By Kate Kight
Washington DC (The Hollywood Times) 11/17/17 – As more allegations come forward, as more of our favorite artists and leaders are revealed to be predators, there seems to be a prevailing sentiment that “this isn’t normal” “this isn’t how people behave”.
I’m here to tell you that is not true.
This behavior isn’t right, not by any religious or moral creed, the perpetrators of harassment and assault should be prosecuted and should resign from their positions, remove themselves from public right.
Yet when we say “this isn’t acceptable” we ignore that in our society, it is and has been acceptable. For thousands of years, people in power have been victimizing those with less power in order to assert their dominance, and this dominance frequently takes the form of sexual violence. Our culture of complicity, of “boys will be boys” is not grounded in a desire for sexual freedom, it is grounded in a history of using sexual aggression to entrench the power of (predominantly white) men.
In college, I studied how sexual assault in Rome was a method of ensuring the domination of masculine culture, how it was even considered necessary for the success of male leaders. In college, I saw my administration, friends, and community play out these same narratives around the story of my assault, and the many other stories of assault and harassment I heard while at college.
I have worked in mainly progressive institutions for the entirety of my career, and I have seen men abuse their power in order sleep with women, I’ve seen my female bosses excuse (an even endorse) this behavior, I’ve been harassed for my sexuality, my body, and for speaking up in defense of myself in others.
My story is not unique. Most women I know right now are reliving their pasts of assault, harassment, of not being believed or not taken seriously.
53% of white women voted for Trump, and simple statistics tell us that many of those women were victims of harassment and assault. Internalized misogyny and rampant racism gave us a President who openly bragged about his history of assault, and yet people still have the gall to say “this is not normal” or “this is not ok”. It is normal. We make it O.K. every day when we make jokes about consent, when we question the story of survivors, when we respect someone’s pocketbook more than we do their character and their values.
When we value what others can do for us, not who they are too us.
This is not a Hollywood problem, a Washington problem, or a Silicon Valley problem. This is a power imbalance that preferences and rewards acts of aggression, that silences accusers, and that endorses complicity instead of advocacy.
For the men who are struggling to know where the line is and how to behave now, there is a very, very simple answer. Ask. Ask about everything. I’m not just talking about sex, I’m talking about your view of the world. Ask what it is like to be a rape survivor right now. Ask what it is like to wonder if your word even matters, ask what it is like to be 13 years old and wonder if the man who just assaulted you will be able to vote on sending the country to war one day. Or repeal Title IX.
If you are afraid of stepping over the line, if you aren’t sure what it is, then help us make it clear. Stop making jokes at your sexual harassment training, treat consent like the serious matter it is, and accept the fact that the status quo is tipped in your balance. Believe women, and help us tip that balance to create a culture that doesn’t accept assault as an unfortunate by likely byproduct of a college education.
Be prepared to find out that it isn’t just your acting heroes or your Senators who are the perpetrators of this behavior. It could be your friend, your boss, or your husband.
Make this unacceptable. Make this not normal. But until we start accepting that it is and breaking down the power imbalances in our communities, our nation, and our world, we cannot move forward.