I’ve engaged in countless conversations this week about Harvey Weinstein— with men I love, with men I admire, with men who are my champions— about holding other men accountable. Some asked how they could help, how they could be a part of the conversation. Most acknowledged that they were nothing like Harvey. Their behavior nowhere near as bad. But when asked if they would be willing to hold another man accountable, the most common phrase I heard was, “Well from my glass house…” And what a strange place to stand: acknowledging that that while you might not be rapists, you admit to some questionable behavior, and that makes it impossible for any man to hold another accountable. “From my glass house…” How very convenient.
It will be too easy for your peers to look themselves in the mirror and say they are not as bad as Harvey Weinstein. That they haven’t raped anyone. Or groped them. Or showed up to their hotel rooms naked. But the amount of #MeToo’s shared on social media last night, make it so that the numbers don’t add up. I was on the phone with my father this past weekend and while the news is our currency, this one was a difficult conversation. We talked about all the public moments in which powerful men were taken down for their sexual harassment— Strauss-Khan in France, Bill O’Reilley, Harvey Weinstein. We talked about their perversion and their need for help. We talked about their undeniably inappropriate behavior. And yet there was a comment made about how women can also be complicit, about how women can also be extortionists.
Yes. This is true. That does happen, sometimes. And who knows what those women were surviving. Who knows. But listen to a woman when she tells you that is not the norm. Truly the exception. It struck me that while my father— an exquisite debater, an intellectual, a man who raised me to be just like him— considered this conversation to be like any other. A debate. Political jargon. Another family stand-off, in which we all become proud of the knowledge held inside our brains. But I took a step. I opened up to my father— my forever champion, my dream— about the fact that this wasn’t that conversation. This was about my experience. My story. About womanhood.
I told my dad about the one time a producer told me he was glad I was in the room because I beautified it. I told my dad that on a scale from 0-10, that was a 0.5 offense. But one I had to navigate, nevertheless. I told my dad about the time a supervisor chose to kiss me in the middle of a crowd as part of his story-telling— like I was a prop, a toy, a thing to be handled. I told him that what bothered me most is not that it happened, but that no one flinched. No one thought twice about it. I would rate that a 5. And I had to really have a talk to myself about whether or not that was actually inappropriate behavior. And that’s the trick. Women have to navigate. Reconsider, relive. We, too, are brain washed to question the things that happen to us. But it never is about whether or not we’re faced with these types of offenses, it’s about whether or not they’re high enough on the scale for us to take action. Because it’s exhausting to do so. I told my dad that this kind of navigation is something that his sons will never have to partake in. A part of their day they don’t have to waste their energy on.
And yet somehow, to justify the horror, dismantle the boys club of it all, I had to bring up something that happened to me when I was nine. And it did happen to me. I do not say that lightly and I do not use it often. Half of my confusing experiences are outweighed by the fact that I’m not a wilting flower. I show up in a room, and I lead with confidence and sexuality, and I understand that I, too, have pushed the line. But even that thought is problematic. When it comes to this? I was nine. We had been invited to lunch at a colleague’s of my father’s and when lunch was over, we were shown around the house. Oh, the view. Oh, the new dining table. Oh, the library. Hefty oak and crystal; the law books! He’s wearing a suit! He waited for everyone to exit the room when he grabbed my face and promptly shoved his tongue in my mouth. I was nine, he was close to seventy, and he had a library.
And that was it. No one can fight something like that. No one can say that I was leading him on. And while my father confronted him a few years later when I finally told him, it’s something I always think back on. No one could have told me that I would spend the rest of my life swatting off older men in suits, with their libraries, their law books, and their crystal chandeliers. But it isn’t just about grabbing nine-year-olds and sticking your tongues in their mouths.
I was once working on a project with an older fella, let’s call him Nick. Nick was horrified when he read some column about a woman getting a bunch of d*ck pics on Tinder and getting further harassed when she asked her offender to stop. Nick, could not believe it. Nick said, “Well that man is a psychopath. That’s psychopathic behavior.” Later that night, I referred Nick to the Instagram account @TinderNightmares. There, in pretty squares to be liked or commented on, were hundreds of similar accounts. There, in pretty squares, was the day-to-day of every woman. And Nick could not believe it. “These men must be stopped!” he denounced. A few weeks later, after work, Nick and I went out to grab a bite. Nick is about twenty-years my elder. And in the middle of a heated conversation, Nick saw my passion as an invitation to grab my face and go for it. Unlike the episode when I was nine, I promptly pulled away and told him not to do that. That I didn’t want that. And what the fuck was he doing?!
See the problem is that Nick will never reconcile his behavior with that of Harvey Weinstein’s. Or any of the offenders on @TinderNightMares. The problem is that Nick will get really good at separating himself from everyone else with a penis and think of our night out as, “I made a pass at this beautiful girl and she turned me down.” What Nick won’t think about is that I’m not just a pretty face he made a pass at. At the time, Nick was my coworker and twenty years my elder. I was an assistant on this project. I was assisting. He never apologized for it. Never realized that I was the one who had to have the uncomfortable conversation with my supervisor about his behavior. I had to avoid him and question any and all future invitation. And Nick will go home and look down on all the men who rape and kill women, but will never take a look at himself. He’ll think that maybe, whatever, he was a little tipsy, and somewhat jet-lagged. But Nick will never call another man out, because he doesn’t see it. He’ll never analyze that the same hubris he had to grab my face, is the same hubris Harvey had when he asked all those women up to his hotel room. The same hubris men have to punch women in the face and kill them.
I’ve also spoken with plenty of men who champion women. Hire people of color. These men also don’t think of themselves as part of the problem. Let’s be clear about this— you can champion women as a predatory tool. As you can be a champion of women, and of diversity, and still abuse your power. These things are not mutually exclusive.
So listen, depending on the topic, I live in plenty of glass houses. Some of them have pools, some of them are tinted, and others have stained glass. Some of them are straight up Castles. But I am an adult. One in recovery, at that. A lot of my adult time is spent looking back at my behavior, making amends for it, acknowledging the work I have to do, and waking up the next day to face it all over again. I write about it, make the work very public. I have glass castles to dismantle. And yet when I see people make the same kinds of offenses I have made in the past, I don’t wait until I break the last window before I can speak up. I challenge myself to hold others accountable in the same way I wish someone had done for me. So I speak up.
You— men with power, men of age, MEN— have to speak up. I do not care about your glass houses. I do not care that you feel it’s not your place. If women have the courage to reveal the daily tragedies that happen to them, you have no excuse. Call out your classmate when he makes a vile comment. Point out the fact that a colleague is abusing his power and coercing women to sleep with him. Call him out for thinking that he’s not part of the problem. Call yourself out. You do not get to be outraged by Harvey Weinstein, make statuses about believing women, and not hold one another fucking accountable. Make amends for your own behavior, move on, and make the decision to be better. Start rehearsing how you’re going to shut them down. Start thinking of the possible scenarios, of all the things that you could say. And be ready for when it happens. Because it’s going to happen. Harvey Weinstein will not be the end of it. Learn to navigate. Because that’s exactly what women have to do.