For some of us (the women of my generation), the recent revelations about Harvey Weinstein uncovered a cesspool we had been hoping to forget. It wasn’t just the truth about liberal Hollywood, though that truth did not surprise me. It was the bitter truth of those of us who had followed the freedom trail through the anti-Vietnam, pro-Black Panthers, anti-establishment movements of the 60’s and early 70’s. Not only in the US, but in Europe as well.
As a dedicated protestor, I strove for freedom, peace, and equal rights. My role, however, often looked more like that of a glorified groupie than that of a revolutionary. And I, like many women of my times, closed my eyes to this bitter truth. Too hungry for recognition, for real influence on the issues. Yes, I did observe and photograph the events of the times. Yes, I did march in demonstrations. But did I play a significant role in planning these events? I’m afraid not, though my status as preferred bed-partner of those (males) who were at the center of the action (until they tired of me) led some to believe I did.
As a friend from my generation pointed out, it isn’t surprising that radical feminism emerged from the left-wing protests of those times. Women grew tired of men not seeing them as fellow-revolutionaries. Passionate about reform, not sex. “All men are beasts,” was a unifying slogan. And yes, this was – and still is – an over-simplification. But it’s a lot more true than we would like to admit. Harvey Weinstein is only a symbol of the problem; there are many more like him and of all generations.
Does it matter if we were or were not sexually abused? Sexual abuse is a terrible thing, and I can count myself lucky that I never had to suffer it. But the distinction between sexual harassment, coercion, and seduction is not easily defined. I look back at that time with shame and a sense of being defiled.
I’m thinking of the idiot who offered me a ride. I was 19. Was it ‘my fault’ because I got in the car with him? I finally jumped out at a red light and escaped him. Was it sexual harassment? Coercion? Seduction? It doesn’t matter.
I was torn when I saw women on Facebook sharing the ‘Me too’ post. (‘If all the women/men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’) Does this really promote awareness? I don’t think so. But I also don’t think I can remain silent.
(I have decided not to illustrate this post with a photo. Anything I chose might be misconstrued.)