There’s something in the air. The mist of our problems possibly or the political climate giving us a shivering fever. There are a number of factors honestly, but one thing is for sure – the tension is thick and I’m feeling it as I write for you today.
Something that’s been on my mind has been the sexual assault and sexual harassment in various industries, the taboo it has been for years, the domino effect of Hollywood’s exposing of its elite, and what it means loving the art of abusers. Does us loving their films, their music, their shows, and the art they’ve brought into this world, make us anti-feminist? Are we supporting their abuse by finding comfort in their work? Is it time to boycott what makes us, us because of their actions?
These thoughts have been on my mind since last fall when I heard of the allegations that proved to be true against film producer Harvey Weinstein. At the time I didn’t care to look into it. I was always against feeding myself negative information, but now looking back on it, it was just me being apathetic to what was going on.Women for most of history have been the lowest of the low. Though the once expected domestic pattern of archaic Americana and being the perfect housewife who attends to her home, her children, and her husband while juggling the decorum of a saint with a red lipstick smile has vanished, things are still unfair. In the last century things have changed and women have been given the opportunities to break romanticized roles, but just because they have the opportunity doesn’t mean it’s promised to be easy for them. Women are still being mistreated, abused, harassed, assaulted, belittled, and depending on a collection of factors, their obstacles maximized and the respect for them minimized. These women are our professors, our doctors, our lawyers, our police, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our cousins, our aunts and our best friends. These women are us.
So, why is this going on?
Thankfully we are living in a time where women and men are standing up and saying enough is enough of these injustices. Since the fall, movements like Me Too and Time’s Up have been helping women speak up against their abusers, giving the once voiceless a platform. Though abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and inequality doesn’t affect everyone, it still occurs each and everyday, in all industries across the country and around the globe. Movements like Me Too and Time’s Up are here to be the platform of difference, but it is up to us to be the productive catalyst of change.
What changed and motivated me to start doing something was when it began to affect me, as selfish as that sounds. I have always respected and admired creative people, but in the fall my world became winter. A friend of mine messaged me an article about Jann Wenner, editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone Magazine. The creator and innovator that I admired for years turned out to be one of the abusers. He had assaulted Ben Ryan, a journalist who looked forward to writing for Wenner. Wenner attempted to offer him a career advancement and bylines in exchange for sex and this inflicted a lifetime of trauma for Ryan. I couldn’t believe a hero of mine was capable of inflicting fear onto a fellow writer. I put the Wenner’s biography on the floor, placed my writer’s arsenal of pens and current journal under my bed, and laid on my sheets. I feared for myself and feared for women and the little boys and girls who will one day dream to only be let down. I feared that the only way to make it in these already unstable and arduous industries was to face the inevitable and succumb to people with power. I didn’t write for days.
It was in those days that felt I wasn’t doing enough for the abused, the women in my life, and for little girls and boys who are asked what they want to be when they grow up. I wanted their dreams of being doctors, lawyers, engineers, astronauts, and what have you, to be not only possible, but safe for them. I then began to loath the fact that I supported Wenner; the source of inspiration for me, but the source of fear for another and not knowing of this my whole life.
My friends loathed the fact that they supported and admired men like Weinstein and other figures like Louis CK. “At first, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that [CK] got away with his inappropriate actions for so long. I couldn’t believe that a human could be so awful by taking advantage of his success and power. I couldn’t believe that he would take advantage of his fellow comedians who looked up to him. I then went through a stage of anger. I was angry with CK because I spent so many years watching Louie and his standup specials.” Emily Muramatsu, UNR student and journalism major said during an interview for The Electric Bunch, a blog I created profiling the women and future of industries who are under fire because of abusers. My friends and I felt cheated. If we felt this way, we couldn’t even imagine the hurt in their victims’ hearts. These men have been figures of admiration. An illusion for us, but something sinister for the women and even men they took advantage of. They were our Kevin Spacey, the actor we adored in films like American Beauty and shows like House of Cards. They were our James Franco, our fun-loving comedian, writer, and filmmaker with the raunchy, yet lovable humor we couldn’t help but laugh with. They were our Woody Allen, the man behind films like Annie Hall who left an impression of film enthusiasts and critics. But, for the women and men behind the scenes, their employees and in some cases, even their family, they were the monster under their beds.
I asked my friends and myself ‘Should the art of these men be loathed and banned as well?’ Should we as women give up on their films, books, shows or whatever else that has shaped us into us because of the men behind it? James Franco for example was a role model of mine. My thirteen-year-old brother and me would bond over his films and shows. We supported Franco so much, we watched his recent film, Disaster Artist, two times in theaters. We would share popcorn over Freaks and Geeks. I couldn’t stand the fact that a person who brought us so much joy, was really a facade. As humans, we are prone to make our mistakes, but as humans we should never be the villains. I couldn’t support him anymore and refused to let my impressionable younger brother, only a teenager, think that Franco’s behavior is acceptable. I felt conflicted up until a friend of mine told me that the accusations shouldn’t take away from their art and shouldn’t be hated. However, the accusations do take away from who they are as people. I gained the clarity I yearned for and learned that he, and all of these abusers, cannot steal these things from us. They aren’t entitled to that too. Sure, they’re behind these films, shows, books and all, but aside from them, these pieces and worlds were created by honest men and women. One man’s mistake shouldn’t take that away from them. We should praise the other minds behind these works.
“Honestly, it’s so much easier for us to compartmentalize and separate the artist from the art. Especially when we enjoy the art so much, it’s hard to suddenly dislike it because we now despise the creator. It only makes us anti-feminist to support their work when we blatantly ignore their wrongs and not hold them accountable for their actions,” said Audrey Cagasan, a Computer Science major at UNR. And, she is right. If we ignore the issues, if we continue to support these men without accountability, and not support the others behind their works, we become the problem. We become apathetic.
UNR English and Women’s Studies instructor, Patricia Eagan, has noticed a rise of this conversation about sexual assault and sexual harassment in her classes and when asked if it made women anti-feminist if they support the work of problematic men, Eagan gave an answer that made me realize that as fans we have the power. “I don’t think you should stop liking their art, but perhaps think of ways in which their conduct affects their art or deconstruct their art so you can see and others can see, where their art ends and self-indulgence begins.” I don’t look at James Franco’s art differently. It’s a picture in its golden frame. I cannot change how it made me feel at the moment. I respect him for placing smiles on people’s face and his work ethic, but as a person I view him as something different and his work post-exposing will be viewed critically, following Eagan’s advice of checking where the art ends and self-indulgence begins.
After taking some time off from writing and after I stopped thinking nothing was worth it because despite of hard work, it will only be tampered with in the end, I began thinking of the incredible and creative souls in my life. From my favorite author, Patti Smith, and the incredible life she’s lead by being a risk taker, to singer Selena Quintanilla and the way she challenged the male dominated industry of Tejano music, and my mother whose strength has motivated me to be as tough and independent as her. I phoned a fellow creator and we spoke for hours about the admirable men and women in our lives. We spoke of the pain the victims must be in and hoped for their peace. She confessed to me how betrayed and cheated she felt when Weinstein, the film producer of some of her favorite films, was raping women, harassing and threatening them for sex, and being accused of numerous of sex crimes, while she daydreamed of working for him.
After spending some days away from my pens and spending my days phoning and engaging with people with passions all spread out on the spectrum, I felt some relief. The more these men are exposed and the more these once taboo topics are talked about, the more that these women’s realities becomes ours. I realized that the women and men I was talking to about this domino effect and frenzy, were going to be the future of these industries in the future. There is hope. The stories of victims need telling and it’s our job to be the storytellers. It’s our job to be the advocators. The more we talk about it and speak up, the cleaner these industries will become. Sex crimes, abuse, and harassment will no longer be tolerated nor will inequality. Ladies and gentlemen, bring your sage and lighters, these industries need one hell of a cleanse and it starts with us.
There are many things that can be done right now to begin this change. Though it will not change the world tomorrow, it will change the world for our children and their children. You can start today by having an open heart and open arms for victims. Talk to your friends about their experiences, though it might be a touchy subject for some. Aid your young surroundings by teaching them what it means to respect people and teach them consent. As trite as it sounds, children are really our future. Teach others and yourself about consent and what it means to have it or not to. Donate and make an economical contribution. You can visit Time’s Up website (www.timesupnow.com) to order some Time’s Up merch or donate. All proceeds go to the legal defense fund for the women who cannot afford it on their own. Start supporting female creators by watching their films, reading their books, listening to their music, and so on. Filmmakers like Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Ava DuVernay (Selma), Sofia Coppola (Virgin Suicides), and Nora Aniello (When Harry Met Sally) are women to start supporting. Musicians like Beyonce and her anthems like “Who Runs the World (Girls)” and “Flawless” and Christina Aguilera’s catalog full of gems like “Can’t Hold Us Down,” “Fighter,” and “Beautiful,” are only a couple of women that you should start and or continue to support.
If you have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, and or inequality, know that there are movements out in the world trying to protect you and who are rooting for you. You are not alone and thankfully, UNR offers counselors, their Title IX office, and their police department are here to assure you that you are safe and to remind you that you deserve to feel safe on your campus. All of their contact information is located on UNR’s website. There are millions of beautiful people fighting for you and fighting for a change with the hopes of turning sexual assault, harassment, and inequality, an archaic issue we can one day will read about in disbelief.
Remember that you are allowed to advocate for a change and allowed to stand up for what you believe is right. You’re allowed to speak up and allowed to comfort others. You’re allowed to be a fan and allowed to cut off the things you feel uncomfortable supporting. Remember that these abusers, whether they’re creators or real monster for you, are not entitled to steal your happiness away because of their actions and self-indulgence. Your spark is yours. Your body and your life is yours. Change is coming and things are happening, and I’m here for it. I hope you’re here for it too.