This is the hardest piece I’ve ever had to write, but if it wasn’t for a man, I’d never be writing it. It started with the actor Terry Crews on Twitter, although in all actuality, it began with brave Rose McGowan outing Harvey Weinstein as Hollywood’s predator in chief. For those of you who don’t tweet, Terry wrote how he was sexually assaulted by an elite member of the Hollywood producers club, in public. The man called him the next day to apologize, but the damage was done. Terry Crews is no wimp, neither physically nor mentally. But he was sexually assaulted.
And the floodgates opened. They opened with a force of rage and hurt and anger, all over the world, all over social media. A million women, more. There isn’t a single woman on my Facebook friends list who hasn’t written #MeToo. Men got shocked, men got into denial, men got nasty, men got sisterly and supportive. Men get harassed and sexually assaulted too.
Rape culture and the toxic male centered society is alive and well. It allows men to make rape jokes and everyone laughs, even though rape victims might be in the same room; it allows men who would never rape to refer to women as bitches and whores; it allows male society to view women as nothing more than sperm receptacles; it allows men to be predators and women to be treated as liars if they try and take a stand against it. Ask any woman who has been in a courtroom while the defense lawyer holds up her underwear as if to say, you were wearing these, you deserved all you got. It allows young girls to be denied abortions and to take their own lives rather than go through pregnancy and life after rape. Who made this toxic society? You did. Who keeps it alive? You do.
If you are a man who has listened to another man denigrate women, tell inappropriate jokes, or behave in a sexist manner, you are contributing to the toxic male society. I wonder why men are so afraid or do not care enough to stand up to other men on this? Maybe someone will tell me.
It happened to me. An editor, my superior, walking me to a train station after a night out drinking in the way journalists do, with the whole team, pulled me into a dark alley beside the railway tracks, slammed me up the wall and shoved his fingers down my jeans and into my underwear. His strength and weight against me was something I will never forget. Yet, somehow, I managed to suffocate and erase what happened, something I learned to do a long time ago at the hands of my psychologically abusive mother. The sickening sensation I feel typing these words is physical. It hurts, physically. There is a massive painful knot in my throat and I can’t even get the tears out.
Like Terry Crews, I received a shower of apologies. The trouble is, this man told me all the time what a brilliant writer I was. After that incident, I doubted every word I wrote, and sometimes still do. That’s part of the legacy.
I feel guilty I never said anything. I feel guilty that now I’m saying something. That’s how it feels to be a victim of toxic society. Patriarchy hurts everyone, no one is immune. Men are silenced, women are silenced, children are silenced. But no more, it’s over, we will never be silenced again.
This piece cannot be finished without saying that I have been also nurtured by men that I’ve worked with. Good, honest men who only wanted me to succeed on my own merits and who would never have abused their power to abuse me. I have been nurtured by women that I’ve worked with. Good, honest women who haven’t been jealous of me and who wanted nothing more than for me to succeed. This is what toxic society hates. Solidarity between the sexes. In reality there is no us and them, there is us and we.
Somehow I managed to not let the monster choke me. Revenge is best served in the pages of the novel I’m writing. Thank you Rose and thank you Terry. Thank you everyone who stood up and said #MeToo, male and female. To those of you who are still choking on your silence, I’m holding your hand, whoever you are, wherever you are. You are not alone.