America Owes Monica Lewinsky an Apology

Source: Mark Seliger/Vanity Fair

When the Monica Lewinsky Scandal first came to light, I’d just turned ten. Aside from the traditional “birds and the bees” overview and Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” my health education was relatively limited. (It’d be nearly two years before I fully grasped what those “relations” entailed.)

Since 1998, however, Ms. Lewinsky’s name has yet to escape the nation’s collective consciousness. As she wrote in her recent essay for Vanity Fair, “there has been at least one significant reference to that unfortunate spell in our history every day for the past 20 years.” Beyond the media’s fascination, Ms. Lewinsky’s image has also become ingrained in popular culture. One cannot watch 2008’s “Made of Honor” without being bombarded by countless beret-clad doppelgängers, after all, and the final season of “The Nanny” remains chock full of timely jabs that have retained their wit and relevance decades later.

But after 20 years of ridicule—in the midst of the #MeToo moment, no less—we must ask ourselves one seemingly simple question: Should Ms. Lewinsky still “own” the scandal?

Although Ms. Lewinsky might be the most notable, she was by no means former president Bill Clinton’s only alleged extramarital affair. Yet, because she was 27 years his junior at the time of the given sexual encounters, she was the most salacious, and therefore, the prime target during the subsequent inquiries into Mr. Clinton’s lies and infidelities. Thus, we watched as Ms. Lewinsky was dragged through the proverbial mud, her life upended indefinitely in an effort to uncover the sordid truth about the most powerful man in America.

In an earlier essay for Vanity Fair, Ms. Lewinsky emphasized that, although the relationship wasn’t abusive in the sexual sense, there was an abuse of power at play in the years following the affair.

“Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship,” Ms. Lewinsky wrote. “Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.”

While Ms. Lewinsky explicitly addressed her detractors in her latest essay, noting that none of her recent realizations absolve her of her responsibility for what happened—“I meet Regret every day,” she wrote—#MeToo and Time’s Up helped her understand that there was much more at play, and that the subsequent bullying and slut-shaming she’s endured was unwarranted and unjust. She was forced to bear the brunt of the blame, forever changed, while Mr. Clinton emerged relatively unscathed as a result of the latent misogyny that’s only recently received widespread exposure and condemnation in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein reckoning.

Source: Associated Press

Women are all too accustomed to being held accountable for men’s actions. Ms. Lewinsky, for instance, isn’t the only one who’s had to pay for Mr. Clinton’s sins. His wife, former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, has fallen victim to this tendency repeatedly throughout her career. Most notably, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Mrs. Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, invited numerous women who’ve accused Mr. Clinton of sexual misconduct in the past to speak out against Mrs. Clinton in an effort to discredit her leadership potential. Despite being accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women himself, Mr. Trump thought it smart strategy to dredge up Mr. Clinton’s past to damage Mrs. Clinton’s future.

Although many might think society has matured, when husbands stray, critics still reflexively chastise the wife for failing to fulfill her “duties.” Instead of portraying the husband as the cheater he is, outsiders attack the wife—a victim in her own right—by blaming her alleged “prudish” nature for his adulterous ways.

But women aren’t merely “stiffs” or “temptresses.”

We are more than vessels for pleasure and progeny.

We are individuals who exist separate from our relation to men.

Honestly, the dynamic between men and women over time seems inherently contradictory and hypocritical. While many lawmakers believe our gender cannot make informed decisions about medical and reproductive care, they’re the first to deem us responsible for the illicit “reproductive” activities of the men in our lives.

In her essay, Ms. Lewinsky also mentions her post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. Yes, even now, the activist—who’s made it her mission to address and prevent the very sort of bullying she experienced—still struggles with the anguish of being publicly outed and ostracized all these years later. As she wrote, Ms. Lewinsky often jokes that her tombstone will read MUTATIS MUTANDIS: “With Changes Being Made.”

Yet, if Ms. Lewinsky’s writing her own narrative now, chapter-by-chapter, then America must pen an apologetic preface. We botched the editing process the first time around, but we have the opportunity to make corrections moving forward. We can’t erase the pain caused in the past, but we can convey our remorse by making sure that no woman has to suffer such prolonged scrutiny. Let’s put an end to the #MeToo movement once and for all by ensuring no woman ever has to say “me, too” again.

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Saturday Night Live Should Cut Ties With Alec Baldwin

Source: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Like your favorite bartender or local pizza joint, Alec Baldwin has become a Saturday night staple. His impersonation of Donald Trump earned him an almost-regular role on “Saturday Night Live” back in 2016, putting him at the center of the American zeitgeist, and making the sketch comedy program a must-see for NBC.

But all good things must eventually come to an end, especially when that “good thing” happens to be part of the problem.

If SNL hopes to maintain its credibility, the show must cut ties with Baldwin. While his impersonation has certainly become tired, adding little to the national conversation as of late, Baldwin himself has been more than vocal about his support for his friends and former collaborators—and alleged sexual predators—James Toback and Woody Allen.

Recently, Baldwin came under fire for his comments about Woody Allen and the sexual assault allegations brought on by his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow. Baldwin claimed that the accusations were “unfair and sad,” casting doubt on Farrow’s accusations—the very behaviors that discouraged women from coming forward about such violations well before the #MeToo Movement came to be.

“Woody Allen was investigated forensically by two states (NY and CT) and no charges were filed,” Baldwin tweeted in January 2018. “The renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose. But it’s unfair and sad to me. I worked with [Woody Allen] 3 times and it was one of the privileges of my career.”

“Is it possible to support survivors of pedophilia and sexual assault/abuse and also believe that [Woody Allen] is innocent? I think so,” Baldwin added. “The intention is not to dismiss or ignore such complaints. But accusing [people] of such crimes should be treated carefully. On behalf of the victims, as well.”

Back in October 2017, when more than 300 women spoke out against Toback, Baldwin also went on the defensive, telling the Los Angeles that the allegations leveled against the famed director and screenwriter were “heartbreaking” despite the fact that he knew Toback was the kind who “hit on a lot of women in a very vague way.”

“Meaning that he had an appetite for going up to women and saying salacious and provocative things to them and introducing himself with his credentials and so forth and laying that on people to seduce them,” Baldwin said. “I never knew any details of what he did that was assault in nature, or rape in nature, or criminally actionable. Never, never, never.”

However, during this same interview, Baldwin went on to criticize the alleged actions of his alter ego. “On the record, there’s all kinds of evidence that Trump has behaved this way,” he said, “and he’s the President of the United States, and that being just one of the things that is horrifying people about Trump, his opinions, his behavior, his methodology and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

How can one man—a self-professed sexist, no less—shame one alleged abuser, while supporting two others?

After all, Baldwin admitted that he’s been guilty of sexism, too, voluntarily outing himself during an appearance at the Paley Center in November. (As if preemptively confessing your faults could make us forget about THAT voicemail…)

“From time to time, I’ve done what a lot of men do, which is… when you don’t treat women the same way you treat men. You don’t. I’m from a generation where you really don’t and I’d like that to change. I really would like that to change,” he said.

“I certainly have treated women in a very sexist way,” Baldwin confessed. “I’ve bullied women. I’ve overlooked women. I’ve underestimated women.” He also explained that the Weinstein reckoning was “a very eye-opening experience” for him personally.

“We’ve got to be vigilant in a new way to make sure that everybody is comfortable, and that we get the job done together that we’re there to do,” he added.

But, no matter what lengths Baldwin goes to in his effort to sugarcoat his previous indiscretions, the actor has been beyond forthcoming with his support of predators who deserve their own day of reckoning. His time on SNL has cast him as some sort of national treasure, making the show appear topical and relevant, all the while allowing its writers to fallback on the same old concept without acknowledging his glaring faults. Allowing Baldwin’s reign to continue aligns the show with his views, intentionally or not, adding an element of hypocrisy to every scathing remark he utters under the guise of Trump.

When it comes to sexual misconduct, you cannot pick and choose who gets the benefit of the doubt. Yes, some abuses are far more severe than others, but this does not negate the fact that each victim deserves to be heard and trusted. SNL can’t ridicule Donald Trump relentlessly without first taking stock of its own moral standing. Judging by the running commentary, it’s easy to conclude that the show serves as a platform for liberal ideas, but its reluctance to shake Baldwin says otherwise. Presidential jokes and skits are par for the course regardless of who’s in office, but did they really need to cast an actor who resembles Trump in both appearance AND ideology? If there’s anything the writers have learned from Trump’s example, it should be two simple words: You’re fired.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Will #MeToo Mark the End of Victim Blaming?

Source: Slate

Outsiders always criticize women who’ve been sexually abused. They wonder why victims don’t speak up sooner. They often chastise them for not fighting back. They accuse them of “asking for it” because their clothing or behavior might’ve been misleading. Regardless of the situation, society instinctively puts the onus on the abused because women are frequently forced to bear the blame for men’s faults.

But if there’s anything the public has learned from the case against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, it’s the fact that victim blaming silences even the brave few who try to expose such abuse in the moment.

From a distance, it’s easy for spectators to posit the obvious questions: Why was this abuse allowed to continue for decades? Why didn’t the victims tell their parents? Why wasn’t Nassar held accountable for his actions after the first accusations arose? But as his more than 150 victims have revealed, words often become lost in translation when those in power refuse to listen.

“When survivors came forward, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you, telling each survivor it was OK, that you weren’t abusing them,” Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman said to Nassar, who she says began abusing her when she was 15, while reading her impact statement in court. “In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or were mistaken. This is like being violated all over again.”

ESPN’s Sarah Spain reiterated the sentiment, noting that many of Nassar’s victims could’ve been saved from his abuse had the people they trusted chosen to put their safety and well-being first. “If parents had believed their daughters, if coaches and administrators had taken seriously the complaints of their student-athletes, and if Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics had prioritized people over public reputation, humanity over a bottom line, morality over medals,” she wrote.

Extreme, but true, Nassar’s countless victims were led to believe something was wrong with them—that they were in the wrong for questioning his behavior— because the adults they trusted failed them in the worst way. They internalized the blame, effectively muzzling the aspiring athletes until the silence became deafening. Now, however, as these women and girls come together, all connected by an unspeakable, yet unbreakable, bond, their collective voice echoes well beyond the ears that refused to listen long ago.

While it might be too late to prevent the pain these survivors must live with for the rest of their lives, their words—especially at the height of the #MeToo Movement—will undoubtedly produce true change. These survivors now hold the power the adults once abused, and they won’t let go until they’ve righted the wrongs perpetrated by those they were told to trust. It’s unfortunate that these athletes had to suffer at the hands of someone as despicable and virulent as Nassar, but it’s their subsequent strength that will make all the difference for those who’ll follow in their footsteps.

Society has an undeniably daunting amount of work left to tackle, but each woman who speaks up against her attacker—each survivor who stands before the court to describe Nassar’s crimes—moves us one step closer to a world in which no sexual assault victim goes unheard. #MeToo has amplified those voices, which were once eclipsed by the status quo. In essence, it’s now “cool” to listen when women share their stories, so to speak.

But we can’t take this moment for granted. Predators will still attack the innocent. Victims will still shoulder the blame. Critics will still judge these situations from the outside looking in. Visibility doesn’t mean women no longer have to fear for their safety, but it does mean that these voices have a platform. These stories are no longer written off as fiction—they’re now treated as fact.

We can’t assume that this willingness to listen will become universal, as there are plenty of people who believe #MeToo is nothing more than some witch hunt. But we do know this—there’s hope. Hope that lasting change will come to pass. Hope that there will always be someone there to listen. Hope that, one day, women’s bodies will gain the respect they so obviously deserve. Until then, we’ll just have to keep speaking out against these cultural norms by repeating what so many have been saying all along: Me, too.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

William H. Macy Claims “It’s Hard to Be a Man” During the #MeToo Era

Source: John Salangsang/REX/Shutterstock (9327719c) 

With actress Kristen Bell at the helm and an endless parade of female presenters to follow her lead, the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards was an undeniable tour de force for women throughout Hollywood. Once again, the #MeToo Movement and Time’s Up commanded much attention, calling upon those in positions of authority to speak out against the injustices women face across industries on a daily basis.

Yet, while women were using their time in the spotlight to advocate for one another, the men of Hollywood continued to stumble over their own tongues, much like they’ve done since this revolution began.

William H. Macy, in particular, took time to address #MeToo and Time’s Up backstage after winning the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy on Sunday night. According to Entertainment Weekly, the “Shameless” star told reporters that “it’s hard to be a man these days.”

“I think a lot of us feel like we’re under attack, and that we need to apologize, and perhaps we do, and perhaps we are,” he said. “But we’ll keep talking. To repeat, I’m blessed that I’m in this business.”

“We had a meeting, a bunch of guys got together, under the auspices of Time’s Up — and that’s good for men,” he added. “Men don’t talk enough. Men don’t talk to other men, and we talked. What the hell — a little bit can’t hurt you.”

While Macy’s remarks likely reflect the feelings of countless men throughout the entertainment industry, it’s interesting to watch men distort this moment in history—a moment dedicated to empowering and liberating women—and once again make everything all about them. Like Liam Neeson’s previous claim that #MeToo resembles an old-fashioned witch hunt, Macy believes men are under attack.

Well, if holding predators accountable for the crimes they’ve committed repeatedly over the years qualifies as an “attack” by today’s standard, then yes—we’re using our fighting words.

When men openly criticize the breadth of #MeToo, they must first consider the years of physical and emotional abuse women have endured at the hands of the men in power. Many men might feel slightly “on edge” or defensive right now. Perhaps they feel the need to sensor what they say or do in the presence of the opposing sex. Perhaps they are second-guessing every move they make, worried that it’ll be misinterpreted as something provocative or sexual. Perhaps they’re afraid to be alone with someone of the opposite gender for fear of the moment coming back to haunt them and ruin their careers.

Do these concerns ring any bells?

Except, if these men actually walked even just five feet in a woman’s shoes, they’d recognize that their discomfort will never measure up to the genuine horror women face every single day. Being cautious shouldn’t be seen as some sort of prison sentence, as these men should’ve been treating women with the dignity and respect we now demand all along. Men who’ve done nothing wrong shouldn’t feel as if #MeToo “attacks” their personal character if they’ve been treating women well right from the start.

If you haven’t done anything inappropriate, then #MeToo shouldn’t scare you into submission. If you haven’t enabled abusers to torment your female colleagues over the years by staying silent, there’s no reason you should feel compelled to hide in the shadows now.

Men have controlled the national dialogue without question until recently and, despite #MeToo’s widespread impact, these men still retain most of the power, so there’s very little sympathy to spare for their supposed struggle. If they still wish to be part of the conversation, however, they should heed Macy’s comments about how men rarely talk to one another. They could be powerful allies in this fight for equality, but few have yet to speak up in a constructive manner. Perhaps, if they stop focusing on how #MeToo might hurt them and instead, focus on how men can stop hurting women, society will soon improve for all, not just some.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, and the Struggle to Call Women By Name

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Comedian Kumail Nanjiani took to Twitter earlier this week to share memories from when his then-girlfriend, Emily V Gordon, was admitted to the hospital with an undiagnosed condition. Gordon’s mother recently found an old visitor’s badge with Nanjiani’s phone number written on the back for reference, which inspired the actor to open up about the struggles he and his now-wife faced during those early, uncertain times.

Fans of the Pakistani comedian soon began to share their own stories, for which Nanjiani was more than grateful. “The stories of illness that people have shared over the last two days have been really moving,” Nanjiani tweeted. “Emily & I have gotten a tremendous sense of hope & understanding from those who have conditions similar to hers. It makes us feel less alone. It makes us feel connected. Thank you.”

But it was in the wake of Nanjiani’s tweets that the media revealed its own illness—an unnamed disease that had dominated the industry for much too long.

Multiple news outlets reported on Nanjiani and his free-flowing emotions as these events were the inspiration behind the 2017 romantic comedy “The Big Sick.” However, as those connected to the project noted, Nanjiani was not the sole creative behind the film, nor was he the one suffering from the particular illness.

On multiple occasions, publications neglected to refer to Nanjiani’s wife, Gordon, by name. Zoe Kazan, the actress who portrayed Gordon’s character in the film, called out Twitter when those who compile “moments” failed to use Gordon’s name in its collection of posts regarding her life and illness.

Nanjiani followed Kazan’s post with his own request when the Washington Post chose to refer to Gordon as nothing more than the “inspiration” for “The Big Sick.” While that’s true, she also co-wrote the film alongside her husband.

Publications seemingly find it hard to call women by their name or refer to them by title. Instead, women’s identities are limited to who they are in relation to the men in their lives. Mother, daughter, sister, wife—in Gordon’s case, she’s Nanjiani’s inspiration, too. It wasn’t until others called them out on their inherent bias that these publications saw the error of their ways and corrected their mistake.

After years of suppressing women, society seems reluctant to allow these individuals their moment in the spotlight. Gordon’s willingness to share something incredibly personal, however, was the reason “The Big Sick” came to be in the first place. She deserves recognition for both her writing and her bravery. It’s not easy to share the intimate details of one’s illness, but it’s even more difficult when your courage and talents go ignored by those who feel more comfortable praising the male colleague who also happens to be your husband. (And don’t try to rationalize this decision by claiming that his name will draw clicks. She’d have a “name,” too, if you actually used it now and then.)

Publications have disregarded female accomplishments for years in exchange for touting men’s successes instead. Said references have become so subconsciously pervasive, we rarely notice the ways we rob women of their identities anymore. (Why do you think women, such as Selena Gomez, must spend half of any given interview detailing their relationship status, while men are free to discuss their work?)

Thankfully, stars like Kazan and Nanjiani are willing to raise awareness about this silent plague running rampant throughout society. Perhaps if we continue to pinpoint every such infraction, we’ll inevitably find the cure for our sexist, dismissive culture.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Sorry, America—You’re Not Ready For A Female President Yet

Source: Pete Souza/Flickr

From the Women’s March to the #MeToo Movement, it’s been quite the breakthrough year for women and feminism. Not only have women across America found their collective voice, but these words have also found an audience. Calls for justice no longer fall on deaf ears, as the masses are genuinely eager to listen when we speak.

Yet, despite this definite progress, sexism prevails. Women have made strides toward equality in the most relative of terms, and those steps are critical if we are to build long-term change, but there’s too much work left to do for us to declare an early victory. After all, from the basic assembly line to the highest government office, misogyny still reigns supreme. While 2017 might’ve been about liberation to the naked eye, it’s easy to see that we’ve got our work cut out for us when we stop to take a deeper look at what lies ahead.

Last year, women achieved one collective goal that both cleared the path for others and revealed the roadblocks that persist. While not everyone was pleased when Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman to represent a major party during the 2016 presidential election, women praised the former Secretary of State as her nomination was groundbreaking nonetheless. However, Clinton was then dragged through the proverbial mud — scrutinized in ways no man’s ever had to endure — thereby demonstrating that, while the United States might seem to be long overdue for a female president, antiquated perceptions prove that this country isn’t prepared for such a change.

Unlike the male leaders that dominate history, women in the public eye are judged by their appearance—their hair, their makeup, and their attire—well before their professional qualifications and accomplishments gain notice.

Women are shunned if they don’t smile profusely, they are considered deceptive when they wear too much makeup, and it’s become so common to chastise women for wearing an outfit multiple times that it’s now popular to praise powerful women when they wear their favorite dress more than once.

From former First Lady Michelle Obama to Kate Middleton, these high profile women have effectively made it acceptable to do what your average woman does every day. If we were to have a female president, many constituents would likely dwell on her appearance, allowing her looks to overshadow her policies. By now, everyone recognizes that criticizing women’s clothing and style serves as nothing more than a way to degrade the individual and crush her confidence so she second guesses her every move. Such behavior, especially in the context of this theoretical leader of the free world, would undermine democracy and common decency itself.

“Manterrupting” has also gained momentum, as Sen. Kamala Harris can surely attest to, which further emphasizes the lack of respect men have for female leaders, even those colleagues who should be seen as equals. Everyone’s well aware that women don’t earn equal pay in most scenarios, but when we don’t even warrant equal say, it’s obvious one gender enjoys more freedoms and privileges than the other.

Underneath, all such problems derive from the fact that countless men lack respect for the women in their lives. We’re nothing more than bodies, beings created to bring pleasure to the masses. They continue to treat women like objects because they feel threatened and long to belittle those who could very well surpass their personal success. We’ve experienced verbal and physical abuse long enough to realize the methods are nothing more than men’s smokescreen for their insecurities.

If we’re ever to be worthy of the female president experience, we must earn this privilege. We must alter the mindset of those who have yet to shake their old perceptions of women if we wish to rearrange the patriarchy and tear down old walls we were never allowed to climb. Women are each other’s best advocates, but we also need men on our side to teach those who’ve yet to join the 21st century why women’s success translates into success all around. We’re stronger when we work together instead of tearing each other apart. We need to move outside our comfort zones and understand how the world works today if we’re to ever prepare for our inevitable tomorrow.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

If You’re Going to Advertise Plus-Size Tights, Hire Plus-Size Models

Source: Wish.com

While society pretends it’s become more body positive, encouraging women to “love their curves” at every turn, actions continue to speak louder than words. Just because clothing retailers cater to those deemed plus-size by the fashion industry doesn’t mean they remain sensitive to this marginalized group’s wants or needs.

Wish.com, for instance, has come under fire for its recent advertisement featuring plus-size tights. The site, which sells inexpensive products directly to consumers from Chinese manufacturers, offers $2 tights that come in black or nude. But it’s how these “Plus Size Ultra Elastic Tights Stockings Women Sexy Shaping Pantyhose Socks” are displayed that’s causing quite the controversy.

Every image shows slim models stretching the tights up and over their petite frames in what one can only assume is the retailer’s attempt at demonstrating the product’s size.

Except the execution couldn’t be any more offensive.

While most of the images show the models pulling the material up around their shoulders or over their face, another shows the model standing inside one leg, presumably to demonstrate how far the product can stretch without running or ripping.

Source: Wish.com

“What is the point they are trying to make here? That our thunder thighs are so big that their model can fit her entire body into a pair of our tights?” said Cosmopolitan UK fashion and beauty writer Laura Capon. “Round of applause for her, well bloody done. Now do you want me to model a pair or “regular” tights by wearing them on my finger?”

It’s unclear as to whose tone-deaf brainchild this was — Wish.com has declined to comment to multiple media outlets about the images in question — but it’s blatantly obvious that the mastermind behind this shameful concept has no regard for the feelings of those who wear anything larger than a size eight.

If the company wants to sell plus-size clothing and accessories, why not appeal to said demographic by hiring plus-size women to model the products? Many would agree such a strategy sounds like common sense, but if that were the case, Twitter wouldn’t be up in arms over this subtle sort of body shaming—and rightfully so.

According to social media, Wish.com might’ve lifted the images from ads for “magic tights” that were designed to withstand any condition without tearing. Regardless of the circumstances, Wish.com made the decision to attribute these photos to the sale of plus-size tights, which deserves the subsequent outpouring of disgust. While the models themselves might be innocent, the site itself must be held accountable.

There are countless ways to body shame people without calling them out explicitly, and this instance fits those criteria perfectly. Wish.com had the opportunity to embrace the plus-size community and employ models that might otherwise struggle in a fashion industry that has yet to truly embrace women who don’t fit the mold society’s created. Instead, the retailer chose to send its target market running in the opposite direction. Without an apology, Wish.com will only reinforce the assumption that it doesn’t approve of these women’s bodies, and that’s the quickest way to alienate any and every shopper with an ounce of decency and compassion for their fellow humans.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)