Wednesday, October 11, 2017

You Think You Know

Just like with Cosby & O'Reilly, I'm seeing a lot of people be suspicious or dismissive or even derogatory toward the women and men coming forward to talk about their experiences with Weinstein, often asking "Doesn't it seem odd that they're coming out NOW?" 

No, it's really not.

People ask why victims or people who knew about the abuse didn't come out before.

You want to know why?


People turning it around and blaming and questioning them. Having it used against them. Not being believed or even being maligned. 

This is why.

I used to work at an animation studio and, from my interview, I knew that the president of the company, whom I'd be an assistant to, had an Asian fetish and was interested in me.

But I was young and needed a job and really wanted a career in a creative field. I was even promised that, in time, I might be able to move into the writing staff. Looking back now, I'm ashamed of how much I was willing to put up with for such small promises.

And it wasn't an office secret. Everyone knew. He wasn't subtle. From creepy comments to making me fetishizing mix-tapes to invading my personal space and boundaries. Even getting to the point where any male employee who talked to me too much or too often was punished, reprimanded or even taken off projects.

It was incredibly alienating.  

It got to the point where no one really talked to me, or even came around to our end of the office. Leaving us alone all day.

No one did anything.

And it continued.

Because who was going to question or report the guy with the highest position at the office? Who would you even report him to?

It didn't stop until the company had to layoff people--turns out he was as good at business as he was with women. I remember him inviting me into his office to apologize to me personally about the layoffs--something that did not happen with any of the other now ex-employees. He knelt on the floor in front of me and grasped my hands, tears in his eyes and apologies and promises of re-hiring me if he could get another contract lined up on his tongue. He kept telling me that he knew how disappointed and crushed I must be.

In truth, I was relieved.

I went home that day feeling freer than I'd felt since I'd accepted the job.

It's the thing they don't tell you about "dream jobs;" you will--without meaning to, without in the moment knowing you are--give up so much for so little. You will do what you must to stay; how could you not, when it's your dream at stake? 

And those in power, they know that. They know how rare it is for people to make it into "dream" fields. They know how how much sheer luck it takes to break in and how hard you have to work to make it. They know that they hold your chance in their hands.

To see people take that power and abuse it...

The last people you should be pointing fingers at are the people that power is used against.

The whole thing bothers me. But what bothers me most is that there are people who both believe the victims AND still blame them. Who ask why they didn't speak up, if they knew what he was. Why didn't they come forward, if he'd done it to them. Who ask how many other women suffered because they hadn't acted.

We know.

I never reported my boss. As far as I know, no one else did either. I have no idea where he is or what he's doing. But he had connections. The company, before it failed, had won Emmys. I have no doubt that he, unlike me, is still in the industry somewhere.

And sometimes I think about his next assistant. And the one after her. And the one after her. I think about the other employees who likely had their jobs threatened for talking to the wrong person.

I know I could have done more. Believe me, I know.

That in no way makes it easier to act.

No one knows how they'll react in that kind of situation. You cannot know, until you're in it.

And, even if you think you would have acted perfectly, if you think you would have known exactly what to do--hell, even if you were in that situation and did know exactly what to do and did it perfectly--that doesn't mean that the rest of us would. Or that the rest of us could.

I don't know how to solve problems like this. How to make sure it never happens to anyone else ever again. I don't think anyone does.

But it's gotta lie somewhere in: we just have to be better to each other.

And a lot of the talk I've heard from people this week, from all sides--even and especially from the people who claim to be speaking on behalf of victims--doesn't feel like that answer.

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