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Harvey Weinstein and Why Men Need to Stop Being Surprised

On Oct. 6, everyone woke up tired. Everyone, that is, aside from cisgender men. They woke up surprised.

Oct. 6 was exactly one day after the story about Harvey Weinstein, big-time Hollywood producer, and his decades of sexual harassment broke in a New York Times investigation. In the weeks that followed, actress after actress came forward with more personal stories of Weinstein harassing them, including big stars like Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o.

During those weeks, a document spread across the internet. It was a spreadsheet entitled, “SH-TY MEDIA MEN,” where women could anonymously add the names of men they had heard rumours about or had experiences with regarding abuse or general misconduct. It appeared, was briefly talked about in some circles, and then evaporated, as is often the case for these kinds of rumours. The spreadsheet was nothing new, just a different format of the ways in which women warn other women of the inevitable–for Weinstein, it was a “whisper network;” for college campuses, notices on bathroom walls.

So of course, everyone woke up tired, because Weinstein’s story wasn’t any different. He’s just another in a line-up of men. His privilege as a white man and as a wealthy man had a direct effect on how he got to where he is, and a direct effect on the way he was able to silence the women he harassed, but the story of power and violence? That’s what gets repeated every time.  

Men, you cannot continue to be surprised by the abuse and assault of women by the hands of men in power, men in the streets, men you know, men you love unless you continue to doubt women who come forward. Which is, of course, precisely what is happening. It’s three years after Jian Ghomeshi, three years since Bill Cosby, 10 months after Donald Trump and you are still saying to the women in your life, the women who are tired, How did this happen? How did we not know? But the thing is, men, women did know, and so did you.

So where were you? Where were you when the women weren’t famous? Where were you when the women weren’t white? You were surprised and shocked and appalled and all those things that show you are capable of human decency, this time. But, men, this has happened before. You watched the Brock Turners and the Ghomeshis and yet you say you still don’t know how this happened. How many times does the same thing have to happen for you to know?

You don’t know how this happened but you laugh when your friends catcall someone from their car. You don’t know how this happened but you stopped talking to someone you know when she told you your best friend assaulted her. You don’t know how this happened but you’re Matt Damon and you’re Quentin Tarantino and you benefit directly every time you keep quiet and put another woman in danger through your silence.

This isn’t to say the issue is as simple as a catcall but, men, when you fail to hold your friends accountable, you are complicit in violence.

Women and femmes are tired of doing the work for you—of sharing their trauma with you so you can react with a sad face emoji and then go on with your day, of telling you why you should care that they are not safe in their workplaces and homes and schools and hoping you believe them, of being related to you so that you feel like you only now have a stake in the matter.  

Do your own work. It’s easy to hoard the power you’ve been unfairly afforded by your gender, and easier still to do the decent human thing of feeling bad for someone—and then making sure everyone else knows it for the sake of self-gratification. Please, don’t do the easy thing. Please, please stop waking up surprised.


Julia is a third year journalism student who writes about arts, culture and her own personal failures.
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