Censorship: Post-Weinstein, and the Impact of Social Media
In true social media fashion, it took a whole five minutes before the MeToo campaign turned from a collective shout against sexual assault and in to an engendered political story of exclusion.
Here’s the low down; after the abhorrent truths surrounding Weinstein emerged, an outcry from celebrities and laymen flooded social media platforms. The core statement—which many copy-pasted as part of a chain created by actress Alyssa Milano—did nothing to show or discriminate against the gender of those sexually assaulted or harassed.
The spectrum varies; from men standing up in allied defence of seeing so many of their friends and family who have suffered and endured displays of sexual assault—to men who have taken a stance against stigma, and opened up in a big way about their own dark truths. However, the comments now surfacing are filled with hate, and disregard, to the claims made by men globally—“it’s a lot of fucking men and it’s not your time to take in sympathy”; “I know men and trans-people can be assaulted. But the fact and statistics stand that women are the most likely to experience this. Don’t take this away from us.” – are some of the comments I have come across in the social zeitgeist.
However, to bring up facts and statistics is a double-edged blade as men are even less likely to report acts of sexual assault, and domestic abuse, than women who undergo such trauma.
According to Victoria Police (Australia) between the years of 2000-2005 the statistics of sexual assault victimization were as 14,892 for women and 3,255 for men. Males represented about 16-20 per cent of the total reports, with a bulk of reports comprising of men under seventeen years old.
Like female survivors of sexual assault, males struggle with traumatic symptoms and disrupted lives – some with their sexuality and masculine role. An adequate range of services and agencies exist, but within our community we must be apart of the vision required to understand and respond effectively to male sexual assault.
“… the impact of sexual violence for boys and men is the attitude that even if it does happen, they are not harmed or affected by it, that sexual abuse is not really an important issue for our community.” Bavinton, T. (Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, 2003)
An article from the Department of Defense even explains that annually, about 10,800 men are sexually assaulted in the military, with [roughly] 8,000 women experiencing assault. Jim Hopper (a psychologist and researcher), and Russell Strand (Criminal Investigative Service special agent) go on to explain that only thirteen per cent of those men attacked go on to report.
More cases, and attention, have been given to women who undergo these disgusting acts but society is on their side when they come forward. The stigma surrounding masculinity is only just starting to dissipate, but still plays a vital role in the social interpretations of our community. Viral videos have circulated across Facebook where social experiments were conducted in public places, in particular one involving domestic abuse. When a community watches a man abusing a woman in public, various people will come to her aid — but when the roles were reversed, no one would help the man, and more often than not, the public would laugh or believe he “had it coming”.
Feminist theory goes a long way to encourage equality of the sexes. Emma Watson eloquently posited that to see change for the majority of womankind and further equality, is to open our arms to men and say that it is okay to show emotion, to care, to be vulnerable — to be feminine, as their is strength in that!
“If men having the courage to post ‘Me Too’ on their page makes you feel anger than compassion, then I fear you have fallen victim to the very patriarchy we are trying to smash,” says Your Friendly Neighborhood Feminist (Facebook)
Even as more stories come forward, the media has sidestepped the inclusion of Terry Crews, and James Van Der Beek, to the growing list of celebrities being assaulted in Hollywood. But what is more disparaging is the amount of celebrities who have known, for years, and have chosen to keep silent — such as Anthony LaPaglia, who knew of Weinstein’s appetites for more than 25 years (what!).
The reluctance in men reporting sexual assault and abuse is deeply rooted in the shame of the attack – not unlike what women have to endure – the fear of memories, of being violated, the belief that they are not worthy of respect. Men who are assaulted are overwhelmingly heterosexual, and so are their assailants.
“Part of that is they know most people don’t expect men to be assaulted, that this can’t really happen to a ‘real man,'” says Jim Hopper, psychologist.
Being ostracized is the fundamental fear associated with men, and women, who have experienced this assault. Men believe they will be looked as less than, that they will be shunned, and that speaking out will result in the end of their careers.
“I decided not to take it further because I didn’t want to be ostracized, par for the course when the predator has power and influence,” says Terry Crews. “I understand why many women who this happens to let it go.”
Crews goes on to lay out the potential scenario on Twitter: who’s going to believe you? Few. What are the repercussions? Many. Do you want to work again? Yes. Are you ready to be ostracized? No.
With all this in mind, have we not effectively done that with the men who have spoken out? Have we not given them further reason, and proof-positive, that they are seen as less than and should keep quiet?
A comment surfaced a few days ago; where a Facebook user said that enduring “a moment of sexual assault in pre-adulthood” wasn’t on par with what women have to endure each day. Unfortunately this was poorly executed, as now people are undermining acts of molestation and pedophilia because the assault isn’t “concurrent throughout your life”. Does this mean we are now attaching time stamps to a persons sexual assault claims and efficacy? Is this not eerily similar to the Catholic Church throwing smokescreens (Spotlight, 2015) whilst priests were assaulting altar boys?
In light of this, it brings to mind the situation that surrounded the death of Corey Haim. In the documentary, Coreyography, Haim claimed that he was sexually abused at a young age by one of Corey Feldman’s acquaintances – a 42-year old man within the Hollywood industry. A rift formed between the two, and the second season of The Two Corey’s, went on to expose the darker side of their lives as teen stars.
In 2011, Corey Feldman told ‘Nightline’ that “a Hollywood Mogul who abused Haim is to blame for the late actor’s death. He also exposed pedophilia as Hollywood’s biggest, and ongoing, dark secret.”
But where was the social outcry then?
Three years later, An Open Secret was released (a documentary exposing the issue of underage sexual abuse in the Hollywood-entertainment industry). The story follows the stories of five former child actors, whose lives were turned upside down by multiple predators, including convicted sex offender, Marc Collins-Rector, who co-owned and operated (the now infamous) Digital Entertainment Network.
“The film feels less shocking as a cult-of-celebrity document and more just quietly horrifying, as it details the trauma and the abuse of power inflicted on young men with stars in their eyes.” Elizabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire 2015
On 14 October 2017, producers Gave Hoffman and Matthew Valentinas released the official version of An Open Secret on Vimeo to support victims of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The situation before us has spiralled, and people will hold many views which will be conflicting. Feminism holds that equality is not a gender-specific human right, but something that the next generation has within their hands to change. One thing to keep in mind is that even if you have not seen a friend post about this movement — this does not mean they have not gone through situations of sexual assault or harassment. No survivor owes you their story, but what you can do is stand beside them regardless of their gender.
Social Media needs to be used as a platform to inspire, protect, and inform. But over the past year it has been used as a tool for psychological attack, and cyber-bullying. Because of its impact, and ability to connect, it is within us to use social media to shine the light on issues that need a global attention and include everyone within the social and political commentaries that arise – without prejudice, discrimination, or degradation. Sexual assault affects more men than society and the media give notice to, and that’s something we all need to work on.
If you’re reading this and have been a victim of such behaviours, know that you are not alone. There are many agencies and helplines available to you, no matter your country of birth. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It is not easy to ask for help, and even harder to speak against it. By removing the gender bias and politics which surround these discussions, and focus on the core message first posted by Alyssa Milano, we will be doing more to further the rehabilitation for victims of sexual abuse, and enable a more compassionate environment for survivors.
In solidarity I share this: I am a victim of sexual assault from my childhood, have faced sexual harassment in my adult-life by older women in higher positions, and now work in the Film & Television Industry in Perth, Western Australia — where I conduct myself as a producer. I am an ally, I am a voice within the crowd, I am a warm embrace and a shoulder to lean on. It has been hard to hear that my experiences are perceived as less than relevant. But I don’t intend to stay quiet anymore.
There is still a long way to go, but with each passing generation the stigma surrounding masculinity is fading, and with that we find ourselves in a much more feminist-friendly western-society. A small ripple is always enough, to create wider change.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
#metoo is important, people need to be able to speak up and be heard.
Much of what I have learned about society in the 21st C is that there so little confidence that complaining about anything will be dealt with fairly, justly and equally. The ‘blind eye’ is nothing new or the ‘scapegoat’ or the ‘cover up’, but we seem to have turned them into the first options of retaliation whenever there is a suggestion that deep seated problems exist in our so called civilisation. If we do not have the right to justice for all as a first resort without strings attached then what rights do any of us truly have?
Once, at a theatre, I stood up and walked out as a magician sawed a woman in half on stage.
My greatest fear is that the necessary pursuit of wrongdoers (who are mainly men-but not exclusively), will lead to a new generation of people potentially with a warped view of what good looks like. ‘Men are always bad, women are always victims’ isn’t the right message, and we eventually need to find a different language to express the problem and the solution so that young people grow up balanced.
They already are growing up better simply by not doing what your generation says OR does.
We create our society by the children we raise and the politicians we elect.
Thank you The Artifice for a very incisive article.
I don’t believe all women. Some are seeking a vengeance, some other cannot make a difference between sexual harassment and genuine seducing games. This might jeopardize other women’s serious claims by discrediting them. Unfortunately this #MeToo thing that surely started with good intentions is turning into a witch hunt.
Women know the difference between a bit of flirting and harassment. Surely you credit women with a bit of intelligence, albeit grudgingly? Don’t turn this into ‘pity the poor men’.
Who decides that it is ‘genuine seducing games’ or harassment, then? The one doing it or the person on the receiving end? One of the problems is that most harassers consider that their harassment is only seducing ‘games’ and their victim should just shut up and enjoy it.
Well done for speaking up. I don’t think Hollywood will thank you for it though.
I do think there’s something about privilege that sits uncomfortably beneath all of these new found voices. I’m glad to see this abhorrent behaviour exposed and the sheen of liberal virtue signalling being stripped from men and women alike. But I can’t help but feel that all it does is demonstrate the absurdity of a cabal of millionaires professing to create ‘art’ in the names of viewers. Hollywood and the film industry is so removed from every day reality I struggle to take much more from it than, rich people savagely bully and abuse other rich people when their privilege is under threat. I’m not sure what further lessons can be extended from it than that.
It was the speaking out of women in Hollywood that unleashed the whole #metoo momentum. Very often, it takes women of privilege to speak out first, women who can afford to take risks, before ordinary people like me can speak out. The speaking out of a “cabal of millionaires” allowed the office cleaner to talk about the sex pest in her workplace.
Not everything a privileged person says is irrelevant; sometimes it’s very important indeed. Just because they don’t understand what it is like for the office cleaner to live on the poverty line does not mean they have nothing to say about the fear to speak up about abuse because you might lose your job. So that, for me, is the “further lesson” that can be extended: some men in power abuse others. The ratio of that power relation is not really all that relevant.
Harvey Weinstein’s serial sex attacks could well have been stopped if just one of the people with knowledge of them had informed the police – but everyone decided their careers were more important than stopping this predator. Hollywood is a cesspit.
It would have taken more than one. And yes they were probably thinking of their own careers… people tend to do that. The lure of personal gain is strong and balanced against the possibility of that speaking out against the culture of sexual power might not provide any benefit. One risks losing a career for no gain. It needs numbers and it needs a hero or leading light.
Kudos to you for writing this article. I feel for what you have gone through. As a mom with two sons, I was always criticized for being too overprotective and over vigilant. But both my husband and I refused to budge on this issue.
There are so many horrific violations that can take place and when they do at least as a parent who is keeping an eye out, it is possible to help your child. I think every parent should read your article. Boys can and are abused, not only by authority figures but by their peers.
More and more the varying aspects of equality begin to compromise on certain things that sometimes we are inadequately prepared to deal with, often in the forms of topics such as this one. I had the experience of interacting with several therapy groups of often unique situations, and I happened upon the same information about sexual violence that opened my eyes to a grand picture of the reality. It’s interesting seeing the shift toward these and how they are being confronted, and it does make me wonder that when, or if, we managed to overcome this obstacle, what might come next in the changing pace of equality.
Hollywood is just the tip of a particularly nasty iceberg that exists in all societies, in workplaces, homes etc. Some women play this ‘game’ too. The problem being that the game shouldn’t exist at all. 1000’s of years of patriarchy will seemingly take more than a couple of generations to clear. I wonder what might have happened if Jesus or Allah or the Buddha etc had been women.
An interesting critique of patriarchy. I personally believe in the doctrine of total depravity as well as “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
However, it will be interesting to see more female leadership worldwide. Today there is the highest number of female leaders than there has ever been in world history. Not to mention diversity in all areas.
We are living in amazing times.
Quite possibly the world would be much like it is now, with one gender dominating the other? Or are you suggesting that women are somehow kinder and gentler so everything would be rosy?
I think it is great that there are so many female leaders and hope the trend continues. Having said that, female leaders face some challenges as their shelf lives in power tend to be considerably shorter than their male counterparts, meaning that it is not just a question of getting into power, but also one of maintaining power.
To answer the question about life being rosy, I would hope that female leaders would enact laws that can protect women from sexual harassment and oppression from patriarchy to advance global rights for girls.
I don’t believe in binary ideas of gender oppression either. As society moves away from traditionally defined roles, hopefully, there will be less domination and more personal freedom. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be for all.
Im guessing we’d never have heard of them.
If I’ve learned one thing in 2017, it’s never to think that things can’t get worse.
Especially when considering Trump and Brexit ministers.
Oh well, back on the sherry.
I have no problem with the Me Too campaign and have no right to say anything against it, other than the fact that we live in a culture that glorifies victims, and this is not good. I have nothing else to add.
I have to say I do not believe we live in a culture that glorifies victims of sexual harassment. One big lesson I have learned from women coming forward about being harassed is that many lost their jobs while the perpetrators profited.
If it comes down to being bullied or harassed on the job, many women keep silent because they cannot afford to speak. If it is a choice between feeding your family and keeping a roof over their heads, many women will put up with a lot. The desire to survive financially keeps many women hostage to a culture of suffering in silence.
In my view, survivors who come forward and share their stories about sexual abuse, especially as children, are very brave. I admire them greatly and have to say I marvel that many keep their goodness, sweetness and innocence intact. I always try to refer to people who have endured suffering as survivors anyway, rather than victims.
Thank you, thank you, for such a thoughtful, intelligent and respectful post. It has been very disheartening to see this issue being discussed with aggression and fear. I wish more people wrote like you, with a focus on the people who are hurt, on why they don’t speak out, and your encouragement by speaking out yourself. You are right, one of the reasons this abuse has been able to continue is the culture of shame around this issue. Take away the shame, and hopefully we can work to stop abuse. Thank you.
I love this article, thank you for raising awareness further.
Well done. Outstanding discussion, well handled, critical and cuts to the issue clearly. I am inspired by your honesty and integrity in writing this.
I really wish there was some mechanism whereby you could identify the real harassers, stop them reoffending and stop any new ones from being created.
Also I think men in every mixed environment need to ask women what if any aspects of their conduct theyd like them to change. I realise they should already know, but why not upgrade relationships between the genders completely not just de-Weinstein them?
A break away from the normally nerdy articles on The Artifice, it’s important on all platforms that we are willing to address such troubling issues. We should let a message of understanding and support be openly expressed, so the audiences on all forms of social media receive it.
Great piece! Very insightful. It sheds light on a place that needs to be illuminated. All genders should be standing as one against the the monster that is sexual assault. It is no one single genders time. It is our time to say #MeToo and be supported by a community of people. Turning our backs on those that have been brave enough to come forward shows both a lack of empathy and humanity.
This is awesome.
Loved this article, such sensitive writing to deal with a complicated and often stigmatised issue.
Callout culture definitely has its problems- as a tumblr user i’ve more than once seen people I know accused of things they didn’t do, or hounded for simple mistakes. It CAN go wrong- but the fact that actual wrongdoers and bigots try to use those mistakes to cover themselves up or even justify themselves makes my gorge rise. We as humans need to be smarter and kinder to each other than we are, and we can’t get lost in labels of who’s ‘allowed’ to speak up if they’ve been assaulted based on gender, or whether or not they live up to some standard of masculinity, or because we want to believe some actor we like when they say, ‘oh, it was just a game’, ‘I was just flirting’, ‘you’re taking it too seriously’, ‘they’re lying to bring me down’.
Is that true that more men than women annually are sexually assaulted in the military? After reading this, I feel I need to do a lot of reading on this just because it challenges conventional thinking. A good essay.