It’s splashed all over the news: Film producer Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company has been hit with a torrential rain of sexual harassment allegations in the past week. From Rose McGowan’s plea for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to “stand with truth,” to Cara Delevingne’s “powerless” hotel room encounter, to a caught-on-tape conversation with our very own Ambra Gutierrez, Harvey is undoubtedly a sexual predator of the highest order, and nothing would make us happier than to see him exiled from Hollywood until the end of time or hell freezes over, whichever comes first.
Kate Beckinsale is the latest celebrity to come forward with her own account against Harvey Weinstein.
You might be wondering, though, how a massive rape scandal involving high-profile celebrities in the City of Stars could possibly be relevant to women back here in the Philippines.
Here’s the thing about any kind of sexual assault in a workplace environment, whether it’s a stolen kiss, a groping incident, or even a full-on intercourse. It’s not, and has never been, about the physical pleasure a perpetrator can derive from violating a woman. It’s about the intrinsic power he holds over her and how he can coerce her to do as he desires simply because he is a professional superior. As a result, the victim can feel trapped, powerless, and confused. Harvey Weinstein is one of the world’s wealthiest producers, and for a female actress with a reputation to lose and a career to look after, speaking up about sexual assault can prove to be extremely distressing. Even A-listers Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow weren’t exempt from this dirty old man’s consent-eschewing hands.
But in a beautifully ironic twist, one of the most poignant statements of all are coming from a 49-year-old, 6’2”, 245-pound muscled Hollywood actor. In a Twitter thread last October 11, Terry Crews opened up about his own experience with sexual assault, which happened right in front of his wife.
(Click on the tweet to read the rest of the thread.)
Our point here? If even Terry Crews—freakin’ Terry Crews—isn’t safe from the convolutedness of sexual harassment, what more a young woman who is objectively physically inferior? You don’t have to be a direct witness (or victim) of sexual harassment to realize that this happens every single day in the Philippines, whether it’s on our streets, and on public transportation. But sexual assault in the context of a workplace is particularly daunting to address because there are several factors at stake:
Victims are afraid of losing their jobs. This is especially apparent when a person in a position of power is committing the assault. This position is precisely what they can use as leverage against a victim so that they have license to commit repeated sexual offenses.
Victims are afraid that no one will believe them. To talk about “the boss” in an overt sexual manner is typically frowned upon, and victims run the risk of being ridiculed or dismissed—or worse, being called a liar. As a result, victims are kept in the dark and forced to process sexual assault in potentially unhealthy ways.
Victims are afraid that they will be blamed. We circle back to the classic victim-shaming approach, in which women are blamed for “allowing themselves” to be alone with the perpetrator, dressing or behaving a certain way, or any other supposedly controllable circumstances that could have prevented the assault.
The short answer is, victims rarely ever come out victorious. So this scandal, heartbreaking as it is, represents a huge win for women everywhere, even when decisive action against Weinstein is yet to be determined.
Some might be asking, “Isn’t it a little suspicious that all these Hollywood actresses are coming forward with allegations at the same time?” See, that’s the thing with being a woman in 2017—to conquer oppressive patriarchal systems, our best chance is to stand together. On her own, one victim would have been forgotten by the next news cycle. But now that more and more women are opening up about their encounters with Weinstein, it’s effectively created a safety blanket that guarantees that this time, their voices will not go unheard. In a way, these women have linked arms and made a powerful statement to the world that they are finally ready to fight back.
And that’s something we women should strive to do: If you know of family members, friends, or coworkers who have been sexually assaulted, it would mean the world to them if you provided emotional support, assistance with reporting to the proper authorities, or even just a listening ear. The most important thing is to help them remember that you are on their side—that you not only believe them, but also believe in them. In a world where powerful men abuse their seat on the throne, all we have is each other.