By Quinn Sluzenski, ’18
“Wow, I’m tired. I was up until three finishing this pset.”
“You think you’re tired? I pulled an all-nighter to write this essay.”
“You think you’re tired? I’m on a varsity sports team, taking five courses, and doing finance recruiting!”
They think they’re tired? I just read the tenth article this week about a powerful man who abused his power to harass and assault women.
I read two lists of names, the list of his victims and the list of his peers: other men who got away with this for years, who are still getting away with it, who were rewarded for it. The list of victims was long, and every name was another stone in my stomach. The list of peers was shorter, but I wondered how many names were on it in invisible ink, their abuses still trapped in whispers and secret settlements.
There are three stages for this kind of thing. Stage one: a man rises to power, and his incredible talent and work ethic are hailed in magazine profiles. He’s a genius, we sigh. His productions entertain millions.
Maybe he’s a feminist, too. He raises money for causes we believe in, or is outspoken about these issues in public. Maybe we call him “woke,” and tally him into the column of people who are radical enough to believe women are people, people of different races should be given the same opportunities, and love is love. We hold men in the entertainment industry to very high standards, after all.
And then comes the fall. It could be the crumbling of a dam, as dozens of survivors stand up, one after another, to demand that enough is enough. It could be a single shot that ricochets out so quickly everyone’s heads turn towards its target.
Finally, there is… well, not much. People are outraged, as they should be. But they’re too busy looking at where the bullet went to pay attention to the gun. No number of hot takes and thought pieces will put those people’s lives back together.
In the most recent famous case, there seem to be some consequences, an idea that is almost surprising in this age that seems to lack all accountability. A fall from grace, an expulsion from a largely honorary position—will he face legal action? Will he be locked away for forcing himself onto women countless times, sometimes with words and sometimes with his body? It’s too soon to tell, but I can’t find the optimism in me to believe it will.
One man assaults a child, and he is hailed as an artistic genius, filmmaking prowess apparently mattering more than brutal harm. Another attacks so many women that the world finally finds an entertainer who must stand trial, and it ends with a hung jury. Another is so disgustingly misogynistic it’s no surprise to learn of his history of assault, and yet the public rewards him with untold fame and power.
It’s exhausting to have to consider that every person you look up to might one day be revealed as one of Them. It’s exhausting to read those lists and have to relive your own terrifying experiences, over and over again, every time you look at the news.
Weinstein, Allen, Cosby, Trump—a fraction of a fraction of the men in power who have inflicted themselves onto the people around them. You think you’re tired? These men are dangerous because they have power, but that imbalance is a constant fact of the world, and you don’t need to be a Hollywood producer to abuse your power over someone. You think you’re tired? I haven’t even begun to discuss how race, sexual orientation, ability, or socioeconomic status intersect with gender and assault. You think you’re tired? Assault has never been about attraction, it’s about control. The only way to change the pattern is to change the power.
We’re tired. But what’s more, we’re angry. And angry people are going to change the world.