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By Thursday, it had been retracted and replaced with another tweet.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