and sexual harassment has been viewed in the workplace. Using data, interviews with experts and victims, she analyses where progress has been made and where there is still work to be done.

I really liked this book. It is both academic and written for the average person. Two things struck me when I finished this book. The first is that white women are not the only victims. The other is that women are less likely to be given opportunities to climb the corporate ladder due to the fear of potential accusations.

I recommend it.

If Tara Reade is Lying….

When I was a senior a college, I heard a rumor of a female classmate who accused a male classmate of rape. When the rape allegations were proved to be a lie, the natural sympathy fell on the male classmate who would be forever tainted with the false allegation.

But about the millions of women who are raped and/or sexually assaulted and don’t go to the police because they are afraid of not being believed?

One of the off shoots of the #MeToo movement was the statement “believe all women“. Unfortunately, the lack of credibility of Tara Reade’s accusations threatens the idea that all women who report being raped are telling the truth.

There will always be people who question when a woman reports that is sexually assaulted. That is an unfortunate fact. I hate to say it, but based on what I have read and heard, I’m not sure that she is telling the 100% truth.

It bothers me to no end, but I have go with my gut. For her sake and for the sake of the women who are accused of lying about their own rapes, I hope that the evidence proves that Ms. Reade is telling the truth.

I fear what may happen if she is not.

Joe Biden and the Sexual Assault Accusation: A Double Standard?

As the #Metoo movement forces our society to face our sexual assault and sexual harassment demons, it has revealed how both complicated and simple the subject is.

In 2017, former Democratic Senator Al Franken was accused of sexual harassment. The result of the accusations was swift and decisive. Franken resigned from the Senate after receiving pressure from female colleagues. Back in 2016, as that year’s election was heating up, you know who, who was then the Republican nominee was himself accused multiple acts of a similar nature.

As of today, it looks like former Vice President Joe Biden has all but sewn up that he will be the Democratic nominee come the fall. In an effort to capture the attention and the vote of American women, he has announced that his pick for Vice President would be a woman. Since that announcement, speculation of who he would choose has been rampant.

But now there is a chink in the armor. Tara Reade, a former congressional aide, accused the former Vice President of assaulting her when she worked for him in the early ’90s.

This is not the first time these kinds of accusations have been leveled against him.

The question is now, how will the Democratic leadership and voters respond? And more importantly, how will they deal with the claim of double standard from the right?

The simple answer is that sexual assault and sexual harassment is wrong and should be punished, no matter who is responsible. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. That being said, given how complicated American politics is these days, the answer to how this resolved will not be easy to obtain.

Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World Book Review

We all know that for most of human history, women have been at best second class citizens and at worst, property. When it comes to sexual assault and rape, the complaints, if they have been made public have not be received and responded to as they should have.

Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World is a new compilation of essays edited by Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman. In their own words, each writer answers the following question: what if we not only we believed women, we took their claims of rape and sexual assault seriously?

The best thing about this book is the variety of writers. Each writer brings his or her own experience into the essay, answering the question in a way that is both personal and profound. By attaching a human face and a unique story to these very difficult topics, these writers are helping to break down the barriers and start a conversation that should have started a long time ago.

I absolutely recommend it.

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