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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Then Finally, On The Day That Powerful Harvey Weinstein Was Convicted, The Powerless Began To Smile Again ...



... because it proved there were some in the justice system who still believed in consequences for your actions, despite wealth and power. and it set a precedent of consequence for actions; one that even if it only prevented one more of the Harvey Weinsteins of the world from ever doing to women again what he did, was worth it.

Hopefully, that's what we'll be saying in the future, as we look back at history.  Just a little bit of hope is a powerful thing :) 

I don't have much time for blogging, as of late, and not much inclination to do so - but the moment I heard Harvey Weinstein was convicted, I smiled, and thought I'd weigh in.  

Because to me, it meant that despite seemingly returning to the Dark Ages, where the Trumps, Kavanaughs and Kobes of the world are presumed innocent despite clearly aggressive demeanors and/or evidence  - a world where the wealthy, famous, and powerful are presumed innocent and less powerful people (predominantly women)  are being silenced with money or smeared/discredited for speaking up and speaking truth - there are still some people in the justice system, and society at large, still interested in listening to their voices, listening to facts, and listening to truth. 

An excerpt from this excellent opinion piece from Rebecca Solnit of the New York Times, the only part I disagree with being that Rebecca could've gone further because though we have returned to an age of victim-blaming, silencing, and discrediting women, this behavior is not exclusive only to women - it's just more obvious with women. 

"To be powerless means that your facts and truths can be overwhelmed by the powerful, who prefer these facts or voices or stories not be heard. And what it means in the end is that truth and fact and evidence only prevail, whether it’s science or personal stories, in a democracy — not just a democracy in the electoral sense but a world in which power differentials don’t corrupt what stories get told. Where what facts prevail depends on the strength of those facts, not the status of the speaker. 
Imagine if Mr. Weinstein had committed his first sexual assault in a world in which his victim had the audibility, credibility, value and resources he did. There would likely not have been a second, or six women testifying in a trial, or 90 women with stories no one made space for before something changed in 2017. More likely there would not have been a first in a world where he knew he could not overpower her facts and voice, even if he could overpower her physically. When I hear these stories, I think of my own youth as a person who was voiceless, not because I could not speak, but because they would not listen. I, like so many others, then and now. 
For myself, I wanted Mr. Weinstein found guilty and imprisoned not as revenge — though he richly deserves it — but as a warning to men like him that the age of impunity is over, that there are people willing to listen to women, and sometimes what we say has consequences. The most important change will be found in what we cannot measure — all the crimes that don’t happen because would-be perpetrators fear the consequences, now that there are consequences. All the potential victims who know that if they speak up, someone might hear them and heed them. I want more than that, though: I want a society where the desire and entitlement to commit sexual violence wither away, not out of fear but out of respect for the rights and humanity of victims.
But even the idea that Mr. Weinstein’s conviction is a watershed is optimistic: from offices to agricultural fields to college campuses, sexual violence is still harming millions directly and making survival extra work that too many women must do daily. We have democratized storytelling and truth to the extent that we now sometimes hear about the consequences of inequality, but not enough to end those stories. We — well, some of us — have begun a process that matters more than anything. What just happened to Weinstein was, maybe, a step forward, but we have miles to go."

There was also one excerpt regarding women that I do think is pertinent mostly for women - something I don't think men and women that have never been sexually assaulted or harassed understand - something that was brought up time and time again during Weinstein's trial. 

And that is that to some men (and some women actually, but in terms of sexual assault or harassment, this is typically powerful men on less powerful women), saying "No" is like a trigger for them - they become more enraged. 

"I was mute in those moments. I knew that speaking was more likely to make things worse than better for me, though women in the situations I found myself in were often rebuked for not speaking up. The pleasant story behind that rebuke was that we were all equal rational beings, and we all had the power of language at our command, and anyone who didn’t use it chose not to, and it was all on her.
That was a lie. We did not have equal power. Sometimes saying no or stop achieved nothing. Sometimes speaking up further enraged the man we were trying to escape. Some of us, many of us, millions of us were sexually assaulted and then told we were liars when we spoke of what happened, and so our society was able to pretend it cared about sexual harassment and assault while refusing to acknowledge their omnipresence.
We do things with words, when they have power — set boundaries, swear oaths, bear witness. But if your words have no power, it is almost worse to speak them than not, to see them fail than not. 
Facts circulate freely in a democracy of information that results from a democracy of voices. We have something else instead, from personal life to national politics: a hierarchy of audibility and credibility, a brutal hierarchy, in which people with facts often cannot prevail, because those who have more power push those facts out of the room and into silence or make the cost of stating those facts dangerously high. That’s how the oil industry turned the science of climate change into a fake debate full of fake uncertainties. It’s how the impeachment trial turned into a showcase for how to override facts and laws. 
And it’s how Harvey Weinstein raised an army to protect his power to grab and grope and rape with impunity, until now. Sexual assault is perhaps the grimmest and clearest example of how unequal power generates crimes and then protects those who create them, but it’s not the only one. 
The story of Mr. Weinstein and his army of aggressive protectors has, since it first began to be told two and a half years ago, been exemplary of this. More than 90 women have reported he harassed or assaulted them, but Mr. Weinstein had what money can buy: an international army of lawyers, spies, influencers and others toiling to control the story and keep his secrets. That is, to silence and discredit the women he assaulted. Which means that so many of them were subjected to a double silencing."

But on the day Harvey Weinstein was convicted, just a small ray of light entered this world that had returned to the Dark Ages - because it meant that perhaps the wealthy and powerful were, in  fact, not immune from consequences, after all.  

And the idea of those consequences to Harvey Weinstein preventing even 1 person from doing what Harvey Weinstein did, is something to smile about :)

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