Weinstein and Power: A Discussion on Sexual Assault

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You’ve probably heard all of the recent stories about Harvey Weinstein, the powerful Hollywood producer that been accused of sexual assault and harassment. Weinstein has been accused by multiple women including Mira Sorvino, Gwenyth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Rose McGowan. The latter used Twitter as a platform to tell her story. McGowan has accused Weinstein of rape. She reported it to the CEO of Amazon but nothing was done about it because he needed more “proof”. McGowan received $100,000 as a settlement deal. Her Twitter account was locked after her series of tweets. Twitter claims to have only locked her account because she used a private number.

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Weinstein isn’t the only big Hollywood name who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment recently. Ben Affleck condemned Weinstein’s actions and was called out by McGowan for knowing about it the entire time. Affleck has also been accused of sexual harassment and assault. Multiple women have said that he grabbed their butts at the 2014 Golden Globes Party. Affleck was seen on camera groping Hilarie Burton’s breasts on MTV’s “TRL”. The head of Amazon Movie studios, Roy Price was suspended after being accused of sexually harassment by executive producer, Hackett Dick. Oliver Stone was accused of sexual harassment and assault by Patricia Arquette and Carrie Stevens. Terry Crews has also accused a producer of groping him at a party, bringing light to the fact that men are also victims of sexual harassment.

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People often ask why victims wait so long to speak up. These stories are a perfect example. The ones who were accused are (or presumed to be) big names in Hollywood. People like Harvey Weinstein and Oliver Stone have the power to blackball an actress’s career in seconds. Imagine what accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault could do to an actress. Who do you think people are more likely to side with? The well-known producer or the actress trying to get her foot in the door? Terry Crews couldn’t even defend himself because he feared that he would be stereotyped as just a big, violent black man. They used their power to take advantage of people.

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These stories make me think of my experiences. I have dealt with sexual harassment and assault as I have discussed in a previous blog post. A lot of it happened in school, mainly from the football team. Football players would make lewd comments towards me and grope me. I didn’t think much of it because I never knew that it was wrong. I experience it on the streets as well. I continue to get catcalled, honked at, followed around. I’ve even been groped. It’s scary because you never know how far these men will go. I fear to make them angry because of the horror stories I’ve heard about other women. These men use their power and strength to intimidate women. Football players at my school not only used their power and strength but their popularity also. One of the reasons that I never reported being sexually assaulted is that I knew that people would side with the popular football player over someone like me. I feared that my reputation would be dragged through the mud.

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In a way, I feel that society has normalized sexual assault and harassment. The fact that our president has bragged about sexual assault and been accused of it by multiple women doesn’t make it any better. There are many victims out there who are afraid to speak up because of how often we see victim blaming. It’s sickening to see society treat the victims as if they were the ones that were accused. I hope that these high-profile stories open up more discussions about sexual assault. Many of us sweep the subject under the rug even though it affects so many people. Sexual assault is a serious topic and it’s important that we educate ourselves on it.

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Take A Knee

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It’s football season and of course, the NFL is the topic of discussion. But the latest discussion isn’t about football, it’s about the NFL players’ choice of protest: kneeling during the national anthem. Sunday, 150 NFL players took a knee or protested in other ways. Some stood but locked arms as a form of solidarity. Some teams did not even come on the field while the national anthem played. Many people think this is a protest against the flag. “Patriotic” Americans are calling the protest disrespectful and a slap in the face for veterans who died for their freedoms. The president demands that the players be fired for exercising their right to protest. He is also calling for a boycott of the NFL, which will take money from the pockets of the NFL owners who supported him. Isn’t that funny?

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This protest has nothing to do with the flag. It has nothing to do with the national anthem. This protest is against police brutality. The kneeling form of protest all started with Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick was black-balled from the NFL simply for using his right to protest. After Trump’s ignorant remarks about NFL players protesting, many of players decided to follow Kaepernick’s lead.

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There’s nothing wrong with what these men are doing. The first amendment gives everyone the right to peacefully protest. Nowhere in the law does it say every American must stand for the national anthem. This is a free country, right? Besides, the national anthem is problematic. Francis Scott Key wrote a song about freedom, while people of African descent were slaves on the same land. Also the line, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave; From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave”. So if someone did choose to protest the national anthem, I wouldn’t blame them for that.

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It’s unfortunate that people are more outraged by kneeling during the national anthem than the reason there is a protest. Does a flag and song matter more than black lives? “Patriotic” Americans complain that these protests disrespect veterans. They say that veterans died for their right to protest. Well, if they died for that right then why can’t they use their rights? I also find it funny that the only time people mention veterans is to silence discussions on racism. I wonder how many of these “patriotic” Americans actually help our veterans. There are veterans out there who are mentally ill, homeless or both. How many of these “patriotic” Americans give money to charities for veterans? Do they speak up for the mistreated veterans?

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NFL players have also been called ungrateful and been told that they have nothing to complain about since they are “rich”. People believe that these players owe America loyalty. It’s like saying, “How dare you complain, look at what we’ve given you!” It sort of reminds me of bigots who say that black people should all be grateful that our ancestors were slaves because we now live in America. I think some would like it better if black people were docile like many were during the slavery and Jim Crow eras. Those were the times when black people could put their lives in danger just for “disrespecting” a white person. I can’t forget to mention one of their most notable lines, “If you don’t like this country then leave”. Why is that a response when people speak out about racism? It’s almost as if they know there is racism here and they are completely comfortable with that. Hmm..

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To sum it all up, I support the protest. If Nazis have the right to “protest” with tiki torches in their hand then NFL players have the right to kneel! I’m tired of people picking and choosing who and what freedom of speech applies to. I do hope that one day people will focus more on police brutality instead of the national anthem. But, maybe I’m being too optimistic.

Body Image

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body image – “a subjective picture of one’s own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others “

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I didn’t start paying too much attention to the size of my body until high school. I used to be really skinny.  I had a small chest, small butt, small everything. Never really thought much of it. That wasn’t until people started making comments about my body and other women’s bodies. Boys would thirst over the girls who had curvy bodies. The girls with big breasts or a big butt, or both. Then boys would see me. They’d say exactly what was on their mind. They’d make comments about how small my breasts were. They’d say my breasts were too far apart. They’d tell my I had no butt.  In their eyes, I paled in comparison to girls with curvy bodies. And honestly, it hurt.

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Fast forward to around 2015. My body started developing more. I started to have a curvy body. Men and women would compliment me. I felt better about my body because other people liked my body, which wasn’t healthy at all. About a year later, I put on more weight and my stomach was no longer flat. People would comment on my weight and tell me I was getting fat. I was ashamed to wear crop tops or to even take pictures from an “unflattering” angle. I remember my ex saying “Lose that.”, as he pointed down at my stomach. I hated my body.

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I decided that it was time for me to become “fit”. I wasn’t choosing that for myself, I chose it for others. Everyday I stressed on what I ate. I exercised whenever I could. Exercising is never a bad thing but I was doing it for all of the wrong reasons. Everyday I’d take a look in the mirror at my stomach to see if it had gotten smaller. I’d check out the size of other girls stomachs. I’d look at Instagram models and roll my eyes at how “fit” their bodies were.

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I see so much body shaming on social media and television. We’ve seen Rihanna being shamed for gaining weight. We’ve seen women like Kim K. and Beyonce being shamed for gaining weight while pregnant. We’ve seen Gabourey Sidibe and Ashley Graham being shamed for simply being comfortable with their bodies. We’ve even seen Serena Williams be shamed for being too muscular. It’s all bullshit. We’re so brainwashed by the images we see everyday that we think it’s unnatural for a woman to have anything but an hourglass figure. Then when a woman does have what some may view as the “perfect’ body, she’s fake. No one’s ever satisfied, and that’s why it’s important to not give a damn how anyone else feels about your body. No one deserves to power to tell us what we should look like. Learning to love yourself is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey.

Slutwalk Detroit 2017

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Last Saturday, I attended a Slutwalk protest in Detroit. I had been anticipating it for weeks. I was so excited to see all the signs and the outfits. But the Slutwalk is so much more than signs and outfits. It’s not just about women walking around half naked. It’s about taking a stand against rape culture. It’s about speaking out against victim blaming, slut shaming, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, racism; I can go on and on. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just about women being proud to be sluts. It does play a part in it ,though. And I’m not mad about that.

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(Sadly I only got videos of other people. I was too awkward to ask people for pictures.)

Detroit’s Slutwalk took place in Palmer Park. One of the bordering streets of Palmer Park, is Woodward Avenue and West Seven Mile. Woodward Avenue is a notable street for sex workers. Many transgender sex workers have lost their lives on Woodward Avenue and West Seven Mile, making it an important street to have the protest at. I remember one of the speakers asking everyone to have a moment of silence to think about all of the sex workers who had lost their lives on the street we were standing on. That was the first time I had heard about that. I remember riding past those women as a child. I never thought about how dangerous it was for them. I never realized how many had actually died on that street.

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Counselors had took the time out to support the cause and to also provide support to people who could be triggered by the stories of the speakers. I will be honest and say that a lot of the stories about rape were triggering for me. I tried to hold it in and distract myself, but my friend encouraged me to talk to one of the counselors. The counselor understood that I was angry. She told me that attending the protest was a step forward to me, and I agree that it was.

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Screaming “Sexual assault is not our fault!” with the other protesters was empowering for me. We also screamed, “Who’s streets? Our streets!” and it made me feel so happy. It felt better to know that I wasn’t alone. There was no judgement. No one was there to spread violence and hate. The protest was filled with love and support. I hope to see more of it in the future.

 

Practicing self care

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I’ve been hearing about self-care for the longest. I have plenty of posts about self care saved on my Pinterest but I don’t think I’ve ever took the time out to practice it. I’ve been using self care to cope with my anxiety and depression, and the results have been great. Of course anxiety and depression is not conquered over night but it’s a good start.

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I practiced on my makeup then I went outside and took pictures of myself. Instead of waiting to join a yoga class, I just looked up videos on YouTube. I worked on my essays and stories. I listened to relaxing music while I took long walks around my downtown area. I took a break from social media and read a great novel instead. I gave myself words of encouragement to counteract my self-doubt. I did guided meditations and felt refreshed afterwards. I’ve also been binge watching a hilarious show.

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In the process of spending time alone, I learned more about myself. I never realized how crafty I was. I learned that I should try to understand things before I assume. I figured out that I can block out negativity by keeping busy. Keeping busy by doing the things I love makes it even better.

 

How RuPaul’s Drag Race inspired me

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Before I started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race I thought that drag was simply just a man dressed as a woman. But after watching it, I learned that drag was so much more than that. It isn’t about being a man or a woman, being straight or gay: It’s about expressing yourself through creativity. It’s also about having confidence in yourself.

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This show pushed my love for makeup, fashion, beauty — even further. I have loved fashion since I was a child. I got my fashion inspirations from television and teen magazines. I started doing my makeup back in tenth grade, or at least attempting. I remember taking the pointy part of a pen top and dipping it in a mascara bottle to use as eyeliner.  The show taught me that makeup and fashion is art. There is no certain way to create art. There is no such thing as perfect makeup or the perfect look. Your face is a canvas. No. Your body is a canvas.

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The show has also helped with my confidence. I enjoy seeing people not being afraid to be who they are, especially with all of the bigotry in this world. It’s courageous. I could relate to their stories of battling depression and inner demons, being bullied, not feeling good enough, it goes on. They overcame these struggles and did not let it get in the way of following their dreams. It inspires me to do the same. I grew up feeling like I was too weird. Kids in school would make comments like that and had an effect on my self-esteem. I spent years constantly trying to adjust myself to fit other people’s standards. Learning to love who I am is still an ongoing process. But seeing these queens who are all unique in their own way and comfortable in their own skin is everything.

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I’ve often heard drag queens describe being in drag as being another person. Some even say that they gained confidence from it. Which is another thing I can relate to.  As a child I remember creating characters at home and pretending to be them. I dealt with insecurities and felt like I’d rather be anyone else. I also took an interest in acting because I enjoyed pretending to be someone else.

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The show introduced me to the world of drag. It inspired me to keep doing what I love. I love creating and I’ll try anything that involves creating. I’ve even taken an interest in doing drag. It combines the four things I love: Fashion, makeup, art, and creating. I look forward to learning more about it so that I can understand it more.

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I even learned a little bit more about having confidence in myself. It taught me more about embracing my personality including my “weirdness”. On top of being entertaining, RuPaul’s drag race has helped me, which is why it has become one of my favorite shows.

Stop sexualizing young girls

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I remember being followed around by grown men at the age of twelve, because of the way my body matured. Even though I was clearly a little girl (I even had the face of one), these men didn’t care. I’ve been approached by men at the age of sixteen, who “couldn’t believe I was only sixteen”, but proceeded to ask for my number anyways. A man once approached me, then ended up lashing out at me because I “didn’t dress like a teenager and should’ve been wearing a t-shirt and jeans instead”.  I’ve even took part in calling little girls fast and seeing them chase after older men, instead of helping them because I didn’t know any better.

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Stop sexualizing young girls. Stop posting pictures of them on your Facebook suggesting that them wearing a romper or posing with their hands on their hips is a sexual thing. Stop saying that the little girl that lives next door is going to be a “thot” or a “hoe” when she gets older just because she likes to play with makeup and admires Beyonce. They’re children.

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Stop justifying grown men preying on little girls. Don’t use a child being “fast” or not dressing her age as an excuse for grown men (who know better than her) pursuing her. Instead of telling your daughters to stop dressing a certain way in the house because you don’t know who’s around, know who you’re letting around your kids. The way your daughter dresses in the house is not the reason a predator is a predator.

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Stop letting men say “She looks grown”, as a way for them to justify their creepy behavior. Trust me, these men can tell the difference between a grown woman and a little girl. Stop saying that teenage girls look like grown women these days, because you know damn well that they don’t. Teenage girls wearing full faces of makeup and a short dresses change nothing. It also gives a grown man no right to chase after them.

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Just let these little girls be kids. Stop treating them like grown women. Stop putting toxic beliefs into their head.  Let them be wholesome and innocent. Protect them at all costs.