No, I’m not just talking about Harvey Weinstein, as appalling and repulsive the allegations against him are. I’m not just talking about the laundry list of other bigwig pork, including Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes.
I’m talking about you. The average American man. The guy who, perhaps, never did a thing remotely considered to be sexual harassment or abuse but was aware certain “things” were going on but didn’t do a thing to stop it.
The magnitude of the Harvey Weinstein scandal is almost beyond belief—the length of time the alleged abuse went on, the ugly and salacious details, the scores of gorgeous, household-name actresses whom Weinstein took advantage, wielding his power to make or break a career.
But what really is shocking is the massive response from ordinary women―not those in the limelight, when actress Alyssa Milano asked women to write the words “Me too” on Twitter if they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted. Within hours, the #MeToo tweets grew to more than 200,000 , along with countless Facebook comments, one “Me too” after another after another.
My guess is there are probably more women who’ve been sexually harassed or abused than haven’t. I’m one of them. Last Sunday, my sister asked me if I’d ever experienced either one, and I immediately said no. But it wasn’t the truth.
I must have buried it so deeply it didn’t register right away. I had to think about it a while before I remembered I’d been victimized many times. The most blatant incident happened when I was 14 and a sicko masturbated in front of me while waiting on an empty train platform at 53rd Street in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
Other gross and disturbing events followed. Here are some of the things that were said or done to to me.
*A relative cornered me and pressed his genitals against mine.
*A commercial photographer told me it was necessary to have nude pictures taken if I wanted to be a fashion model.
*A crusty improv teacher said nasty things to me after I rebuffed him.
*A friend’s boyfriend came over to my apartment late one night, pushed me down on the bed and laid on top of me. I was lucky. He was too drunk to do anything and left.
*While on my early morning walk, a bald, stocky man suddenly jumped off his bike and came within 10 feet of me. Someone opened the front door and the guy quickly got back on the bike and pedaled away.
Screenwriter Scott Rosenthal wrote a brutally honest Facebook post about how ”everybody fucking knew,” and by everybody he meant Hollywood elites, including himself, what was going on with Weinstein, although not the rapes.
I think some of you know/knew things, too. Maybe not extreme, egregious acts, but somewhere along the line of growing up and becoming an adult you knew everything was not quite Kosher when it came to how boys and men treat girls and women.
I think you knew it was wrong when a boy in your class snapped a girl’s bra or copped a feel without her permission or made loud, vulgar comments to a female walking down the street.
Maybe you weren’t the one doing it, but you might have been with someone who did or knew someone who did, and you either laughed about it later with your friends or didn’t do anything.
Of course, we girls and women usually didn’t say anything either, but that was because no one was listening. And if they were, we were told it was our fault. For wearing too short a skirt. Or too tight or low a top. Or for having the audacity to have been born with breasts.
It’s not going to stop with the Harvey Weinstein revelation. But the media has our attention at the moment, and perhaps, there will be less of this awfulness occurring.
What else needs to happen? It will take someone smarter than me to figure it all out. But I think it starts at home. Mothers and, especially, fathers of boys need to do a better job of instilling their sons with respect for women.
And, by the way, is that even a thing? Tell me, please. Do parents of boys even have these conversations? I get that boys (and girls) have raging hormones. But boys need to understand it’s not okay to lie to girls, telling them they love them just to get into their pants.
That it’s not okay to share naked photos of a girl on social media who was naive enough to believe the boy who told her no one else would would see them.
That “no means no” and “see something, say something” are not cliches but the truth.
That girls have feelings and that boys can either hurt or help girls by their actions or inactions.
These conversations should be a given, along with don’t play in traffic or with matches.
We all know knowledge is power so girls and women be armed knowing this: Some men are dogs, no matter how smart, funny, good-looking, educated, rich or powerful they are. I would venture to say there are more of these guys around than we originally thought, judging by the number of “Me too” responses.
I don’t mean to paint all men with one broad stroke, but ladies, understand men are very different creatures from us. It’s mostly men who start wars. Who give women date rape drugs. Who support the $97 million worldwide porn industry, some of it degrading and abusive to us.
No, not all men are bad. But the righteous among you need to do better.
This post originally appeared on “Opinionated Woman” on ChicagoNow.