The revelations that continue to unfold about Hollywood rape culture, for me, feels like a long-awaited journey that has finally begun. We knew that there was a lot going on, but how many of us knew that it was happening at the rate in which story after story makes headlines? I’ll be the first to say, “Not me.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back is the notorious New York Times article that delved into the decades-long unsolicited sexploits of one of the most well-known movie executives in the world – Harvey Weinstein. From that point until now, it has been a road full of upsets, shocks, awes, disgusts, and heartbreaks. Some of the most beloved male figures in Hollywood and also in politics, adored by fans and constituents for years, have been all of a sudden cut-down and seemingly destroyed in a matter of days. Yes, the sexual misconduct of powerful, big-name men (and now even Matt Lauer has lost his long-time NBC job) coming to light destroys lives and rips apart families. That’s why it’s important to talk about what behaviors warrants the strongest of reactions and consequences we’ve seen here lately. In other words, not all instances of misconduct merit crash and burn outcomes?
This is a part of the rape culture conversation that folks, in particular women, don’t want to have, but it is a real point of discussion about the situation nonetheless. It is a touchy one, and I’m sure people are reading this thinking, “Are you saying that we should give passes to men who participate in sexually wrong behaviors based on the degree of the action? Passes? No. But a review of the degree of the consequences based on the trespass? Yes.
There has to be a balance in how handing out penalties for these situations are approached. New allegations of misconduct should be gaged according to the “crime” because not every incident deserves a Weinstein level reaction. That man is without a doubt, trash. But does someone like Senator Al Franken, who admittedly was wrong for groping or simulating groping a woman, deserve the same fire and brimstone conclusion as a Kevin Spacey? Does someone who exhibited poor judgment in their actions toward women deserve the same kind of treatment as a habitual sexual predator or a pedophile?
These questions have been heavily on my mind, and I was recently able to work through some of the hang-ups I have about the subject, as well as others that I’ve been hearing, with a group of women. The ages varied from the late thirties to early sixties. Being that there’s no way to escape the topic of sexual abuse that’s in the media none stop, we discussed it. The overwhelming consensus was that situations like Franken’s (and 4 more women have stepped up now) is bad and deserves some kind of rebuke, but is not on the same level nor warrants the same kinds of consequences as a Weinstein or Louis C.K. Their reasoning lied in the level of severity of what each man is accused of doing.
When it comes down to it, there is a way to look at these situations objectively and still work towards stopping rape culture. The level of consequences should be rendered according to the facts and not according to the precedent that has been set for a much more serious matter. Looking at the whole picture from this point of view does not diminish the fight, nor does it chop everything up to boys being boys. Furthermore, while I understand that the very fact these men’s names are mentioned in reference to this issue means that “locker room talk” and more were at play in what they are accused of doing, ultimately, just as Americans trust in the notion that the criminal justice system should enact “time” according to the crime, that approach applies to accusations of sexual misconduct that play out in the media every day.
It all comes down to accountability, which is something that the wrongdoers in these situations have evaded for years. That is one aspect of the ordeal that has people upset. It also more than likely speaks to the reason why every new case of sexual misconduct is met with such vigor. Where is the accountability? The lack thereof reinforces the notion that powerful people always get away with whatever they want at the expense of folks lower down on the totem pole. That narrative, mixed with the nature of the actions, has brought us to where we are now.
My fear in all of this is that in the heat of the moment, with each new allegation, the hotheaded reactions that lead to a person’s demise, regardless of the degree of their “sin,” can cause those of us fighting for awareness and change to miss out on a watershed moment – a moment to finally see the end of rape culture. Because the more things come out, the more people call for harsh penalties across the board, the less of an effect it will have in the long run. Thus, instead of looking back at this time in history as the beginning of the end of a societal paradigm that violates and mentally cripples individuals, it will be remembered as that span of a few months in 2017 where a lot of Hollywood execs lost their jobs.