This Harvey Weinstein situation has me in shambles.
While applauding actress after singer after artist after mother after woman (and man) come forward with their own experiences with sexual assault, abuse and harassment, I’m simultaneously racing through my memories and replaying my own experiences.
There are too many to count, and too many to replay in an organized, chronological order. Most of them are the result of generally being a female in a male-dominated society: honks and whistles out car windows, a heavy hand on my ass at a college party, a restaurant owner who thought it was funny to shoot his pellet gun at female waitresses (myself included – those pellets hurt like a mother).
While my brain was trying to sift through the muddled history of these scenarios, trying to sort out which were legitimate instances of harassment and worrying about whether I was being dramatic and overly-sensitive, I rushed out a #MeToo tweet:
As soon as I pressed Enter I immediately reconsidered my statement.
Wait a minute: did I really give up on music journalism because of sexual harassment? Or did I give up on that career because I wasn’t succeeding, because I wasn’t making it in the industry, because I wasn’t good enough and needed a scape goat and this seemed like a legitimate one?
I sat with these questions for a few days.
And just as I considered whether some of my experiences may have just been me overreacting to innocent, playful behavior by a man – only to reconfirm that no, these were inappropriate instances of sexual harassment and abuse – I landed hard on the conclusion that, wow, I really did give up on music journalism because of this rampant problem.
It Was More Of A Petering Out
I always cited my music journalism career as a reason for moving to Los Angeles. As soon as I moved here, I wrote a few articles here and there for a few local blogs. I tried to keep my contacts up. I applied to more publications than I can count with no response. None.
I’d look back at my online portfolio, confused: my resume and my portfolio are relatively big for a freelancer at the early ages of her career. Why won’t anyone hire me?
So I gave up.
And I looked back at all of the mistakes that I might have made, the lost connections, the failure to work harder and write better. And I realized something: for the entirety of my music journalism career, I was balancing my self-worth on the opinion of men who wanted to sleep with me.
That lead singer that wanted my number and a date after an interview? That was confirmation that I had done a good job with a story. The older, more experienced male journalist who met me to discuss music and ended the night with his hand on my thigh? This was a professional connection I needed. That band’s security guard, the one who gives me unsolicited hugs and kisses and grabs? He’s proof that I’m worthy of hanging with high-profile musicians and industry executives.
I equated sexual advances, requests for numbers and dates, and straight-up sexual harassment as proof that I was worthy of the attention of players in this notoriously cutthroat industry. It’s a result of years growing up from a girl into a woman in a society that equates sexuality with self-worth.
I knew in the back of my head that none of these guys – not the musicians, record label owners, body guards, editors and journalists that showed any sexual interest in me – gave a flying fuck about my writing. At all.
I began to resist these advances and harassment. I not only laughed off requests for dates, I flat-out denied them, and called him out on his inappropriateness. I stopped communication with the gropers. And with it, I gave up the men who controlled my image of my professional self-worth.
Here’s the problem with the far too many people (mostly men) who believe women have the power to stop sexual harassment and assault in their tracks, and the people who doubt women’s explanation that they felt the need to go along with this behavior in order to make it in their perspective fields. They can’t fathom that these women are right.
As soon as I stopped going along with this behavior, as soon as I resisted, the calls and texts for coffee and conversations dried up. Requests to discuss a project or go to concerts or network were nowhere to be found.
These men wanted my body, not my professionalism. And as soon as I took my body away from them, I had no professional self-esteem left to keep pushing myself into an industry that continually told me I would have to flirt with the lead guitarist and endure ass-grabs to get a writing gig and make a connection.
I’m in therapy (as everyone should be, I feel), and part of my discussions with my therapist include this warped mechanism in my brain that equates male attention with worthiness. But it’s not my fault, and the music industry proved me right: male privilege means having the power to take away an opportunity from a woman because she doesn’t want to sleep with him.
Cheers to the women in this industry, and in any industry, that endure this fucked up environment. Power to the women who resist and fight back and know their own self-worth to keep pressing forward, even at the expense of a major industry connection. I want my own daughter to know her worth so that when she fights back against sexism, sexual harassment and the like, the men who take away one opportunity from her won’t take away her self-worth, and she’ll have the strength to find opportunity elsewhere. Hats off to the men who treat women not as The Rock, not as another dude in jail, but as a fellow human being.