Your Name Isn't Olivia
It’s the fifteenth of October and it’s obnoxiously warm outside. It’s just after 10:30pm and my wife is watching Lost for the third or fourth time. My usual habit is to sit down with every intention of diving right into the work, but I typically I end up perusing Facebook for about a half hour instead. Tonight, though, Facebook was markedly different.
The Me Too awareness campaign has hit home and tonight, my good friend Al took the words directly out of my mouth.
Granted, my friends list is legitimately 10% of his, but I’m having the same experience. Women I’ve worked with, had relationships with, my friends—all of these women have dealt with this. It makes me sick to my stomach for reasons I wish I didn’t know. But, I know exactly why my stomach drops at the endless scroll of Me Too; I’ve always known. I’m a part of the problem.
When I was twenty I moved in with two women, one of which I’ve written about before, Olivia. We met in college through our mutual friend Julian and bonded over the difficulty of the music theory component of our course. We started playing together and got along great, and I, being a misguided ball of hormones, fell head over heels for her. The fact that she was born with eyes like dinner plates didn’t help matters either.
After I dropped out of school, she had a roommate move out and needed someone to fill the space. Foolishly, I accepted. Let this be a lesson to young boys never move in with a person in the headspace of “yeah, something’s gotta happen now!” We lived together amicably for months, sharing a bad experience with our third roommate until she moved out. Being that the lease was due to expire in two months, Olivia and I decided to just pay the extra rent ourselves until we went our separate ways.
This is when I let myself go. To be fair and honest with myself, I am an exhibitionist. It goes back into my childhood and I can’t explain it, but I love being naked and don’t mind if people see. Without the “supervision” of a third party, I allowed my hormones to just rage and forced Olivia into horrible situations. In the early part of my twenties, I constantly slept naked and decided that when “roommate C” left, I’d stop putting anything on if I needed to go downstairs to the kitchen. I forced Olivia to see my body, willing or not, multiple times. That fucking eats me alive.
We don’t talk anymore. We had an ugly blow up right after the death of my father and didn’t talk for years. Somehow—the memory is like a dream really—we reconnected on Facebook years ago and made amends for that fight, but I’ve never apologized for the pig I was. I’ve never acknowledged to her that I know what I did to her was horrible and unwanted.
She was the first person I ever shared my writing with and I secretly hope, every time I hit that “post” button, that she’ll read me. If, for some reason, you are reading this; you know your name isn’t Olivia. I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. I don’t need you to absolve my guilt, I deserve to live with it. I’ve tried to file it under “growing pains” but that didn’t work, I’ve tried to shove it in the “boys will be boys” bin, but that exploded on me, I’ve tried to just forget about it—but I can’t. When I think of you, I hear your voice telling me to “put on some fucking clothes,” and I deserve that, because I don’t deserve your friendship. I don’t deserve kind memories. You don’t owe me a god damn thing, but I owe you more than an apology could ever accomplish.
The above, aside from the apology and the last sentence, is a pointless paragraph. My feelings in this situation, truthfully do. Not. Matter. Hers do. I have a hole now because I was a shitty human for while. I have a bunch of these holes and it’s the sentence of guilt, the built-in lesson on the true nature of humanity.
I wish I could stop with that one situation, but I just can’t. I’ve sent lewd, unsolicited texts—and no, that’s not just a fancy term for dick pics, which I have indeed sent. I’ve called women’s commitment to their relationships and marriages into question. I’ve cheated on women. And even to get away from the sexual/romantic relationship aspect, just like with Oliva, I’ve disrespected my friendships with so many women. I’ve disrespected so many fucking people in my past that I literally cannot continue forward in my life unless I commit to making the world a better place—a safe haven from the type of person I was.
I look at the work Roman Farrow, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are doing and it’s just awe inspiring to me. But, really, it shouldn’t inspire awe, it should inspire action. I’m in the process of figuring how to take that action, and for the first time in my life I feel like I have a path. I have my battleground and my leaders.
I realize this may taint this post, it may taint me, but I can't write about this anymore without complete transparency, and I can't not write about this.
When I started writing seriously, my end game was movies. Kevin Smith was, and still is, a huge inspiration for me. He’s made his own movies, always writing and directing and had the skill to be hired by studios to write and re-write their movies as well. I wanted to do that, and to an extent, still kind of do, but the events happening for the past few days have completely disillusioned me to the entire thing.
When Ronan Farrow published his damning article in the New Yorker, it only added nuclear fuel to the fire that Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey had started five days earlier. The initial article by Kantor and Twohey in the New York Times, had started the conversation about abuse and complacency in Hollywood, and gave birth to a new age of whistle blowers.
Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Emily Nestor, Lauren O’Conner, Asia Argento, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Léa Seydoux, Cara Delevingne, Zoë Brock, Laura Madden, Liza Campbell, Lauren Sivan, Jessica Barth, Emma de Caunes, Dawn Dunning, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, Mira Sorvino, Lucia Stoller, Rosanna Arquette, Judith Godrèche, Katherine Kendall, Tomi-Ann Roberts, Louisette Geiss, Romola Garai, Heather Graham, Claire Forlani, Florence Darel, Sophie Dix, Kate Beckinsale, Melissa Sagemiller, Minka Kelly.
There are thirty-two (32) women on this list, and this is just my list pulled from the articles I’ve linked to. Thirty-two. Thirty-two women have come forward via their own social media accounts, through various publications, however they feel they need to; these women are finally able to come forward. Harvey’s accusations go back thirty years and shine a light deep into the moral cavern that encloses the upper echelon of Hollywood. When we talk about “the women” involved, it is important that we not forget their names. There are some you know already, some you don’t—but if there’s one thing that needs to be stressed in all writing about this issue, is that Harvey Weinstein cannot be the only one with a name.
On the male side of the issue, may men have broadcast their support for the women in their industry, and some, such as Terry Crews and James VanDerBeek have even shared their experiences. To save time reading tweets, this is the message from Terry Crews taken from a sixteen-part Twitter thread. I’ve copied it verbatim, but broke it up for readability:
“This whole thing with Harvey Weinstein is giving me PTSD. Why? Because this kind of thing happened to ME. My wife n I were at a Hollywood function last year n a high level Hollywood executive came over 2 me and groped my privates. Jumping back I said What are you doing?! My wife saw everything n we looked at him like he was crazy. He just grinned like a jerk. I was going to kick his ass right then— but I thought twice about how the whole thing would appear. “240 lbs. Black Man stomps out Hollywood Honcho” would be the headline the next day. Only I probably wouldn’t have able been to read it because I WOULD HAVE BEEN IN JAIL. So we left."
VanDerBeek had a similar experience, on his Twitter, saying:
“What Weinstein is being accused of is criminal What he’s admitted to is unacceptable – in any industry. I applaud everybody speaking out. I’ve had my ass grabbed by older, powerful men, I’ve had them corner me in inappropriate sexual conversations when I was much younger… I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness & inability to blow the whistle. There’s a power dynamic that feels impossible to overcome.”
Human decency isn’t a gender issue, it isn’t a bipartisan issue, it’s not something to argue about—it’s one of the few areas in life that is absolutely black and white. For years, the entertainment industry has been built on a system of silent complacence, and in some cases, as recently highlighted by the resurfacing of a clip of Corey Feldman on the View in 2013, out loud rejection. I saw this clip early this morning, and when Barbra Walters raises her voices and opposes him, my stomach sank. So much about his personality made sense to me in that moment and my heart bled for him. It seems like it takes an onslaught of accusations to even get the conversation off the ground, and if anyone tries to do it alone, they’re chewed up and spit out. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they’re alone or note. Let’s go back to Ronan Farrow.
Ronan gave platform to the additional voices that helped bring down the Weinstein company, and we believed them. We believed Ronan. But we haven’t always given him that credit, and we definitely have almost never given women that credit.
In 2016, Ronan wrote a piece for the Hollywood Reporter about his Father, Woody Allen, and the accusations of rape and molestation against him by his sister Dylan. If there is one link in this story that I implore you to actually click and read, it’s this one. To believe that the woman who wrote that wrote it from a place of malice and hate is to believe that the earth is flat. It’s by far the most powerful thing I’ve ever read, and it all starts with the question, “What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?”
Woody Allen is a man who married his ex-wife’s adopted daughter that he cared for like his own. This is a man who discredits his children’s relationships because they come from different relationships or adoptions. This is a man, beloved by the Hollywood community and the Hollywood elite. This is a man who once redefined cinema and became the archetype for a very specific character. This is a man who barely escaped criminal charges over Dylan’s rape, but has A-list actors lining up to kiss his boots.
It doesn’t matter if it’s children. It doesn’t matter if it’s men. It doesn’t matter if it’s women. There’s a crumbling circle of protection in place due to accolades and stature in this specific industry. When it takes thirty-two women (some of which are house-hold names) to speak up after getting assaulted by a single man to start a conversation, our culture is deeply and disgustingly broken in ways far worse than we thought. The signs hide right in front of us: we keep giving Roman Polanski awards, right along with Woody Allen.
I worry that this is being leveraged by some (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) as a trend. In the face of #OscarsSoWhite in 2016 and the blight that was the White-grace coverage of Moonlight’s historic win last year, the Academy has voted to expel Weinstein. This makes him the second person ever to be expelled. They stayed silent when Roman Polanski pleaded guilty in a sex crime case involving a minor, they stayed silent when Woody Allen was accused, they stayed silent when Bill Cosby’s victims spoke out, they stayed silent when Mel Gibson went on his anti-Semitic tirade. There is no real intention behind the expulsion, just some face saving for an organization filled with dinosaurs. I feel like if it were 2006, someone would have already sold us all teal-coloured rubber bracelets.
Regardless of the Academy’s empty intentions, women are turning the tide and they will be forced to reckon with those who they protect and who they dismiss. These women are finally gaining some equal footing in their industry and deserve all our respect and admiration for it. It'll be interesting to watch the lasting effect this has on the industry, and one I look forward to.
Now, take all these events and imagine it happening to people that don’t have names that make the papers. Imagine that instead of Facebook and Twitter, you heard this stuff at work. You heard that Cody gets kind of creepy when he’s alone with the new girl. You hear your cousin has some pretty nasty party habits. Now, open your own Facebook and scroll through your own sea of Me Too’s and think about their situations.
Keep in mind, there’s only a few women who have accused Harvey of rape, and everything else he’s accused of is criminal, but it's not forced, non-consensual sex. That doesn't mean that these accusations are worth any less than the others, but it does show that these Me Too’s don’t just mean our wives, girlfriends, sisters, friends and cousins were raped. It means some one started talking to them overtly sexually in a coercing way. It means they opened their phone to a stranger’s cock. It means they’ve had that guy at work stare at them a little too long, they’ve had their picture taken “on-the-sly” while just trying to go about their day. Me Too means so fucking much that if it doesn’t turn your stomach to see, you need to re-examine how you view women.
In my situation, it was clear people talked about me, because Julian, my best friend at the time, confronted me about my behaviour. He called me out on all my shit, clear as day. I couldn’t accept it in the moment and cut him out for a while, as well as most everyone else—but that was what I needed. I needed to lose those I loved to really see myself. The lack of power dynamic destroyed a potential predator in me, because a peer, a man who I love and who loves me back, was able to tell me I was out of line and hold me accountable. I never did thank him, but I credit him with the attitude that drives me to write things like this.
This is what men need to do. We need to hold our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and friends accountable for their actions. Let’s co-opt the phrase, “If you see something, say something.” If you see your friend at a party hitting on the really drunk person, ask them what their intentions are. If you hear a murmur about your friend, or have direct confirmation of something fucked up, ask them about it. Hold them accountable. The only way we can make the world better place is exactly how Michael said: We’ve got to take a look at ourselves and make that change.
(I understand the loaded nature of a Michael Jackson quote, but I could write another entire post on my complicated feelings for Michael Jackson, his mental health and label of Pedophile. In fact, I think I will.)
It became evident to me during the White supremacist marches in Charlottesville that problems like racism, misogyny, sexism and bigotry need to be solved from inside. They’re seemingly impenetrable machines that need to be dismantled cog by cog by those who grease the wheels, not by those who are fed into them. This is how, if you’re a man, you can help with Me Too. Don’t be a Joss Whedon, be a Bradley Cooper.