Tag Archives: sexual assault

About Kevin Spacey (and the others)…

Kevin Spacey presents his new movie Margin Call at the Berlin Film Festival 2011 (Wikimedia)

I’ve about had it with Hollywood. Between Austin’s film scene with Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles and Birth.Movies.Death’s Devin Faraci, Harvey Weinstein, and the various other sexual assault/harassment allegations that have surfaced from all corners of society, it’s clear that the problem connecting all of these is that Hollywood and other industries offer umbrellas of protection to those who have power, money, and–most often–penises. Those who are the least protected are the young (girls and boys), women in general, and those who come from marginalized and underrepresented communities, including–but not limited to–racial and cultural communities, the disabled, and those from the LGBT community.

Most of the cases we’ve heard about involve women facing lecherous, predatory men, such as the 80+ women who have come out to tell their stories involving Weinstein–including Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra, who say Weinstein raped them–and the 300+ women who say director James Toback sexually abused them. But there are also those cases involving men, such as Terry Crews, and minors. We’ve heard it from Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. We’ve heard it from those who have accused Bryan Singer. And now we’re hearing it from Broadway actor and Star Trek: Discovery star Anthony Rapp, who was preyed upon by Kevin Spacey when Rapp was 14 years old.

Rapp’s account–which you can read in full at Buzzfeed–is horrifying.

Rapp having to relive a memory he hadn’t told anyone about since it happened was made even more traumatic by the type of statement Spacey released as an “apology.”

There’s so much wrong with this statement–and folks are right to compare it to the equally obtuse and rambling statement Weinstein put out at the beginning of his saga, via The New York Times:

Both statements are exercises in trying to shift blame to anything and anyone other than themselves. For Weinstein, his scapegoats were the times he grew up in and his demons–which he does have, most definitely, however from actresses’ statements, he seemed untroubled by his demons until he had to issue an apology. For Spacey, his scapegoat is…being gay. Spacey certainly has his demons too, but they have nothing to do with his sexual orientation. They, like Weinstein’s, have everything to do with falling in lust with absolute control and absolute power.

To equate being gay to molestation is a two-fold act of cowardice and violence. First, the conflation is a slap in the face to the LGBT community, a community he has apparently run from his entire acting career, despite decades of rumors and direct questions about his sexual orientation. Secondly, it sets America’s progress with LGBT rights and attitudes back to the stone age. LGBT Americans have had to live with these types of regressive stereotypes for much longer than we straights have been aware of them. In fact, it’s straight America that has perpetuated these myths within our society. Again, the demon at work is absolute control and absolute power, and those who are in the majority have the power to control the narrative however they want. In this case, it’s straight people passing along the stereotype that those who are gay or otherwise along the spectrum are pedophiles and predators.

For Spacey to, as many have said, hide behind the rainbow flag now after he’s ran from it for so long is ugly and morally lacking. He should be ashamed of himself.

Speaking for those of us who review TV and film for a living, there’s the added moral condition of how to approach Spacey’s body of work after this bombshell.

I’ve followed the Weinstein saga closely, and provided my point of view to Bustle on how women in in the film criticism industry could come to terms with approaching Weinstein-backed films now that the facts are out in the open. One part of my opinion that got edited out (since most of us in the article were on the same wavelength and repeating each other), was that if it were a case of avoiding one actor and his filmography, say Woody Allen, then it’d be easy to avoid and remove our support from that actor. That’s what I’m going to do when it comes to Kevin Spacey. Just like with Weinstein, where there’s one story of wrongdoing, there’s bound to be more (whether or not they come forward).

It seems like Netflix is taking this avoidance approach with Spacey as well; the streaming network has announced that it will end House of Cards after the sixth season, which is currently in production. Netflix and Media Rights Captial’s joint statement (via The Hollywood Reporter)

“Media Rights Capital and Netflix are deeply troubled by last night’s news concerning Kevin Spacey. In response to last night’s revelations, executives from both of our companies arrived in Baltimore this afternoon to meet with our cast and crew to ensure that they continue to feel safe and supported. As previously scheduled, Kevin Spacey is not working on set at this time.”

Various celebrities, particularly those who are gay, also spoke out against Spacey’s conflating statement, as well as Beau Willimon, the creator of House of Cards.

Thankfully, the tide of voices has helped keep the narrative on Rapp’s story and not on the spin Spacey and his team were trying to pull (which, on some outlets, they succeeded). The focus should always be on the side of the victim and not on the perpetrator, who is still only out to control and use power, even when his (or her) back is up against the wall. If Hollywood could come to terms with its demons and finally rid the industry of predators, it’d be a much more enjoyable industry for actors and crew, film and TV critics, and the audience at large.

With that said, the best way to end this is with Rapp’s words on why he decided to come forward.

It’s not just O’Reilly and Weinstein: Sexual violence is a ‘global pandemic’

(l) Bill O’Reilly at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, CC BY 3.0, (r)Harvey Weinstein at the 2011 Time 100 Gala. (Photo credit: David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0)

Valerie Dobiesz, Harvard University and Julia Brooks, Harvard University

The recent exposure of widespread sexual predation in the American media industry, from Harvey Weinstein to Bill O’Reilly, has elicited shock and sparked debate on violence against women in the United States.

Sexual harassment isn’t the exclusive domain of show biz big shots. It remains alarmingly prevalent nationwide, even as other crimes are generally decreasing nationwide.

In the U.S., a 2006 study found that 27 percent of college women reported some form of forced sexual contact – ranging from kissing to anal intercourse – after enrolling in school. This sexual violence is heavily underreported, with just 20 percent of female student victims reporting the crime to law enforcement.

Nor is sexual harassment limited to the United States. The U.N. has called gender-based violence a “global pandemic.” As experts in emergency medicine and legal research at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, we believe it’s important to acknowledge that this issue transcends national borders and class boundaries to touch the lives of roughly 33 percent of all women worldwide.

A world of trouble

According to World Health Organization estimates, one in three women worldwide will experience either physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, many of them before the age of 15.

In fact, for many rural women, their first sexual encounter will be a forced one. Some 17 percent of women in rural Tanzania, 21 percent in Ghana, 24 percent in Peru, 30 percent in Bangladesh and 40 percent in South Africa report that their first sexual experience was nonconsensual.

Intimate partner violence is also pervasive globally. In one World Health Organization study, 22 to 25 percent of women surveyed in cities in England, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Zimbabwe reported that a boyfriend or husband had committed some form of sexual violence against them. Globally, up to 55 percent of women murdered are killed by their partners.

Violence against women takes many forms, ranging from psychological abuse to the kind of sexual predation, sexual assault and rape allegedly committed by Harvey Weinstein. Honor killings, physical attacks, female infanticide, genital cutting, trafficking, forced marriages and sexual harassment at work and school are also considered gender-based violence.

Rates range from country to country – from 15 percent in Japan to 71 percent in Ethiopia – but violence is, in effect, a ubiquitous female experience.

Sexual violence is committed at particularly high rates in crisis settings like war zones, refugee camps and disaster zones.

In these places, even humanitarian workers are not immune. Dyan Mazurana and her colleagues at Tufts University found that many female development-aid staffers in places such as South Sudan, Afghanistan and Haiti had experienced disturbing rates of sexual assault, often perpetrated by their own colleagues.

Explaining sexual violence

So what’s driving this pervasive phenomenon? Research reveals that there are multiple causes of sexual violence, among them gender inequality and power differentials between men and women.

For example, sexual violence occurs more frequently in cultures where violence is widely accepted and where beliefs about family honor, sexual purity and male sexual entitlement are strongly held.

Even in many countries that rank well on gender equality, including in the United States, weak legal sanctions against perpetrators of sexual violence can encourage and effectively condone such behavior.

So can cultural acceptance. Weinstein’s sexual predatory behavior was longstanding and well-known within the film industry, yet he was allowed to continue his abuse with impunity – until women began speaking up.

Likewise, Fox News renewed Bill O’Reilly’s contract even after he and the company had made at least six multi-million-dollar settlements with women who filed sexual harassment claims against him. Awareness of a problem is one thing; taking action is quite another.

Men with lower educational levels, or who have been exposed to maltreatment or family violence as children, are more likely to commit sexual violence themselves.

That’s because violence begets violence, a relationship that’s abundantly clear in the kinds of conflict zones where we work. Mass rape has long been used as a weapon of war, and has been well-documented during conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia and South Sudan.

Among the most salient cases are the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides. According to the U.N.‘s High Commissioner for Refugees, up to 500,000 Rwandan women were systematically raped in 1994 as part of an ethnic cleansing strategy, while tens of thousands of Bosnian women and girls were systematically raped between 1992 and 1995.

Psychological trauma

Wherever and however it happens, violence against women and girls poses a major public health problem for women and their communities.

Some 42 percent of women who experience intimate partner violence reported an injury
– including bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, broken bones and injuries to the ears and eyes – as a consequence of that abuse. Women who suffer violence are also 1.5 times more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, twice as likely to experience depression and drinking problems and twice as likely to have an abortion.

Violence against women is also closely associated with suicide and self-harm.

If there’s any silver lining to the Weinstein and O’Reilly scandals, it’s that in coming out against these high-profile men, dozens of women have helped to highlight not just the prevalence of sexual violence in the United States but also the societal norms that silence women and allow abusers to go unchecked.

Humanitarian organizations from the World Health Organization to the U.N. to the U.S. Agency for International Development have recognized that gender-based violence is not just a women’s issue. Addressing it requires working with men and boys, too, to counter the cultures of toxic masculinity that encourage or tolerate sexual violence.

After all, women’s rights are human rights, so sexual violence is everyone’s problem to solve.

The ConversationThe fact is, societies with high rates of sexual violence are also more likely to be violent and unstable. Research shows that the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated.

Valerie Dobiesz, Emergency Physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Director of External Programs STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation, Core Faculty Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University and Julia Brooks, Researcher in international law and humanitarian response, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), Harvard University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Now that Nate Parker’s apologized, will you see “The Birth of a Nation”?

Image.net/Getty Images
Image.net/Getty Images

I’ve belabored the idea of writing this post because, honestly, I’ve been trying to figure out for myself exactly where I fall on the issue of Nate Parker. To be more specific, I’d been waiting to see if he’d ever issue a fuller apology after the various non-apologies he gave after the news of his 1999 rape case blew up in the media (a part of his past he’s apparently always kept in the limelight, although, if you ask many Twitter denizens including myself, we didn’t know about it). Thankfully(?) he did. But the question mark I write here is for a reason: does the apology actually help matters, or does it just make us more jaded about him? Also, does the apology help the case for whether or not we individually decide to see what has been called the most important film of 2016, his passion project The Birth of a Nation?

Parker has been on radio silence for a while since his Facebook admission a few weeks ago, once he found out the woman who accused him of rape and lived with her own trauma from that day (and the subsequent harassment by Parker and his friend/co-writer and the other half of the 1999 rape case Jean Celestin) killed herself. This seemed to be when Parker’s eyes were finally opened to the fact that yes, someone other than him had feelings associated with the case. Somehow, it took this woman’s death for Parker to actually realize that maybe he should have considered this woman as a human being, not as an object out to target him. If anyone was playing target practice, it was Parker himself.

To Parker’s credit, he owns up to this in his most recent and most candid interview with Ebony‘s Britni Danielle.

“I called a couple of sisters that [I] know are in the space that talk about the feminist movement and toxic masculinity, and just asked questions. What did I do wrong? Because I was thinking of myself. And what I realized is that I never took a moment to think about the woman. I didn’t think about her then, and I didn’t think about her when I was saying those statements, which was wrong and insensitive.”

He admits that he never grew up with a clear outline of what consent actually consisted of: according to him, all he knew of consent was if a woman said no, that meant no. But in his mind as a 19-year-old, according to him, if there was no verbal consent given, then he figured it was then all about seeing how far he could go.

“Put it this way, when you’re 19, a threesome is normal. It’s fun. When you’re 19, getting a girl to say yes, or being a dog, or being a player, cheating. Consent is all about—for me, back then—if you can get a girl to say yes, you win. …I can’t remember ever having a conversation about the definition of consent when I was a kid. I knew that no meant no, but that’s it. But if she’s down, if she’s not saying no, if she’s engaged–and I’m not talking about, just being clear, any specific situation, I’m just talking about in general.”

Throughout the interview, he discusses how he’s just now waking up to toxic masculinity culture and how he’s profited from it. He even apologized to the women who have felt offended and hurt by his remarks, and he went one step further and apologized for homophobic remarks he made years earlier. But while he’s realized how much he needs to grow, there’s still the question of if we should actually go see The Birth of a Nation and put money in his pocket. He’s still the face of the film, so should the movie and its message get stuck in the crosshairs or is the message now invalid because of the messenger? (Related: If we’re rightly holding Parker’s feet to the fire, when will Hollywood do the same for other so-called “imperfect messengers” like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen? They are also happy recipients of toxic masculinity as well as white male privilege. When will people rise up and declare they won’t see their films? I know I’m not the only one who is filled with disgust whenever a new Woody Allen project is all the buzz, with stars tripping over themselves to be in it.)

Parker wants us to believe he’s turning a new page in his life. There’s ample reason in his statements for those inclined to believe him to do so. There’s also ample reason for those who don’t believe him to not trust a single thing he said.

Parker is asked to address the idea that many folks will have, which is that he’s suddenly come to this fantastic realization about toxic male privilege now that 1) his movie’s success hangs in the balance (he’s already had one screening/Q&A session cancelled) and most importantly 2) he’s realized the woman he wronged died because of her trauma. On one hand, it’s a sad state of affairs when someone else’s death has to be a wake-up call that you royally messed up. The fact that he couldn’t even think outside of himself when it came to the victim’s feelings is, to be blunt, disturbing. Just because he felt like he didn’t do anything wrong because of his poor definition of consent clearly doesn’t mean he was right. He states in the interview that it was wrong of him to think of himself as the victim because to do so, after you’ve severely damaged someone else because of your actions, takes a lot of ignorance, ego, and a lack of self-awareness.

On the other hand, if Parker really has seen the light, so to speak, then doesn’t he deserve a chance to grow into his newfound awareness?

Parker says he wants to be a leader. I think “leader” is a bridge too far; you can’t lead when you don’t know what you’re talking about, and Parker clearly still needs help not centering the act and its aftermath around him and his feelings. Parker says he’s taking this all with humility, and I suggest he take even higher doses of humility because it shouldn’t take having a wife and daughter yourself to realize that women deserve respect whether they say yes, no, or nothing at all. No one is supposed to take what isn’t given, and Parker still seems to rest his conscience on the idea that because he didn’t know what true consent meant as a 19-year-old, everyone must have thought the same thing. Parker’s going to have a rude awakening when he realizes that no, not every teenager grows up thinking threesomes are cool, or that being a dog is awesome, or that a girl not giving a clear yes means that consent is there. Somewhere along the way, Parker missed some key life lessons, and masculinity culture allowed him to believe that he’d never need those lessons.

What I do think, though, is that perhaps Parker could try to parlay his newfound awakening into becoming a self-appointed example of What Not To Do. When it comes to being a leader in the battle against gender discrimination, he’s going to have to tell boys and men like him to change. Those are the only people can he speak to on that front.

His very first lesson to that select group should be to become aware of what traumas and experiences the women in their lives have had to deal with. Keep in mind, he states in the interview that h didn’t even know that some of the women who worked on The Birth of a Nation were rape survivors. I can only assume he’s referencing Gabrielle Union in that group, who has spoken about her trauma before. If he didn’t know that, especially since she plays a sexual assault victim in the movie, then that speaks volumes to the lack of awareness he had about how deeply rooted women’s pain is tied to violent masculinity.

If he plans on doing some good and make a difference, he must speak to the young Nate Parkers of America and tell them to become acquainted with their own role in toxic masculinity, just as he had to. He must tell them to learn the histories of their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends. He must tell them to know of the smallest slight a woman can face to the greatest injustice they have to silently bear. In short, he must tell them to quit thinking of women as conquests, objects and toys, and to them of them as human beings worthy of respect, both in words and actions.

All of this goes back to the central question: Should we forgive Parker and see The Birth of a Nation, a film we were all pumped for before this news broke? I can’t answer that for you. It will have to be a personal decision you make for yourself.

As for me: I originally stated at the start of this scandal that I couldn’t see myself going to the film. My thought now though is that I’m conflicted, quite honestly. The Birth of a Nation is a film we probably won’t get to see again for some time, sadly. The story of Nat Turner is one too important to American history, and it’s truly a shame it hasn’t been made into a film until now. But what happens if we miss The Birth of a Nation and are never presented with another opportunity to see Nat Turner’s story on screen until another 100 years from now? What also happens to honoring the work made by Union and Aja Naomi King, who both star in this film? Should their contributions to the film be ignored because Parker is at the helm? It is easy to dismiss Parker, but unfortunately, is dismissing the film also forcing us to dismiss Union and King?

I’ve asked myself these questions, and I still don’t have an answer as to what I’m going to do once the film opens in theaters. We’ll see when the time comes. Now I turn it over to you: What are you going to do? Let me know in the comments section!

EDIT: One of the comments got me to thinking about my own answer to my own question: would I go see this movie? And the answer has to be no. A woman did die, after all.

As the commenter intimated, the hangup over the film shouldn’t really exist, so I had been thinking about why the hangup was there to begin with. I had attempted to address that in this article the first time around, but I think Elahe Izadi sums up what I was trying to get at even better with her Washington Post article about the situation. She writes, in part:

For other artists embroiled in controversy, it can be easier for audiences to dismiss their work if it’s more trivial in nature. Take Woody Allen, who was investigated years ago amid accusations that he molested the daughter he adopted with Mia Farrow. He hasn’t faced criminal charges and has denied the allegations, while many prominent Hollywood figures, as well as the daughter, have said they believe he’s guilty. Allen’s films may be creatively groundbreaking, funny or critically acclaimed, but he’s not telling a story Hollywood has never told before or paving the way for a much needed national conversation.

Then there’s R. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges and has faced numerous allegations of sexually assaulting underage girls. People like R. Kelly’s music simply because it’s entertaining, aesthetically good or ironically funny — not because it’s profound. But the content of his work can make it difficult to ignore the allegations — his music is about sex. Some refuse to listen to it because they think he’s guilty.

Interacting with “The Birth of a Nation” feels different. Parker has called the project “a healing mechanism for America.” That’s a tall order.

Maybe if there were more films like it out there already, the stakes wouldn’t seem so high.

I’ve bolded the last sentence since that’s really the part I’d been struggling with and annoyed by, to understate it; because of Hollywood’s initial lack of interest in these stories, it’s left the moviegoing public and Oscar voters tho choose between a film in which the stakes are very high for itself (and others like it) and their own morality, to be blunt. However, a film shouldn’t have to have such high stakes, and this film wouldn’t if there were other films of its kind out there. If Hollywood had always invested in diverse and inclusive filmmaking, the choice to see or not see this film would be easier for some. However, I personally shouldn’t have to seriously weigh my conscience before seeing a film. So the final answer is no, I can’t see this film and think I could live in alignment with myself.