The Golden Globes aired last Sunday night, and host Seth Meyers wasted no time in showing the true veil of the entertainment industry.
“Marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment isn’t,” said Meyers.
And so, as it goes, where do we begin? Or now it may be, where to begin. Where to begin, with a period instead of a question mark because as we now know, we must.
I, too, awoke one morning just a few months ago and read a story about a Hollywood executive having unzipped his pants in front of a then aspiring actress after he invited her into his personal bedroom for a massage. The next week, I read about a comedian having forced multiple women to watch him engage in sexual activity ( and sometimes listen ). A couple of weeks later, I read about a hip-hop mogul having joined a female acquaintance in her taxi ride home and all at once convinced the taxi driver to take her to his apartment instead of hers and forced himself upon her once inside of his apartment.
I began with these allegations as anyone might expect. I read the stories of these women, and contemplated deeply on their power and truth. Of course, the latter being more difficult than the former. Having to decide the truth of these stories prevented me from bypassing them as usual celebrity gossip. This decision shaped the way I read the stories.
The power and truth of these stories made them less surprising as an alarm in the morning. Perhaps, this is how we’ve gotten to the point we are now where we can talk about it. Though week after week, it was another celebrity, another woman, or man, I read and read, then contemplated and contemplated. My contemplation brought me to the same, familiar place.
No matter how many times, it seems, that we discuss power and equality, start campaigns, vote in favor of women’s rights, women are victim to this disastrous thing called sexual assault.
In so many cases we ask, What is it? Even, How do we get over it? And if we’re lucky, Why did it happen? And even when we’re lucky – I mean, if we’re lucky – to answer them, the answers get lost in more chaos which produced them, as if the questions have not arrived out of sincere contemplation and concern.
Of all the jokes told on Sunday night, the monologue from the late-night host stood out most because it helps us unveil and see what has happened, and not what we think, have thought, or much worse, will think of what happened, which is quite the contrast in the land of entertainment. What Meyers said – like, the word ‘finally’ – and even more so how he chose to say it – like, at the beginning – pushed the conversation toward a new direction. And new direction is where this conversation has been heading.
Along with Meyers, Oprah Winfrey got up and made a speech outlined with women empowerment as a part of her acceptance of the Cecile B. DeMille award, and many took it as her entrance into the 2020 presidential race.
“So, I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that day finally arrives, And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again,” Winfrey said.
Like Meyers, the media mogul and actress said a lot on the night, but it was her focus on one situation that dimmed the grand stage that people stand on every year to be recognized for their gifts and talents. Of all the things said – which included a heavy nod to the award itself, as she mentioned Sidney Poitier and the importance of being the first black woman to receive it – sexual assault led the speech. Of all the things that could have been said, such as whether or not Oprah will in fact run as our next President, her own moment was used to talk of those not standing as tall and receiving the light. The speech was an easy transition from glimmering memories of Sidney Poitier to a serious recollection of Recy Taylor, a black wife and mother who was kidnapped and raped by six armed white men walking home from church in 1944.
At least some of our answers now are pretty straight forward. Especially when you have many of the same cases. Even better, when you have cases which involve high-profile people such as those currently. Sometimes, it may be better to have the high-profile, which grants access to a special, particular kind of analysis. A lot of other cases often get shut out before they’re even opened, and remain less important for a long time. As much as we do not want it to, the high-profile captivates us and if we’re lucky, moves us. When we’re moved, we can move someone or something else. This is change. Change might be the hardest thing, but at least it is the best thing.
In putting this spotlight on the cases, something more than a veil was uncovered. It uncovered the opportunity to speak up and what it means to speak at all. The opportunity on Sunday to speak up coupled with the ability of the victims to speak at all gives us two important sides.
And as the saying goes, there’s always two sides.
With both of these sides, we have a major development in telling a story. The opportunity to speak at all is necessary for sifting through all of what happened. Speaking lets the voice be heard. The opportunity to speak up is more complicated. It is your decision after you have read. It is necessary for figuring out how to fix it, and perhaps, with the answers that you have been given. Speaking up is the voice and those who have heard it. With these two sides, a beginning and hopefully an ending is created. This is a story, and a story is what we wanted.
We may never know the true extent of these women and men to begin telling their story. I’m not sure if the first-person accounts or reading of these accounts will unveil the nature of abuse or one’s experience with abuse. I’m not sure if speaking out against Hollywood will ever expose the separation of powers between men and women, or boss and employee. But we do now know the importance of beginning to do this, and some of the results of this. The “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements are doing this. The movements, along with the countless celebrities and individuals who have come out in support have called attention to sexual assault in the only way possible.
So, it is the effect of these women and men telling their story that we are waiting for. Great actors have lost great roles, television deals have been cancelled, and lawsuits are being filed. That is the true recognition of the fight and the development of the new fight. That may be the only thing we can ask for, and that may be the only answer we get.
We knew before Sunday night that this thing called sexual assault would be put under fire, but what we didn’t know is that the thing would be put under fire on Sunday night, on the grand stage. On Sunday night, it was set ablaze.