My friend Ana said something recently that I can’t stop thinking about. Both of us being in our mid-twenties, we routinely talk about what in the world we’re going to do with our lives. While my ideas all over the place, she has hers ranked in order. Yesterday she told me that she’s currently exploring her third option, becoming an actress. Her reasoning? “Think about who gets listened to in this country. Not the academics, scientists, students. Nah, none of us. It’s the celebrities who people listen to the most.” The thing is, she’s right.
In the United States we look to celebrities for advice on everything. From body products to political opinions, a celebrity is far more likely to sway our opinions than an average person on the street.* When a celebrity dictates that a topic is important and needs to be talked about, that’s when the conversations finally happen. The current topic? Sexual harassment and assault.
How many articles have you seen with various celebrities, men and women alike, sharing their experiences with sexual assault/harassment? How many have you seen of average people? Do you recognize this cycle? Coupled with our shorter attention spans, by allowing celebrities to dictate social movements we have a huge issue.
My issue with all of this is the disassociation that it enables in our society. It’s much easier to point and say, “Oh wow, look at all those beautiful women who were forced into sexual assault because of their careers” than to really look at the toxic rape culture we’re perpetuating.
Rape culture is difficult to take on. It’s intertwined in our society and constantly pointing it out will cause others to deem you a feminazi.The best way to show that you don’t like something, other than complaining about it to all of your friends, is to not support it financially. It’s easy to say, “Shame on you Quentin Tarantino for working with Weinstein even though you knew he was sexually assaulting women,” but much more difficult to stop watching movies produced by the Weinstein Company. I mean, how can we stop watching Pulp Fiction? It’s a claaassic.
Let’s think about how easy it can be to talk about these celeb’s stories. Oh I just heard Lupita Nyong’o’s story about being harassed by Weinstein. Omg me too! She’s so strong for speaking out about it. Yet, how does this conversation go when a loved one of yours brings up how they were assaulted or harassed? What are our responses then? I hate to break it to you but, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” then changing the subject isn’t as helpful as you want it to be. It also shouldn’t take Me too going viral for us to finally listen and express our solidarity with loved ones who share their stories.
If you only take one thing away from this Weinstein scandal, let it be that you no longer need celebrities to tell you it’s important to talk about sexual harassment/assault. Talk about it, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. You never know which one of your loved ones will come to you and share their story because they know you’ll listen and provide them with a safe space. It all starts with awareness, let’s not delay until the next Hollywood scandal.
* This celebrity privilege is not all encapsulating. An example of this would be Colin Kaepernick, last year urging the masses to have conversations about police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem. What did he get from all of this? Unemployed. When did we finally start talking about the topics he wanted? Never, instead we talked about the flag and what it means to be patriotic once Trump called football players who kneel S.O.B.’s.