There is no such art, no such glorious work of fiction, no such extraordinary performance, that excuses a real-life abuser.By Candice Frederick It’s been a mere eight months since women in Hollywood first brought Harvey Weinstein’s horrid history of sexual assault to the masses, and just as long since the #MeToo movement catapulted to the mainstream, ushering in a new era in which women’s voices, victims of men including Bill Cosby, Louis C.K., R. Kelly, Junot Díaz, Matt Lauer, and Brett Ratner, were being validated unlike ever before. EIGHT. MONTHS. And already, countless apologists have rushed to defend these so-called “geniuses” whose work they’ve repeatedly asked us to consider as we reckon with their abusive behaviors. Some have even suggested these men can and should make a comeback. The latest example was Jason Bateman, who went out of his way to interject when New York Times reporter Sopan Deb asked Jeffrey Tambor, who’s been accused of sexual and verbal harassment, whether he expects to be on future seasons of their series "Arrested Development". “Well I certainly wouldn’t do it without [him],” Bateman said. Okay fine, he reveres his award-winning on-screen dad, but maybe take some time to think about the question at hand, which was really asking whether Tambor should be on the show (or working at all) since he has been accused of sexual harassment during his work with “Transparent” and creating a toxic on-set environment—particularly for his female colleagues including Jessica Walter (who is sitting right there with them during this interview!). But it seemed for Bateman, and so many other apologists, that he prioritized Tambor’s talent and career influence over his abusive behavior of which the 73-year-old actor said he’s “working on” and “has profusely apologized”. When Walter tried to insert her voice (in a conversation where she should have already been centered), Bateman once again re-focused the attention back on Tambor, describing his actions as “incredibly common” in an industry that is “a breeding ground for atypical behavior.” But, you know, “not to belittle what happened [between Walter and Tambor],” he added. Bateman has since apologized. Co-star Tony Hale has also tweeted an apology for essentially over-talking throughout that segment of the interview, and Tambor’s apology had previously been on record. They’re all just so sorry—and sadly so is Walter, who was so marginalized throughout the interview that she actually said, “I’ve just given up. I don’t want to walk around with anger.”
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What’s becoming clear as crystal is people are realizing just how many men would be behind bars if sexual assault and coercion were treated as the serious crimes they are.One of the most disturbing things that emerged from the debate around “Grace” and Aziz Ansari’s date was how normalized coercive sexual encounters have been, especially with regard to women’s pleasure and safety. After a year of Trump’s regime, my capacity for shock has been whittled down, but during the Ansari brouhaha I found myself at peak stunned by all the people—and women in particular—who have accepted men’s sexually predatory behavior as a matter of course. Worse, they go to great lengths to defend this misogynistic paradigm. You know you live in a patriarchy when feminism is akin to a swear word. The case is made further when a simple fact like “coercion is not consent” becomes a divisive and controversial statement to both men and women. Color me flabbergasted. That is, until I took a couple steps back to analyze everything that the Ansari situation brought up. For me personally, I had to come to terms with the fact that more than half of my limited sexual encounters had in fact been non-consensual due to coercion or lies. It’s a horrible feeling to look back and realize that things were not what I thought they were. At all. And that I had considered those terrible encounters "simple" bad sex when they were far worse and even criminal encounters. It felt like being violated all over again, and I spent more than a few days sitting with my pain, grieving and acknowledging it, and trying to figure out how to put it all into place. Lili Loofbourow recently wrote in “The female price of male pleasure”: “Research shows that 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal sex, 72 percent report pain during anal sex, and 'large proportions' don't tell their partners when sex hurts. … The studies on this are few. A casual survey of forums where people discuss 'bad sex' suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience. ... But when most women talk about 'bad sex,' they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical pain. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, and one of the forces behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, confirmed this. 'When it comes to 'good sex,'' she told me, 'women often mean without pain, men often mean they had orgasms.'” Loofbourow’s conclusions about how male sexual pleasure comes at the price of women’s pain would be chilling, except that every woman on this planet has been there at some point or another. Despite the frequency of these systemically entrenched behaviors and experiences, this isn’t something any of us openly talk about. At least until the Aziz Ansari situation.
The assumption that most sexual assault victims lie has been proven false and this fact has been known for quite some time. Yet, the toxic notion still prevails.Since late last year we have heard women and men come forward with their experiences with harassment and sexual assault as part of #MeToo, a movement started by activist Tarana Burke over a decade ago and catapulted into the spotlight because of the hypervisibility of the accused. We have also heard the rumbling undercurrent of the cishetero patriarchal establishment trying to buck against the changing times. 2017 was a start, but we still have a long way to go. The proof lies in the heated debates over the Aziz Ansari allegations. What should have been another voice to join the #MeToo chorus became way for opponents to begin anew at their attempts to dismantle the movement. “Why didn’t she say anything, if she didn’t consent?” “Why did she do those things if she were really scared?” “Why didn’t she tell any authorities if it were really assault?” By the second week of 2018, it seemed that, so many people have forgotten the education that previous year brought. The stereotypes and fallacies that had stifled voices for so many years were back in full force. In truth, sexual assault and rape allegations have always been heavily shrouded in suspicion, so much so that no matter how the victim acted before, during, or after the assault, no matter how they reported her experience, or how long it took them to come forward, the victim was always at a disadvantage. They are always lying. That sounds harsh, but the stereotype is so deeply rooted in our society, that we learn to strongly believe the most rape victims are lying about their assault despite data which proves otherwise. The victim must come forward with enough DNA to reconstruct the assailant in a lab like some “Black Mirror” type of scene. Otherwise, the missing evidence indicts the victim and exonerates the rapist in the court of public opinion long before they even go to court. Actually, many of the victims are treated like criminals for no other reason than their desire to report the heinous crime they underwent.
We must hold celebrity friends and colleagues of Misty Upham accountable for not speaking out; she is exactly who #TimesUp should be fighting for.by Abaki Beck [TW/CW: Mentions of sexual violence and rape] This year’s Golden Globes were decidedly different than years past. Attendees wore black in solidarity with the #TimesUp campaign. Eight actresses brought activists combating sexual violence and gender inequity as their guests. The recent attention to the pervasiveness of sexual assault in Hollywood was not entirely swept under the red carpet. Yet perhaps unexpectedly, one individual was left completely unacknowledged: Misty Upham. Misty Upham was a rising Blackfeet actress who was featured in critically acclaimed films like “Django Unchained”, “Frozen River” and “August: Osage County”. She was also raped by a Weinstein Company executive at the 2013 Golden Globes and died under mysterious circumstances in 2014. In the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo, her story cannot be forgotten. In October 2014, Upham was found dead in a ravine on the Muckleshoot Reservation in Washington state after having been missing for 11 days. The exact details of Upham’s death are still unclear. Her family has maintained that she fell while fleeing from the police; Upham had been involuntarily admitted for psychiatric care by police on multiple occasions, including just weeks before her death. When Upham went missing, Native social media went ablaze: she was not just an actress in Hollywood, she was one of us. She reminded us of our cousins, our aunties, or ourselves. Upham was not just an individual disappearance or death; she was one of thousands of missing Indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada.