Bruce Watson's Page > Posts tagged with "harassment"

 

Subject: Is Silence a Statement?

Forum: Is Silence a Statement?
This year’s Golden Globe awards have been lauded as both a victory and a failure. For women, they were an unquestionable victory: across the audience, women wore black in solidarity, and many brought women’s rights advocates as their dates. Throughout the night, women commented about this watershed moment in Hollywood’s fight for gender equality, culminating in Oprah’s speech tying her award to the civil rights struggle. Paired with Natalie Portman’s comment about the all-male nominees for best director, Oprah’s speech put the #MeToo year in the context of a larger historical movement, while showing that the struggle is far from over.

But for men, the impact of the evening was a little cloudy. Many showed support by wearing all black, but when it came to words, they were almost universally silent about harassment. For many, their silence spoke volumes.

Many critics have argued that the male silence at the Golden Globes was shameful, but some have pointed out that it’s also part of a larger question of how men should men approach the #MeToo movement. Should they share their own #MeToo moments, or should they stay silent? Should they make statements of solidarity, or should they step aside and let other voices be heard? Should they apologize for their behavior, or just resolve to improve it?

These aren’t simple questions: it easy to condemn male silence, but there have also been recent articles criticizing men for trying to weigh in on a topic that they don’t understand. Men who tell their #MeToo stories have been criticized for making the issue entirely about sexual harassment, and missing the larger context of the gender struggle. And men who have come forth to apologize for their poor behavior, like Morgan Spurlock, have also been criticized for the manner in which they did so.

At the height of the Civil Rights struggle, a woman approached Malcolm X at a college campus and asked what she could do to help. He told her “Nothing,” and passed her by. Years later, writing in his autobiography, he said that he regretted his words, and wished they had been more productive.

Your Challenge:
What do you think men should do in response to #MeToo? Should they remain silent, in respect to other voices? Share the stories of their own struggles? Apologize for their actions? Work with other men, but remain silent in public? What is the best way for a gender that is often the villains in the harassment struggle to help promote change?

Subject: When it comes to harassment, what is your role?

Forum: When it comes to harassment, what is your role?
I recently came across a pair of articles that, together, give an interesting glimpse into how the sexual harassment environment is changing. One covered Billy Bush’s appearance on the Late Show, where he reiterated that Donald Trump bragged about sexual harassment on the Access Hollywood bus. But when it came to explaining why he didn’t push back against Trump, Bush faltered, lamely pointing out that he thought Trump’s comments were a comedy routine.

The other article recapped a public disagreement between John Oliver and Dustin Hoffman that occurred during a panel discussion about one of Hoffman’s movies. Oliver surprised the actor by bringing up the sexual harassment allegations against him, and the discussion became heated. Members of the audience criticized Oliver for going off topic, but he explained that he felt it was important to bring it up, as “No one stands up to powerful men.”

Rather than focusing on sexual harassers and victims, these events put the spotlight on bystanders. Billy Bush chose not to speak out about Trump’s sexist comments, while Oliver chose to shift from a movie discussion — which his audience had paid to see — to a harassment discussion that many of them didn’t want to witness. But for all their differences, Oliver and Bush both made a decision about their values, their responsibility, and their willingness to create an uncomfortable environment in order to address a larger point. Faced with sexual harassers, they chose either to face the problem or to turn away.

It’s an issue that resonates: to a great extent, we’re all bystanders, and we’re all being forced to figure out where we stand on these issues. Knowing what we now know, can we still see “The Graduate” the same way? Do the events of this year change the way hear a Louis CK set, or see a Pixar film, or watch George Takei? Does Billy Bush’s failure change the way we react to our friends when they say something offensive? Where do we draw our lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Your Challenge

Our culture is in the midst of redefining many of its rules, and we are all part of that discussion. Where do you stand on the changing rules and perspectives around sexual harassment? Are we too insensitive? Are we oversensitive? What do you consider an appropriate punishment for a harasser? How about a bystander? Do you have a story about a time when you stood up to harassment…or failed to do so?