I’ve been avoiding writing a post on this topic because it’s a sensitive topic and I didn’t want it to turn into a rant.
Now, what prompted me to write this? Originally, anger. Secondly, a conversation with a man who couldn’t understand why people (women specifically) took so long to come forward with sexual harassment and/or assault. Thirdly, it was resentment towards a different man at work who made me feel uncomfortable. Lastly, it was Russell Simmons’ #NotMe hashtag.
We won’t dwell on the anger because I never produce anything sensible when I’m angry.
Onto the first man. The man I conversed with, let’s call him Henry, was convinced that these women who came forward about being sexually abused should’ve spoken up earlier. We had this conversation post-Matt Lauer news.
Personally, the conversation reminded me of Bill Cosby’s case. Many people were reluctant to believe that Bill Cosby was capable of sexual harassment. At the time of most of the incidents, Cosby’s fame was at its peak. People viewed him as a family man and a charming comedian. He was basically the Poster Child for Black Fatherhood.
So, the question is, how do you speak up against a powerful man who can make or break your career? How do you speak up without having people accuse you of being a gold-digger or an attention-seeker? Are people going to believe the lesser-known (and in their eyes, less important) woman or the man who’s paid to entertain the public? We can choose to believe that the outcome would’ve been fair and just at the time, but that’s naive thinking. Like I said, Bill Cosby was a professional entertainer. Similar to Matt Lauer, Cosby was paid to make people like him. If Bill Cosby couldn’t humor people, his career wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. If Matt Lauer couldn’t charm people first thing in the morning five days a week, he wouldn’t have been hired. Of course, people are reluctant to believe the victims of sexual harassment, because they’re accustomed to the pleasant smiles of the men on television, not the perverts in real life.
Honestly, my experience with sexual harassment pales in comparison to the recently publicized cases. However, it still makes me genuinely uncomfortable to think about. So, I’m writing about it for catharsis and to bring light to the situation (and similar situations).
A few months ago I took on an internship at a local radio station. Usually, in the afternoon I sat in one of the studios doing work on my laptop. Most days I conversed with the man who worked in there. He was always willing to answer work-related questions I had. It was harmless at first until he started dropping subtle hints that he was interested in me. Sometimes he’d present hypothetical situations, questioning what would be wrong with someone my age dating someone his age (he’s old enough to be my father). I brushed it off because I had a billion other things on my mind and because the conversation moved quickly beyond that topic. One day, he was teaching me how to produce a commercial. I stumbled during one step, so he moved over to help me. He placed his hand over mine (which was on the computer mouse), but before I had the chance to move my hand, he already finished the task. Afterwards, he told me that he hopes that won’t be the last time he touches me. Just writing that makes me squeamish. The last incident confirmed my suspicions. The man said he wished I was older and then asked what would happen if he tried to date me. I told him it’d be inappropriate and left it at that.
When I told my boyfriend about what happened, besides from being furious, he urged me to report it to someone, but I couldn’t. Guilt overcame me. I thought it was my fault for being too eager to learn. I thought it was my fault for being friendly in the first place, assuming it was the right thing to do since everyone at the station was friendly. I was only there for a few weeks and only has a few left at the time. All I wanted was to forget about what happened with the man. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I didn’t want people to resent me if the man lost his job.
It seems incredibly silly to have these concerns but I had them. It’s heartbreaking to think about the experiences that go beyond hints and inappropriate gestures. I can’t speak for everyone, but generally, it left me questioning myself more than anything else. It’s unfortunate because it made me less inclined to inquire and learn more. For once in my life, I felt like I wasn’t allowing my shyness to hold me back, but when that happened I regretted it.
Lastly, I want to briefly talk about Russell Simmons’ new hashtag. If you’re unaware, Russell Simmons has recently been accused of sexual assault but claims to be innocent. On an Instagram post, he decided to use #NotMe as his announcement that he’d be fighting to clear his name. In my opinion, I found the hashtag to be disrespectful towards #MeToo. #MeToo is used by victims of sexual assault. It establishes solidarity, which of course, helps people to speak out against their assaulters. #NotMe is reminiscent of the #AllLivesMatter hashtag that was created in regards to #BlackLivesMatter (credits to my boyfriend for that comparison). #NotMe dismisses the problem that many people are currently trying to address. While it might not have been Russell Simmons (*rolls eyes*), he didn’t have to concoct a hashtag that potentially mocks #MeToo.
Yes, All Lives do Matter, but we’re trying to acknowledge that Black Lives have less value in society. It’s about bringing light to groups of people that suffer, not about exclusion. Listen to people who have the courage to speak up. Encourage the people who have yet to speak up. Be understanding. Be accommodating. Do. Not. Blame. The. Victim!!
Before I go, I just want to apologize for my lack of posts. No excuses, just an apology. Thank you for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts below.