Friday, October 13, 2017

Since time immemorial (re: sexual harassment)

My heart has been heavy. I just can't get the stories out of my mind. I put myself in her shoes. I imagine the terror and powerlessness. And I'm disgusted, appalled but sadly not surprised.  

"He summoned her up to his suite at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a work meeting that began uneventfully. It ended with Mr. Weinstein placing his hands on her and suggesting they head to the bedroom for massages."

"When she arrived, he was nude in the bathtub. He told her that she would give a much better audition if she were comfortable 'getting naked in front of him,' too, because the character she might play would have a topless scene."

"He boasted about the famous actresses he had supposedly slept with - a common element of his come-on, according to several other women who had encounters with Mr. Weinstein."

"'He forced me to perform oral sex on him.' As she objected, Weinstein took his penis out of his pants and pulled her head down onto it. 'I said, over and over, 'I don't want to do this, stop, don't,' she recalled. 'I tried to get away, but maybe I did't try hard enough... In the end, she said, 'he's a big guy. He overpowered me.'"

"She reluctantly agreed to give Weinstein a massage, he pulled her skirt up, forced her legs apart, and performed oral sex on her as she repeatedly told him to stop. Weinstein 'terrified me, and he was so big,' she said... 'I said, 'No, no, no.' It's twisted. A big fat man wanting to eat you. It's a scary fairy tale.'"

It IS like a scary, twisted fairy tale. And in this nightmare Weinstein is the Big Bad Wolf

After reading these horrifying allegations, my immediate thought was, "Thank God these things didn't happen to me." But as the stories sank in this week, I kept going back to my own experiences. Back to those times I felt threatened or uncomfortable by a man.

The driving lesson
I had just turned 15 1/2 and was so excited to finally get my learner's permit. I practiced driving in my parents' Volvo every chance I got. One afternoon, the neighbor across the street, John (he liked to be called by his nickname, "Hutch"), offered to teach me how to drive stick shift. I remember sitting in the driver's seat of his VW Beetle and he pointed to the stick and said, "Handle it like you would a man - real gentle." He grinned as he caressed the stick. It was creepy as hell. I was only 15 but I knew what he was getting at. I acted like I didn't get his "joke" but was frightened and wanted to get out of that car as soon as humanly possible. 

The wet dream
It was the summer of 1996. I was an intern at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I was 21 and living in LA for the first time. I made many friends that summer including a Disney employee named Gabe. He was warm and had a great sense of humor. A very charismatic fellow in his late 20s. He would host "Five O'Clock Funnies" in his office and we would talk and laugh about the stupidest stuff. I never felt anything sexual between us. It was purely platonic. I was very comfortable around him until the last week of my internship, when he told me that I had appeared in his dream, dancing on his lap. He started mimicking the so-called dance, sitting in his seat and gyrating his hips suggestively. Ugh. That ruined our friendship real fast. I was like, "Really? Can't you keep those f*cking thoughts to yourself?"

The dick pic
At my first job out of college, also at Walt Disney Feature Animation, one of my co-workers, Jason, pulled up on his computer screen a photo of a parrot perched on an erect penis. I walked by his cubicle and he said to me, "I bet you've never even seen one of these before!" Looking back I would have said something like, "Yeah, I've never seen that species of bird," but I was too mortified to think of a clever comeback. It was the first time a guy showed me a dick pic and this was before that was even a thing.

Gross, right?

And this kind of disgusting behavior happens in a woman's world ALL THE TIME. Which is why people, men in particular, shouldn't be so shocked by reports like this. What happened between the brave women who have come forward about their interactions with Harvey Weinstein has been going on, as Emma Thompson says, "since time immemorial."

Thompson addresses what she calls a "crisis of masculinity" and how society normalizes this kind of predatory behavior, particularly now, as it's represented by the most powerful man in the world

So how do we course correct? How, as a society, as humankind, do we address and prevent these kinds of horrific experiences? Good and decent people know that women are much more than their bodies. We are not objects. We are not playthings. We are not a hole where you can stick your unfulfilled sexual desires.

I'm on board with Thompson's idea: the more women who can get to the top, to achieve positions of power and influence, the better we can "balance things out." In Hollywood, in the White House, on Wall Street, everywhere. 

That time Joan was powerless. (Mad Men)
"The first time I was sexually harassed was in a pizza place." (Cup of Jo)