If you are a woman with an IMDb page, then you have probably been repeatedly asked the same question all week, “Do you have any stories about Harvey Weinstein?”
I am most likely about to open myself up to ridicule here but it is important to me that I am open and honest. That is what this conversation needs to be. Otherwise, why have it?
Yes, there have been times when I have found myself in highly inappropriate or uncomfortable situations with powerful men.
I want desperately to tell you that I channeled my inner Gloria Steinem and left those predators shaking like a leaf in their shame.
Instead, I did not say a thing. No. I wanted to be nice. I did not want to cause a scene. I am sure that I somehow warranted it. I had somehow contributed to it.
I have found myself in those situations many times over in both my career and my personal life. My approach is always the same. I freeze. I flee. I keep silent.
I will avoid the person at all costs going forward. I close my mind and I pretend it away. I don’t want to be that girl, playing the victim and causing problems for everyone.
You have no idea how horrified I am to write that.
I have such a deep desire to give a voice to those less fortunate. I crave using my life to better the lives of others. I would become the essence of insane if I ever knew of someone I love being hurt in the ways that I have been hurt.
But, for some reason, it seems easier to care more about others than it does ourselves.
Finding a way to accept myself is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
I can write you beautiful stories all day and all night about the ways in which I have had Herculean strength throughout my life but when it comes to unwanted sexual advances or attention, I become a fearful and flight-ful little girl, completely absent of a voice.
I have subconsciously trained myself to stay quiet. I have subconsciously trained myself that when it comes to my body, I do not matter. I do not have a voice.
Well, fortunately, there were three very specific instances where it was the men in my life who stepped up and did not allow me to go silently into that night.
Sadly, I must emphasize that there have been dozens of instances in my life. These are just the three where the men in my life spoke up when I could not.
First, it was in the entertainment sector.
I was a cocktail waitress at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles. We had a slew of celebrity clientele and industry powerhouses.
One night, I had a small group of rich assholes from Woodland Hills at my table. The main guy in the group was very handsy and saying disgusting things to me all night. At one point, he had the audacity to slip me his number, thinking his disrespect was somehow enticing.
After many hours of insulting behavior, his group left with a $300 tab and zero tip. I guess that was what I deserved for refusing to meet him in the bathroom.
I went home to my sweet, kind, sensitive, live-in boyfriend from Boston. I naturally told him what had happened, because I had always told him about everything.
I saw a fury in his eyes I had never seen before.
“Mel! He is not going to get away with treating you like that. You said you have his number?”
I handed the phone number to my handsome boyfriend, who now seemed to be donning a red cape. What ensued was one of the most heartwarming moments of my life and for the d-bag on the other end of the phone, one of his most humbling.
My Boston boyfriend proceeded to tell the predator that he was never to go into my place of work again. He was never to put his hands on another woman like that again. He did not care who he was. Never again. He then made him apologize to me.
I will forever be thankful to my ex for sharing his voice with me.
Second, it was in the private sector.
I went to a friend’s costume party and her boyfriend kept hitting on me.
I caught him watching me change into my costume that night. I just shut the door, played it off, and tried to ignore his comments all night but when I woke up in the morning with him pressed against me and fondling me, I fled.
I was up and gone in about ten seconds flat.
Immediately, I told my musician boyfriend I was with at the time, what had taken place. His reaction was to get me into the car and bring me back to the house to confront him. In front of his girlfriend. Oy.
It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done but I will forever be grateful to the boyfriend who knew it would benefit me to find my voice.
Third, in the corporate sector.
What was supposed to be a business trip involving four colleagues turned into me trying to talk a co-worker out of raping me during the middle of the night.
That will be about the extent of what I will offer to that story. It was a leveling experience and one that to this day, I do not like to revisit.
The next day, I tried to find a way to talk to a different colleague who was with us. He was not only my boss but he was also a good friend. I told him that I wanted him to be aware of what our co-worker had done so that he could keep an eye on things the remainder of that trip (we were flying out that night). I also told him that I did not want it to be brought up again. I would simply avoid that particular person going forward.
Instead, after we got back from the trip, I was called into the office immediately. I was asked what had happened and within hours, the predatory co-worker was terminated and walked off of the property.
The way that situation was handled was admirable and one that I am very appreciative of, in retrospect.
I am now thankful to my former boss and friend for not listening to me and choosing instead, to use his voice.
He saw my worth when I could not.
This is where I believe it falls on men too, to use their platform to make the world a safer place for not only women, but for every one of us.
We do not know for sure why Brad Pitt would choose to work with Harvey Weinstein after knowing what he had done to his girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow.
We do not know what Ben Affleck might have placated or what Matt Damon might have turned a blind eye to.
We do know that staying silent and/or continuing to put money into the pocket of a known predator did not make the world a better place for anyone other than Harvey Weinstein.
I could sit here high on a perch and blame Gwyneth Paltrow for not coming forward in the moment. For continuing to work with him. For not taking up for herself and others. The problem with doing that is that I would be a hypocrite.
I have been that 22-year-old girl in Hollywood. I know how ridiculously and painfully fucking difficult it is to know your worth and trust your voice.
Yes, we should all be confident enough to stand up for ourselves in those situations. We should not need a man or anyone else to do it. Unfortunately, that is sometimes the hardest part. Like I said before, I could take up for you far more easily than I could take up for myself.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with hoping the powerful will stand up for the powerless.
Throughout history, there has been darkness.
There have been murderers, rapists, cannibals, tormentors, and on and on.
Also throughout history, there have been heroes and sheroes. There have been good, courageous men and women who have used their lives to better the lives of others and that is what I believe we need right now.
We need a society that will not stay silent. We need a society that will stand for the weakest among us. We need the powerful to be courageous. We need the weakest to find their strength.
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Originally published at breakfastatmelodys.wordpress.com