Is the #MeToo Movement Leaving Black Women Behind

Women have been sexually exploited for centuries and its foundation is heavily rooted in American history. But what about the black woman and her story? With all of the sexual harassment allegations and mayhem involving big names such as Weinstein, Moore, Spacey, and now Matt Lauer; it should come as no surprise that black women are included in the ever-growing list of victims.

However, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It has been amazing and yet difficult to digest the responses to the black women who have come forth with allegations of sexual harassment. The skepticism and scrutiny to which many have been subjected to is both distasteful and heartbreaking. How is it that in 2017 our stories still don’t matter?

It is of strongly held opinions that the black woman was the original victim of what we now know to be sexual abuse/harassment/violence. The historic amnesia that America has denied for centuries has found a way to rear its ugly head only for the sake of whiteness and other contemporary motives yet the black woman is still forgotten.

Lest we forget that it was the black woman who was raped, killed, exploited, molested, and subjugated to adapt to cultural norms that she may never receive full acceptance into despite her many contributions and heavy influence on this culture. Rooted in racist ideology that perpetuates systems of superiority, power, and control; it is evident why the black woman’s story is unbelievable.

Pair that with a century’s long narrative that has painted a picture of the black woman as an over sexualized seductress whose very anatomy is both revered and seen as threatening, and we now have plausibility to deny anything that comes out of her mouth claiming victimization. When a black woman claims that she has been victimized, why is she automatically seen as the perpetrator or instigator?

Case in point, Harvey Weinstein quickly refuted claims from Oscar-winning actress, Lupita N’yongo, but for the most part, remained silent on claims from other women. It is important to note that N’yongo is the only black woman who has come forth with allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. Weinstein. Are we to believe that Weinstein had an ‘off switch’ when it came to Lupita N’yongo? Pssshhh, I think not!

Surely people are not naïve to the fact that black women have and continue to experience sexual harassment and exploitation at alarmingly high rates. In fact, a quick Google search on black women and sexual harassment will render a host of information chronicling our fight against sexual harassment.

One will even learn how it was the struggles of a collective group of black women that helped shape sexual-harassment laws and the many protections it provides on the books today. It is also important to note that when the perpetrator of sexual misconduct is a black male whose victims are typically black women, little to no attention is brought to these issues.

For instance, when you hear the name, R. Kelly, not only is it synonymous with music and pop culture, but you may also think ‘affinity for young girls’ as well. Despite decades of suspicion, allegations, and videos of sexual misconduct, Kelly’s career has persisted and even thrived. This is an unlikely paradox given the current environment that has resulted in many high-powered men losing nearly everything they have worked for.

Even Bill Cosby was shunned for his actions. So why the difference? Again, when you compare Kelly up against other men, the only real difference is the victims. Kelly’s victims are typically young black girls and women whose lives and stories simply don’t hold as much value as their white counterparts.

There is little doubt that the black woman’s mind body and soul have been invaded in an effort to dominate the very space that she occupies. Slavery taught us that while the black male was indeed the head of the family, leader of the tribe, and physically capable to withstand formidable circumstances; it was the black woman who was the driving force behind black people’s survival.

Even still today, she has had to take on all of these roles in the absence of the black male due to the continuous assault on his life while attempting to maintain some semblance of normalcy for both herself and her family.

Somewhere along the way, black women were placed at the bottom of the barrel and devalued, or perhaps she was never valued at all. Society has stripped her of every human right you can think of. She has been poked, prodded, studied, raped, exploited, coerced, deprived, abused, and so on and so forth.

History has shown us that the black woman is a part of one of the most disenfranchised groups and that despite the many strides she has made in overcoming adversity, society still seeks to invade her space, and steal her virtue all while denying her claims that give truth to her existence.

How Millennials are Changing Rape Culture

It’s no secret that millennials aren’t afraid to share their voice. The emergence of social media has provided young minds with an outlet for conversation, expression, and rebellion. Their voices aren’t being overshadowed by outspoken politicians and news anchors – not to say that activism and enthusiasm for causes were absent in history.

However, millennials unique use of social media as a tool for change has had a positive influence on how our society views rape culture. Not only is there an influx of influence by millennials as a whole, trends demonstrate awareness in their use of media techniques to drive narratives. By diving into the main causes of sexual assault, we’re able to find a trend that positively impacts how future generations will view sexual assault and rape culture.

A Movement, not Social Media Campaign

The recent news headlines about sexual assault violations from movie producers, politicians and – ironically enough – news anchors, has sparked an entire #metoo movement. A movement that has been around for quite some time but only really came to headlines following thousands of “re-tweets” of a post made by Alyssa Milano using the #metoo hashtag. Both men and women have used social media as a platform to share stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Millennials know the signs of sexual abuse very well because education on the subject has been enforced in public schools throughout the US. What makes this movement so empowering for millennials and older generations is that both younger and older individuals are able to share their stories and confide in each other. This juxtaposition of empowerment between ages is a correlation to how rape culture is likely to be viewed.

The #metoo movement is far from a glorification of rape culture. It is an outcry for openness that had so long been shunned by mainstream media. These victims realize their voices need and want to be heard. Many of these stores have been held back by woman and men for so many years because they were afraid they would be shamed. Social sharing is so important for millennials because it helps them share and receive valuable information. As a society, no previous generation has ever been more connected.

Objectified, Blamed and Shamed

So what was it that bred this fear to share and be outspoken sexual abuse victims? In previous generations, the primary source for information was the evening news. According to research conducted by Rainn.org, an organization dedicated to victims of sexual violence, %54 of sexual assault victims are between the ages of 18-34.

Currently, those who are between the ages 18-34 are classified as “millennials.” So how can it be those who are the largest victims are the biggest influencers on sexual abuse? Social media has given those victims a voice and as a result, this has made those who are most vulnerable, more valuable to ending sexual assault.

A United Message

The women’s march on Washington following Trump’s election in 2016 is an incredible example of how millennials are coming together in an effort to create awareness and advocate for the most vulnerable. For decades, Marches on Washington have been a progressive symbol for change.

Not only was the whole world watching, but the notion of involvement was what drew millions of people and inspired millions more to start their own marches. Today, the idea of being involved is stronger than anything. Not only are millennials the largest – they’re the loudest and proudest.

Millennials make up a quarter of the population, so naturally, their voices are overpowering. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are the best educated group of young adults in American history. Additionally, %54 percent of millennials have started their own business or are planning to in the future. The influence is carried both socioeconomically and economically.

While population grows, so does its knowledge. It’s safe to say the impact millennials have had on sexual abuse is positive and promising for our future generations. They have shown they will not tolerate harassment in the workplace or on the internet. Nor will they tolerate not standing for something.

This “pact mentality” both in the virtual world and the real world will inspire future generations to make their own landmark changes which will include an ever-changing moral discussion on humanity.

Why We Are Just Learning About Harvey Weinstein?

Photo Credit: People Magazine – Courtney Love and Harvey Weinstein Taylor Hill/FilmMagic; Venturelli/WireImage

Why has it taken almost three decades for Harvey Weinstein’s absurdities and gross sexual misconduct to come to light? He was a champion of women’s rights, an avid supporter of the progressive movement and a sought-after democratic donor. How did the people not know? Was there some oath of silence friends, colleagues, and staff members took which protected this man for so long?

While some may plead the fifth, it is clear that sexual harassment and discrimination against women is commonplace in Hollywood and unfortunately throughout mainstream and greater society, but it still doesn’t answer the question of why it took so damn long for the public to learn about Weinstein’s behavior. Sure there were non-disclosure agreements and possible gag orders that were strategically attached to pitiful sums of money to hush Weinstein’s multiple victims, but even still the question remains, Why?

Some believe that the answer is simple, misogyny. The misogynistic views that have been embedded in the very fabric of this countries DNA and have been allowed to permeate throughout American culture since this nation’s founding is definitely a good starting point. This misogynistic culture has caused many to turn a blind eye when they see it happen or remain silent when they encounter it themselves. The real kicker is that holding misogynistic views isn’t just a male-only issue.

Women perpetuate these views too which is evidenced by how many women voted for Trump despite the Access Hollywood tapes. Not that it is right, but perhaps the culture of misogyny that has persisted over the years has made it okay for both men and women to perpetuate and accept less than ethical and violent behavior against women.

With a long history of disrespect, disregard, and marginalization of women in this country, it would be ludicrous to ignore the influence that this attitude towards women has had within families, communities, and society as a whole. Despite the historical context that helps explain the 20+ years of silence, the question of why still remains. There have been many strides towards inclusion and improved parity for women. Women have continued to evolve and remain outspoken in various efforts to advocate for themselves and close disparity gaps, so again, why was this allowed to continue for so long?

Outside of the obvious cover-up and threat to one’s reputation; undoubtedly there is certain intimidation that comes with “going public” about issues like this, especially when your livelihood, reputation, and in extreme cases, your life, are on the line. A victim is even more subdued when the perpetrator holds clout such as Weinstein, Cosby, and others who have been ousted for similar acts.

Arguably so, the tolerance for this type of behavior and misconduct is steadily dwindling and is a strong indicator as to why people are just now learning about Weinstein’s gross behavior. Still, look at how long it has taken to get here. The tolerance for this type of behavior has to be high, for goodness sake, Trump was recorded on tape bragging about grabbing women by their meows, yet he was still elected the leader of the free world. This seemingly renewed assault on women has resulted in a call to action for individuals to protect rights that were hard-fought for and losing them would be a detriment.

This new movement of resistance has definitely brought light to the multiple injustices experienced by women as well as exposed several high-powered individuals and corporations for their unscrupulous behavior. However, as with any major change, hitting people in their pockets have always garnered both attention and change when all other forms of advocacy and protesting have been exhausted.

The threat of bad publicity and potential boycotts has been the impetus for many public apologies, forced resignations/terminations, policy changes, and organizational change and perhaps is the reason why we are just learning about Weinstein’s actions. The Weinstein Company has since fired Mr. Weinstein in an effort to save face.

While the power of the purse has definitely seen many individuals stand on the side of “right” and condemn the actions of Weinstein in an effort to save face and maintain their bottom line, many of these same individuals such as Ben Affleck has been ousted for being perpetrators of illicit behavior against women themselves. So not only does the question of why still linger, but the question of what does it really take to resolve these kinds of issues arises as well? Perhaps no one at all really gave a damn about Weinstein’s actions outside of his victims and a small group of their supporters consisting of friends, family, and loved ones. For those A-list celebrities, writers, and producers who were fortunate to ”

So not only does the question of why these allegations lingered for so long is burned into our minds, but the question of what will it really take to resolve and address these kinds of issues in today’s society remains. Perhaps no one at all really gave a damn about Weinstein’s actions outside of his victims and a small group of their supporters consisting of friends, family, and loved ones.

For those A-list celebrities, writers, and producers who were fortunate to “make it” but were victimized, perhaps some made peace with their new-found success and opportunities and chose to put the Weinstein experience behind them. Either way, it’s good that the skeletons are no longer in the closet.

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