The first time I felt silenced by someone it was surprisingly, to me, my mother. I was in 2nd grade and I had blacked out on the stairs at Fairmount School on the way to catch my bus home. I didn’t faint or fall; I was conscious and could hear noises around me, but all I could see was black. I was 7 and I loved to read, so losing my sight terrified me. When my mom got home from work that night, I told her what happened. The response I received was: “Don’t make yourself do that again.” I was shocked silent. Where had she gotten the idea that I’d made myself do it?
When it happened again, and kept happening, I never said anything. I stood stock still until the darkness passed and then went on about my life. I knew I couldn’t go to my mother for help. That set me up to stay silent for the sexual abuse inflicted by an uncle, a teenage boy, and a family doctor. I never said a word to anyone. While it was happening, my body grew rigid as granite and my spirit flew to the ceiling. I hovered and watched “the girl down there” until she/I was all alone. Then the world started up again, and I could see through my eyes again, and I was able to move.
I came to believe that my silence protected me. For decades this was my philosophy. Then in my twenties I heard from other female friends that they had been through similar trauma. It wasn’t until my abusive uncle died, when I was 23 living in LA, as far away from my home state of New York as possible, that I realized the anger I carried toward him. Now that he was dead, I felt betrayed in my silence. It was too late to accuse him; he couldn’t show regret or deny the charges. That’s when I realized all my years of suppressing the truth had only protected him.
This week, silence and suppression seem to be a major theme. The Weinstein case has women telling their stories of abuse, and even a couple men in the entertainment business are speaking out about their experience of having been sexually assaulted by powerful men in Hollywood. We also have men in the industry choosing not to speak up, and Matt Damon and Russell Crowe are accused of having pressed female actors into silence regarding the women’s Weinstein assaults. Turns out the New York Times suppressed this whole story a few years ago.
In her Longreads essay this week, Michele Filgate narrates the story of dealing with a sexually abusive stepfather, and a mother who didn’t believe, who walled Filgate’s revelations in silence. Filgate’s story mirrors those of the actors who were raped and assaulted by Weinstein. The scenarios are so similar. Please read the Longreads personal story, side by side with the reported victims’ accounts in several magazines and newspapers included here. I’ve chosen several pieces regarding the Weinstein developments so you can discover several aspects of this, dare I say, epidemic.
There is still a lot of silence around the horrendous conditions in Puerto Rico, where Trump is now threatening to withdraw emergency workers. Other articles this week focus on doctors speaking out against mass murders; people in the health field who are unable to reach isolated areas of Puerto Rico; a plight of Central American migrations; CA fires and climate change; a model’s response to the controversial Dove Soap campaign; and an article on Ta-Nehisi Coates and his new book. What a treat to have two new articles by Rebecca Solnit this week!!
So for these stories and more, Please Read On! Your comments are always welcome.
That powerlessness of others seems to be desired and relished in these cases. It’s time to talk about the fact that many men seem erotically excited by their ability to punish, humiliate, inflict pain on women – the subject of a lot of porn. When you jerk off while cornering an unwilling woman, you’re presumably excited by her powerlessness and misery or repulsion. Another of Weinstein’s victims told the New Yorker, “The fear turns him on.” Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes took pleasure, according to his victims, in degrading the employees he sexually exploited and harassed. Journalist Gabriel Sherman reported in 2016, “The culture of fear at Fox was such that no one would dare come forward” until Gretchen Carlsson broke the silence with a lawsuit. This year several black employees sued the network for racial discrimination.
“The Fall of Harvey Weinstein Should be a Moment to Challenge Extreme Masculinity”/ by Rebecca Solnit/ The Guardian/ October 12, 2017
2. Virtually all of the people I spoke with told me that they were frightened of retaliation. “If Harvey were to discover my identity, I’m worried that he could ruin my life,” one former employee told me. Many said that they had seen Weinstein’s associates confront and intimidate those who crossed him, and feared that they would be similarly targeted. Four actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, told me they suspected that, after they rejected Weinstein’s advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had them removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring them. Multiple sources said that Weinstein frequently bragged about planting items in media outlets about those who spoke against him; these sources feared that they might be similarly targeted. Several pointed to Gutierrez’s case, in 2015: after she went to the police, negative items discussing her sexual history and impugning her credibility began rapidly appearing in New York gossip pages. (In the taped conversation with Gutierrez, Weinstein asks her to join him for “five minutes,” and warns, “Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”)
“From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories”/ by Ronan Farrow/ The New Yorker/ October 10, 2017
3. Hollywood’s silence, particularly that of men who worked closely with Mr. Weinstein, only reinforces the culture that keeps women from speaking. When we stay silent, we gag the victims. When we stay silent, we condone behavior that none of us could possibly believe is O.K. (unless you do). When we stay silent, we stay on the same path that led us here. Making noise is making change. Making change is why we tell stories. We don’t want to have to tell stories like this one again and again. Speak louder.
“Lena Dunham: Harvey Weinstein and the Silence of the Men”/ by Lena Dunham/ New York Times/ October 9, 2017
4. “I was very petrified,” de Caunes said. “But I didn’t want to show him that I was petrified, because I could feel that the more I was freaking out, the more he was excited.” She added, “It was like a hunter with a wild animal. The fear turns him on.” De Caunes told Weinstein that she was leaving, and he panicked. “We haven’t done anything!” she remembered him saying. “It’s like being in a Walt Disney movie!”
“A Running List of Women Who Have Accused Harvey Weinstein of Sexual Harassment and Assault”/ by Clover Hope/ Jezebel/ October 10, 2017
5. “What would happen if on one day more than 50 people died and over 10 times that many were harmed by an infectious disease in the United States?” they asked. “Healthcare professionals would sound the alarm. We would demand funding. We would go to conferences to learn what is known and what we should do. We would form committees at our institutions to plan local responses to protect our communities.”
“’Guns Kill People,’ and Leading Doctors Want to Treat Them Like any other Threat to Public Health”/ by Melissa Healy/ Los Angeles Times/ October 10, 2017
6. N, just a girl, is the mother of another girl–a 1-year-old. She gave birth at 14. Her little girl, stayed in Honduras. She shows photographs. The father, a well-known drug trafficker in that area, warned N that if she took the child, her whole family would die. He had raped N from the age of 9. He raped her, along with two friends, also both 9, while she returned from getting paid for working in coffee fields. He raped her, again with his friends, when she was 11, walking near a park. He raped her and made her pregnant at 13, when she had gone shopping at a store. His friends had raped her this time too, but N recalls that “two of them had used protection.”
“Escaping Death, Asylum Seekers Surge in Mexico”/ by Oscar Martinez/ Elfaro/ October 1, 2017
7. Ruth Ellen Kocher concludes her essay about her experience being misidentified as a service worker on two separate occasions by white strangers while attending the 2016 Associated Writers and Writing Program conference with this: “You, my self-appointed and so-named white allies will continue to respond with stories of selfhood that mean to equalize us in our adversity but instead expose your inability to understand that our adversity is simply not equal. Such “identifying” asks me, once again, to inhabit a space of whiteness that simultaneously refuses me. Asking me to inhabit that space is another way to refuse my space, which is to say, you dare not imagine the true impact of racialized occlusion because you would then have to concede to your own racial bias.”
“Seeing White”/ by Susan Briante/ Guernica/ October 9, 2017
8. I pause. Scratch my head. Think for a minute. Wait. Dove, you want me to believe that using your soap will turn my skin into that of a white woman? No — that can’t be it. You want me to believe being black isn’t clean? You want me to believe that black = dirt and white = purity and using your soap will make me clean? Got it. You’re telling me my skin, the deep, rich melanin that I was born with and cannot change, is filthy. Got it.
“Did Dove Just Call Me Dirty?”/ by Danielle Brooks/ Lenny/ October 9, 2017
9. Her most pressing concern was the mental health of people who would have to wait months before their electricity was restored, who had seen their green forests stripped bare, and who would struggle, in many cases, to find work and feed their families.
“A Doctor’s Abandoned Journey into Isolated Puerto Rico”/ by Richard Fausset/ New York Times/ October 9, 2017
10. The exposed light bulb makes me feel like a character in a noir film. The air is colder, heavier down here. I think back to a year before, when he parked his truck in front of the ocean and put his hand on my inner thigh, testing me, seeing how far he could go. I insisted he drive me home. He wouldn’t, for at least a long, excruciating half hour. When I told my mom, she didn’t believe me.
“What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About”/ by Michele Filgate/ Longreads/ October 2017
11. Any fair consideration of the depth and width of enslavement tempts insanity. First conjure the crime — the generational destruction of human bodies — and all of its related offenses — domestic terrorism, poll taxes, mass incarceration. But then try to imagine being an individual born among the remnants of that crime, among the wronged, among the plundered, and feeling the gravity of that crime all around and seeing it in the sideways glances of the perpetrators of that crime and overhearing it in their whispers and watching these people, at best, denying their power to address this crime and, at worst, denying that any crime had occurred at all, even as their entire lives revolve around the fact of a robbery so large that it is written in our very names.
“Ta-Nehisi Coates is not Here to Comfort You”/ by Ezra Klein/ VOX/ October 9, 2017
12. Last month, representatives of several tribes also gathered in Gardiner, Montana — the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park — to petition the government to change the names of two park features named after historical figures: Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, who helped lead a massacre of more than 150 Native Americans in 1870, and Ferdinand Hayden, who once wrote that “unless [Native Americans] are localized and made to enter upon agricultural and pastoral pursuits they must ultimately be exterminated.”
“Trump’s Interior Head: If We Take Down Confederate Statues, American Indians Will Complain Next”/ by Chris D’Angelo and Dana Liebelson/ Huffington Post/ October 10, 2017
13. As I found more material, I started to wonder why so few people knew about Marsha. I realized that Marsha’s life had been deemed unimportant and unworthy of documenting by historians who have never cared about the lives of black trans and gender nonconforming people. Historical erasure of black trans life means so many of us are disconnected from the legacies of trans women before us, denied access to stories about ourselves, in our own voices. So it became increasingly important for me to not just find out more about Marsha but to share every bit of what I learned through my blog, writing and community organizing work so that we could reclaim and be nourished by our history.
“Reina Gossett on Transgender Storytelling, David France, and the Netflix Marsha P. Johnson Documentary”/ by Reina Gossett/ Teen Vogue/ October 11, 2017
14. But the truth is actually far scarier than “welcome to the new normal.” The climate system we have been observing since August, the one that has pummeled the planet again and again and exposed even the world’s wealthiest country as unable (or at least unwilling) to properly respond to its destruction, is not our bleak future. It is, by definition, a beyond-best-case scenario for warming and all the climate disasters that will bring. Even if, miraculously, the planet immediately ceased emitting carbon into the atmosphere, we’d still be due for some additional warming, and therefore some climate-disaster shakeout, from just the stuff we’ve put into the air already.
“This Isn’t the ‘New Normal’ for Climate Change—That Will Be Worse”/ by David Wallace- Wells/ New York Magazine/ October 11, 2017
15. Certainly, women like these have spoken out forcefully now. If letting Weinstein buy his way out of sexist pig status with political donations is setting the bar for too low, asking Streep to be a time-traveling sexism avenger is a way to set the bar so high that no one can reach it. Placing a particular burden on women, rather than, say, on the Weinstein Company’s all-male board, to have done something about him suggests this isn’t really about feminist credentials at all: it’s about making women, rather than men, responsible for male misbehavior.
“Why We’re Condemning the Wrong People in the Harvey Weinstein Scandal”/ by Alyssa Rosenberg/ Washington Post/ October 10, 2017
16. From an emotional perspective, it felt like being on the witness stand and then donating a kidney. I endured months of near-constant harassment; then, in order to write about it in that column, had to document it for my employer. It was exhausting, and I wondered if it was even worth it — until I started to receive responses to my work. The day after the piece went live, dozens of women had emailed to tell me that they had experienced their own version of what I’d gone through. My piece helped them to realize the specific ways in which they had been kept quiet. Sometimes self-silencing after the fact is more painful than trauma itself.
“Harvey Weinstein is More Proof That We Can Take Down the Patriarchy with Storytelling”/ by Lauren Duca/ Teen Vogue/ October 10, 2017
17. Remember that every time a man commits a violent act it only takes one or two steps to figure out how it’s a woman’s fault, and that these dance steps are widely known and practiced and quite a bit of fun. There are things men do that are the fault of women who are too sexy, and other things men do that are the fault of women who are not sexy enough, but women only come in those two flavors: not enough, too much, and it is the fate of heterosexual men to endure this affliction. Wives are responsible for their husbands, especially if their husbands are supremely powerful and terrifying figures leading double lives and accountable to no one. But women are now also in the workforce, where they have so many opportunities to be responsible for other men as well.
“Rebecca Solnit On Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Clinton, and Blaming Women For The Acts Of Men Or, An Incomplete List Of Things That Are Not Men’s Fault”/ by Rebecca Solnit/ LitHub/ October 12, 2017
Joyce Hayden left her university teaching job two years ago in order to pursue her own artistic work. An assemblage artist, painter, and writer, Joyce is currently in the process of acquiring an agent to represent her memoir, The Out of Body Girl, which describes her 8 year relationship with a charismatic gambler and the dangerous road that eventually led to her freedom. Her chapbook of poems, Lost Handprint, is forthcoming from Dandelion Review. A freelance editor and writing coach, Joyce’s writing services and a selection of her artwork can be found at her website joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.