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.
For untold generations, women have been told that our beauty is our only asset. But during war, using our looks may mean the difference between life and death.
Cilka’s Journey, by Heather Morris is a follow up to her previous novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Based on a true story, Cecilia “Cilka” Klein is just sixteen when she was transported to Auschwitz from her home in Czechoslovakia. She is saved from the gas chambers by her looks and is forced to become a sexual slave. When the war is over, Cilka looks forward to freedom.
Instead, she is accused of willfully sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian work camp. The conditions in the gulag are similar to those in Auschwitz. But there is one difference: the kindness of a female doctor. This doctor gives Cilka the opportunity to work in the camp hospital. This job helps to bring Cilka back to life and show her that love is still possible.
When we talk about the Holocaust and World War II, the subject of sexual assault and #Metoo is a subject that does not come up very often. But I think it is a topic that we should be discussing, especially given our current political and cultural climate.
From a very young age, women are socialized to the idea that their main asset (if not their only asset) is their beauty. But we are also penalized when we use our looks to get by. From the instant we meet her, Cilka is a character that I admired and I wanted to hug. Many would have not lasted as long as she did in the same set of circumstances. But Cilka did and for that alone, she deserves as much recognition as she can get.
For decades, there were whispers within Hollywood about producer Harvey Weinstein. But as soon as reports surfaced of allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they were put down as mere rumor. That is until Kantor and Twohey started digging. That digging opened a Pandora’s box of truth, lies and the people who would do almost anything to close that box again.
This book reads like a fictional thriller instead of a real story. It is a heart pounding roller coaster ride until the very end of the book. We know how the story ends, but there were so many blockages for Kantor and Twohey that I started to wonder if justice would finally prevail. When I finally finished the book, I was relieved that Weinstein was finally getting what was coming to him.
The thing that strikes me about this book and this story is that it is universal among women. The women who come forward in this book tell the same story, with minor details changed for their specific narrative. They range from Hollywood A-listers to fast food workers to teenage girls assaulted by their drunk male classmates. If nothing else, I think that this book and others of this nature are a starting point for a conversation that is more than overdue.
*This post contains spoilers about this season of Grantchester. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the entire season.
Women have been experiencing sexual assault and sexual harassment since the beginning of time. It is only in the past few years that the #Metoo movement has forced the hand of lawmakers and leaders to stop and/or prevent such acts.
This season of Grantchester tackled the issue as only this show can.
After having her children and spending quite a few years at home, Cathy Keating (Kacey Ainsworth) is ready to go back to work. It’s supposed to bring in additional income and give her something to do outside of the traditional roles of marriage and motherhood.
But like many women across the centuries, Cathy has more than the standard workload on her hands. Her lecherous colleague, Anthony Hobbs (Christian McKay) has wandering hands and the idea that his female colleagues are there for his sexual pleasure. The preview of the scene starts at :11.
There are two ways to resolve a story line of this manner: the easy way and the hard way. The easy way would have been that upon finding out about Mr. Hobbs, Cathy’s husband, Geordie (Robson Green) would have jumped into the car, driven to the store where his wife works and give Mr. Hobbs a beating he will never forget.
The hard way is for the women to stand up and use their brains to stop this man. Cathy enlists Mrs. Chapman (Tessa Peake-Jones) to help her get rid of Mr. Hobbs without relying on on her husband.
I won’t give away the ending of this narrative thread, but I will say that it felt satisfying, despite the frustration of Mr. Hobbs not being exposed for the predator that he is.
Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a little creativity to ensure that these men are treated as the criminals that they are. Especially when too many women still experience sexual harassment and sexual assault on a daily basis.
There are many myths about feminism and the fight for true equality.
The new book, Feminism Is… sets out to tell the truth of feminism, examine the issues that fall under the feminism label and tells the stories of some of the women who helped to create the feminist movement.
The book starts with a forward written by Roxane Gay. It then walks the reader through the issues of feminism (such as pay parity and the #Metoo movement). Also included in the book are profiles of women such as Sojourner Truth and Emmeline Pankhurst.
Though this book is meant for young readers, I feel like it appeals to everyone who is interested and/or knowledgeable about the feminist movement. It speaks of the movement in such an open and honest tone that I hope that anyone who reads it at the very least, gains an understanding of what it is to be a feminist.
In an ideal world, the justice system would not be swayed by money and power or the lack thereof. Every defendant would be treated equally. But we live in an unequal world in which money and power can sway the justice system in the favor of the accused.
In 2008, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was accused of sexually abusing underage girls. Those charges were dropped, but new charges were leveled against him this week. If convicted, he faces spending up to 45 years in jail.
He though he could hide behind his powerful friends. But powerful friends, like money and power cannot hide the truth of what he did to those young girls.
One of the aspects of this story I think surprises no one is that the current Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta, who back then was working as a lawyer, arranged for a sweetheart deal that reduced the sentence. Mr. Acosta’s boss has been accused of similar crimes, but unlike Mr. Epstein, he continues to get off scot free.
Only time will tell if Mr. Epstein gets what he deserves. I hope he gets what he deserves and much more.
Men using their power to use women for sex has existed for a millennia, if not longer.
Last week’s episode of Will & Grace addressed the #Metoo movement as only Will & Grace can.
In the episode, Grace (Debra Messing), is spending the day with her father, Martin (Robert Klein). While stopping at a restaurant, Grace reveals that she was sexually assaulted by a friend of her father’s whom she worked for in high school.
I loved this episode. Kudos to the writing team, Debra Messing and Robert Klein for addressing the issue of sexual assault in a way that hits home. The man who assaulted Grace is not a powerful politician or a movie mogul. He is simply an older man who thought that he had the right to sexually assault a teenage girl.
In the pantheon of Will & Grace episodes, this one is for the books. The writers could have hit the viewer over the head. But instead, they told the story of a young girl’s assault and how after it still affected her years after it happened.
I believe that we have to take the following into consideration when passing judgement on President Clinton:
He was not the first and will not be the last public official who is caught having an extramarital affair.
An older male manager taking sexual advantage of a younger female employee is nothing new. Working women throughout history have dealt with this problem for an untold number of generations.
We didn’t have the language or the perspective in 1998 that we have today. The #Metoo movement has shined a necessarily uncomfortable spotlight on the issue of sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace.
Unlike other men accused of a similar crime (especially you know who), President Clinton appears from my perspective to be genuinely contrite about his actions.
However, his apologies cannot and will not absolve him of his actions. While his reputation has recovered, the reputations of the women linked to the scandal will forever be tainted. Monica Lewinsky will never lead a normal life. Hillary Clinton perhaps could have perhaps won the 2016 Presidential election, if not for her husband’s past misdeeds.
I don’t know if I will ever completely forgive President Clinton. But at the same time, I appreciate the apology and his support for the #Metoo movement. If there is any silver lining in this story, it is that the #Metoo movement is not going away. It is only getting stronger and will continue to grow until women are treated equal to men.
Since news broke last week that comedian and actor Aziz Ansari was accused of forcing himself on a woman, I have to be honest that this accusation is not so clear-cut for me.
By reputation, Mr. Ansari is far from the likes of Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein. He comes off as a genuine nice guy. I was honestly surprise when the woman making the accusation, known as Grace, seemed to putting him in the same category as Lauer and Weinstein.
My interpretation of the story is that it was a date gone horribly wrong. For whatever reason, Mr. Ansari believed that his accuser wanted to sleep with him, despite the verbal and non verbal cues that she allegedly says she was giving him.
The lesson I think we need to learn here is two-fold: first is that we have to stop teaching our daughters to only be caregivers. There is nothing wrong with that lesson, but we also need to teach our daughters that it is ok to speak up. Women were given voices for a reason, we need to use them. The other issue is that we need to teach our sons, especially when they get to age when they start to go on dates, on how to read the cues, both verbal and non verbal from their date. If their date is obviously uncomfortable or saying that they are not interested in having sex, our sons need to learn to read, understand and respect the wishes of their dates.
While the accusation against Mr. Ansari is not as extreme as others, it is still symptomatic of much larger cultural issue of how we treat our daughters compared to our sons and what we teach our daughters compared to our sons. To find a cure, we must diagnose the problem based on the symptoms. If the symptoms in this case are the treatment and education of our daughters compared to what their brothers are receiving, then the cure is equal treatment and respect for both sexes.
Last night’s Golden Globes awards was certainly one for the history books. Instead of being the par for the course Hollywood awards ceremony, it had a different feel. Frankly, it’s about dam time.
With most in attendance wearing black and the #metoo and #timesup movements prominently featured, it was a moment of reckoning. Things are going to change. Not just in Hollywood, but in our world. It doesn’t matter if you sit at a desk all crunching numbers, if you work the front counter of a fast food joint or if you’re an A list actress. We deserve to be treated as equal human beings with the rights, privileges and opportunities as our male counterparts. We deserve everything a man gets and should be treated as nothing less than equal. And if we have to fight for it, so be it. As the late, great Shirley Chisholm once said:
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
I’m going to end this post with Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance the Cecil B. de Mille award because, well she is Oprah and I wouldn’t mind voting for her come 2020.