#MeToo

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The last couple of weeks have marked a shift in public consciousness. It’s a shift that I hope will lead to meaningful change for the future.

With the allegations of sexual assault, rape, and sexual misconduct leveled at Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein, woman after woman is speaking out and adding her voice to the much needed discussion of sexual harassment against women in the workplace and beyond. It’s always shocking when we hear multiple allegations, years after the fact, coming hard and fast. We wonder why the victims of the alleged assaults wait to speak up.

One thing is clear. When one woman is courageous enough to speak up, she helps inspire others to do so.

Weinstein has more than forty accusers so far, many of whom were paid off, many of whom were minors when he was inappropriate with them. People are shocked to hear about “good men” and “successful men” accused of such horrific behaviour. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, I am also shocked to hear about the extent of his bad behaviour, but I’m definitely not surprised.

The Just For Laughs president, Gilbert Rozon, has also been accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. He has stepped down. Quebec TV personality Eric Salvail is also facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Amazon Studio head Roy Price has resigned after being accused of sexual assault by some women he worked with. Chris Savino, the creator of Loud House has been fired by Nickelodeon after allegations of sexual harassment. There have been other high-profile men if varying fields accused of sexual impropriety this week, with women seeming to finally come together to speak out about the sexual harassment they’ve suffered.

On Twitter, Actress Alyssa Milano challenged women to speak up about being victims of sexual harassment and assault to show just how big and pervasive this problem is. Using #MeToo, women were encouraged to share their stories.

Millions of women heard the call and have been sharing. Some people are giving details about their sexual assaults, others simply stating “Me too.” I don’t know if men are surprised by the number of women sharing their stories, but as a woman, I certainly am not.

Because like so many women, I’ve suffered sexual harassment and sexual assault. In the workplace, on the street, with friends. Not once or twice, but several times throughout my life.

I’ve been chased off of public transit by a man who “wanted to get to know me.” I’ve been followed by a stranger. A “friend” tried to drag me into his car when he wanted to have sex with me. I’ve had men grope me when I was working as a waitress. One man shoved the tip he was giving me down my top. When I told my male manager, he just shrugged and said to ignore it because the man was a regular customer.

Unfortunately, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I could go on, but I won’t.

What I have in common with other women like me is that we often suffer in silence. We “let it go” so as not to offend the person we thought was a friend. Somehow, we take the blame. If I didn’t go over there; Maybe I seemed like I was flirting… We dismiss bad behaviour because so often we’re ignored when we do dare to speak out.

Men have been victimized too, and I’m glad that some of them are coming forward to share their stories. Actor Terry Crews recently spoke out, saying that a man in Hollywood approached him at a party and groped his penis…openly and shamelessly. Crews didn’t react, fearing that he might be deemed the “dangerous, angry black man.” Crews is a brawny guy, and even he was sexually assaulted. It can and does happen to anyone.

With this wave of women lending their voices and sharing their pain, I hope that men are reflecting on their own behaviour. The solution to this problem, in my opinion, lies with men.

Once men begin speaking out against bad behaviour instead of saying things like “Boys will be boys,” we can see positive change. Men have to be condemned at every turn for their predatory actions.

Remember the four college guys who took turns raping a drunk, passed out woman? They even took pictures. I often wonder how the first guy who suggested this action got the stamp of approval from the other three men, instead of scorn. We need men to be able to stand up and say, “Are you crazy? Why would you rape an unconscious woman?” instead of feeling some sort of pressure to engage in a warped “conquer” ritual. That’s how I see that behaviour; on some level, the other three men who went along with the assault must have been thinking that it was completely normal for men to have sex whenever the opportunity presented itself, as a way to enforce their sense of dominance. It’s worse still if there’s a sense of entitlement.

The problem was expounded when in the court room, the men were described as “good kids” with little regard for the victim. The victim has to live with the repercussions of what happened for the rest of her life, yet it’s the men who are pitied, as if their actions weren’t egregious. Why—because a man can’t be expected to control himself and his carnal feelings? This attitude is just plain wrong and destructive. I’m sure you remember the case of the Stanford Rapist, who also raped an unconscious woman. His punishment was a mere slap on the wrist, a complete disgrace to his victim. But not uncommon when male judges have pity on accused male perpetrators.

It’s a male dominated society and in so many ways men act as though women are here to serve them and please them. Not all men, of course, but clearly more than a few or the problem of pervasive sexual assault wouldn’t be a problem, would it? We need the good men to stand with us, to speak for us, to condemn the bad acts of men when they witness them.

No more “boys will be boys” or “she was asking for it`s justifications. Women need men to say loudly and without reservation, “This is wrong. It’s unacceptable.”

It won’t be easy to erase hundreds of years of conditioning and sexism, but hopefully the #MeToo movement will be a powerful step that helps affect change. Because change is long overdue.

All of our daughters deserve a future where they won’t have to say, “Me too.”

Kayla Perrin is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning USA Today and Essence best-selling author, with 46 books in print. Perrin is best described as passionate, fearless, motivated and self-driven to excel at whatever she pursues.

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