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Sexual Harassment Has No Place in My Career

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About Feminism, No. 3

It has become evident to me that the world I’m entering is not the one I expected it to be. Or maybe it’s just that one asshole has ruined everything and now I’m entering the entertainment industry with a hand over my eyes, expecting the worst.

From a young age, I have wanted to be a writer. A novelist, a comic book writer, and now a television writer. I have bounced around between the ideas of them all, just trying to find a place where I settle perfectly. And recently, I have found that place. Or, at least, the place where my talents, skills, and self fit best right now. The trouble is that in that place I wish most to be and am working my ass off to get to, there are a few scumbags. Before even truly entering the world of entertainment writing, while still acquiring new knowledge and preparing to escape into that world, there has been one particular scumbag that has tainted this new adventure for me. He has started my path out on something bitter and terrible rather than what it should be:  new, hopeful, and exciting.

It is because of this one person that I have been doubting myself. I have been told things like, “Oh, that’s just the entertainment industry,” and “If you want to go into television, you have to thicken your skin.” And to the people saying these things I would just like to say that all of that is complete and utter bullshit.

Sure, the entertainment industry has been known for its terrible past— one that has historically reduced women, queer people, and people of color to nothing more than stereotypes, extras, and people to take advantage of sexually. More so now than ever before in the past, we’re seeing the entertainment industry begin to do at least something about this issue. But it isn’t just applicable to the entertainment industry, nor should this issue be treated as though that’s all it’s applicable to, because there are bad people everywhere. There is sexual harassment in every field, in every state, in every nation all across the entire world; and for someone to sit down and tell me that just because I want to go into this particular field that I want to work in to create entertaining content for the masses and to discuss issues that often get swept under the rug, I have to what? Get used to it? I have to smile and nod when a man suggests inappropriate things?

Fuck. That.

I would also like to say that I am not someone that can be easily silenced. I will not go into this industry with a small voice that could easily be shut down by the people above me, nor will I acquiesce to the perversions of men who refuse to control themselves around women. I will not be stepped on or closed off by anyone because I make the choice to say ‘no’ to something that has nothing to do with my career and that makes me feel unsafe. And maybe I’m just saying this because I need to hear it be said. I need to hear myself think of myself as someone who is strong, if that makes any sense. Because, when you go through something like this, all the people around you, all the people who care about you, they all come in and tell you that you’re amazing. They tell you that you’re strong. They tell you that everything you’re doing is great and wonderful. And I appreciate that. I really do. But it’s time that I have to learn for myself.

In fact, it’s time that we all, as a society, learn that for ourselves. We need to start thinking of ourselves as tough, as women who won’t take any shit, as human beings who deserve to be treated like human beings and not sex objects. Because, honestly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of letting men in powerful positions walk all over me. And while this has been the worst instance of a situation like this, it hasn’t been the first. And while it’s awful to say, I’m sure it won’t be the last. Because, friends, this is the universe we live in; and, I say that as a fact, but I do not say that as an excuse. Just because this world is terrible and corrupt and full of deplorable men who abuse their power does not mean that it’s okay.

To brief you just a bit on the situation, I was offered an opportunity. A good one. A really, really fucking good one. It was offered to me by someone who is well-known in the entertainment industry, someone who has clout and connections; and it was an opportunity that realistically could have done a great deal for me as a television writer. But here’s where the problems began:  this man hadn’t ever read my writing. He didn’t know if I was even good at writing, or if I was just another kid with a pipe dream I wasn’t working toward. But you know what he did think? He thought I was hot — and he told me that part, that he was attracted to me — so why not give me a chance?

I’ve had teachers tell me, Use what you’ve got to your advantage”; but that was more specifically devoted toward filling a diversity quota. Production companies, especially writers rooms, are looking for diverse people. At a 2016 talk-back and book signing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, The Mindy Project creator and star (as well as former The Office producer), Mindy Kaling, offered advice to a young woman who asked what she could do to break into television writing, and Kaling told her just that. She let her know very clearly that writers rooms were looking for young people who were different — especially women, as statistically writers rooms have a large gap in the margin of male-to-female writers. But, with that being said, I will not sacrifice any part of myself, nor should you sacrifice any part of yourself just to fit into a box previously checked by someone else.

We are stronger than this. We know better than this. And if we keep sitting down, if we keep crying behind closed doors and letting things happen, then we are never going to make any progress in this industry. Because sure, the entertainment industry — while slowly but surely making small improvements — sucks. It’s all about power. The power our superiors hold over us, the power that we want to have, the power to make decisions to bring content that will exist forever thanks to the Internet and that will live in the hearts of millions for years to come. Look at the television shows that aired years — some decades ago that are still in syndication: Friends, Cheers, Bewitched. Look at the ones that aired all that time ago that are being remade or rebooted: Charmed, Will & Grace, and even the Roseanne reboot-turned-spin-off The Conners. And this world is on the cusp of major change, but the change we want to see in ourselves is reflected our own actions. We can’t move forward as a society if we’re not personally making our own changes in ourselves

This has been something that has been going on for a long time, and that will likely continue for a long time, as well, while Hollywood slowly weeds out and turns away the bad people. The entertainment industry has always been a problem since even the time that it began. In the recent years — months even — people have been standing up and saying what has happened to them, which has inspired others to do the same which is exactly why men like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein and Jeremy Piven are beginning to be held accountable. People who have been abused have stood up, spoken their truth, and paved the way for those ahead of them to not have to suffer the same trials and tribulations, even if that isn’t quite the case just yet.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t let people walk all over you. Be the strong human being you’re capable of being; and when shit gets hard, don’t let people tell you to remain calm. Get angry. Speak up. Don’t accept this as normal, no matter how many people tell you it is.

Megan Prevost is a Creative Writing student in Florida. She likes to read books and cry over stray cats.

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Election Day and People Like Brett Kavanaugh

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About Feminism, No. 2

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court may have happened weeks ago, but it is still relevant today — especially so on Election Day. Let’s talk about what that means, why we should be upset about it, and what we can do by getting out today and voting.

One night in 1982, Brett Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, locked Dr. Blasey Ford into a bedroom at a party and attempted to rape her. Regardless of what victim-deniers would like for you to believe, there is no question as to whether or not this happened. This is not a false accusation, no matter how many people (read: old, white men) try to say make you believe. They’ll tell you it’s too late, it’s been too many years. Do not listen to them.

In the United States, sexual assault survivors have two options:

  1. Go to the doctor directly after the occurrence. You can go to the police. But, chances are, your rape kit is going to be thrown out and the police aren’t going to take you seriously. Rape kits are thrown out for two reasons. The evidence is either sent to the crime lab where it is not tested, or it was just never sent to the crime lab. This could be because these tests are not requested in court, and thus they are just tossed aside. Sometimes, this is also because there are simply too many rape kits, and the staff gets behind, which is also a very terrifying thought. So on top of being physically and mentally wounded, you’re now being mocked by people in power who you, for some reason, believed would take you seriously.
  2. You bottle it up. You push the memories down so far in your head because you don’t want to believe it and you don’t want to have to deal with it — because you know what happens when people come forward. You know how this country treats sexual assault cases. You don’t want to have to deal with that. So you don’t tell anyone. Some thirty years later, your assailant is nominated to the Supreme Court. A job where he would be able to rule on future sexual assault cases. Understandably, this pisses you off. Why wouldn’t it? So you come forward. For the next month your story is picked and pulled completely apart. You have to recount memories you never wanted to think about again. And after all of this, after this entire struggle, your assailant is instead confirmed to the Supreme Court, and you, having your life dissected and destroyed, wish you never said anything to begin with.

Which choice is better? In all honesty, both of these are horrible options. The way that our country treats sexual assault victims is terrible. We are silenced and ignored. And even with significant evidence, our cases can be thrown out the window for countless reasons. The people of our country have questioned frequently why it matters now. Why did Dr. Blasey Ford come forward now? Why do people step forward so late in life when the event happened so long ago? The answer is so easy to grasp and I’m honestly shocked that more people don’t understand.

Think about it: if you had been sexually assaulted, and then you saw that your assailant was about to be appointed into some position of great power — power that could potentially equip him with the flexibility to do this to countless others — wouldn’t you step forward and say something? Or maybe one other person was brave enough to step forward; wouldn’t that encourage you to come out and say something as well? To support them and legitimize their story and your own? We see this so often: one person will admit their truth, and many will follow. It’s hard. It’s hard to talk about the events that plague our pasts. But when one person comes forward, when one person shows that it’s okay to talk about these things, it has an avalanche effect. Sexual assault survivors feel alone and isolated long after their attacks. We hide in our shells because we think no one else knows what this feels like. We fall into depression because we are silenced, and we don’t think it’s even okay to open our mouths and talk about these topics because of the way our patriarchal judicial system has historically handled them and because of the way assailants have for so long been able to silence women. But the more people who step forward, the more people who are brave enough to face the system, to come out and say something, the more people will be willing to come forward sooner.

When the country treats Dr. Blasey Ford the way they did through and have since this entire ordeal, the chances that other people are going to step forward only decreases. What Dr. Blasey Ford went through, none of us want to have to deal with. Because these trials, these hearings, they pick apart details and doubt the things we know to be true. They make the survivor recount and remember one of the most terrible moments of their life— if not the most terrible. Why would anyone want to do that? Especially after seeing how Dr. Blasey Ford was treated.

So, back to Brett Kavanaugh. Sorry, Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh (gag me). As a country, we have placed a sexual assailant into a position of high power. The Supreme Court has ruled over many sexual assault cases, and will rule on many more in the future, unfortunately. With Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court — someone who yelled at Dr. Blasey Ford and dismissed her valid claims — a sexual assailant will take part in the final say on huge sexual assault cases that could come out in the future. During his hearing, the senators listened to Dr. Blasey Ford tell her story. They knew that she was telling the truth. They had to have known. They just didn’t care. Knowing what Kavanaugh had done, they confirmed him anyway.

This is not only a problem of just Brett Kavanaugh, but of the people who confirmed him in to the Supreme Court. And we all know (hopefully) that voting is important. There are thirty-three senate seats up for vote today, November 6th. If there’s a change you want to make, if you are unhappy with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, you need to get out and vote today. Because, yes, Kavanaugh is a terrible human being who never should have been nominated to the Supreme Court in the first place. But our Senators, people we elected, are the ones responsible for confirming him. And, if we want to change something, removing those people is the place to start.

In November of this year, thirty three senate seats are up for vote. Ted Cruz is one of those seats. He has been a strong supporter of Kavanaugh through all of this and has even gone as far to say, “By any measure, Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most respected federal judges in the country.” Is this really the kind of person you want representing your state? Someone who supports a sexual assailant?

I have been told not to get angry. I have been told to make my Facebook profile picture black in silent respect of all the women who have had to deal with sexual assault. And to that I say, “No fucking way.” I will get angry, and I will remain angry until something is done about the way this country views sexual assault. I will write and I will vote and I will convince my friends to vote. If you don’t get out there and vote for what you think is right, you don’t care about your fellow people in your country.

Being from Maine, I’m familiar with Susan Collins. I’ve actually met her a countless number of times. Back when I didn’t know much about politics and I didn’t know what ‘Republican’ even meant, I looked up to her. Maybe this was because I was happy to see a woman senator in my own state. It is only now that I realize she is not one to look up to. Now, she is not alone solely responsible for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. She was one of the important votes that could have swung it to the other side. But she chose to vote yes. And in doing this, she devastated not only the women in Maine, but throughout the entire country. That little girl that looked up to her all those years ago is gone. Now there is only me, a woman who is nothing but disappointed. I will forever be disappointed in any woman who refuses to stand up for her gender. So, to Susan Collins, I must say that I can’t believe you did this. And to all the other women who voted yes for Kavanaugh, how could you? And to the men, I say the same. You have daughters and wives and friends, and we are more than just someone’s wife or someone’s daughter — we are someone. How could you do this to us?

In nominating Brett Kavanaugh and in confirming Brett Kavanaugh the Supreme Court has said to this entire country that women don’t matter. It doesn’t matter if that wasn’t what their intention was. In confirming a sexual assailant to the Supreme Court, they have effectively let all women know that we do not matter.

At least now we know for sure what kind of people lead us; and at least now — today — we can get inside a voting booth and take a stand to get these people the fuck out of office.

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Feminism Isn’t Just for Women

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About Feminism, No. 1

Let’s talk about feminism. Shall we? Because apparently to a lot of people, feminism is something that should be swept under the rug. At least, that’s what I’ve found.

When I was younger, I didn’t really think on the topic of feminism much. I’m originally from Maine, a very liberal state. Feminism isn’t much of a debate there. I’ve never had to fight people on my views or had to convince people that feminism is okay. Admittedly, feminism has always been important to me. It’s a drive I feel within myself; and even if I don’t always need it as much as others as a white, cis-gender woman, I’ll be here to advocate for the people that still do. But right now I’m a college student in Florida; and while a lot of the people I’ve met have been fellow feminists, I’ve also met a fair share of people who hear that word and want to go on a rampage. One of the first experiences I had when I moved down to Florida was with a group of friends that I met at a party. These people (most of them straight, cis, white, and male) began to make jokes about women and jokes about feminism. I — feeling completely uncomfortable and also regretting aligning myself with these men — clearly looked miserable. One of them must have thought, “Maybe I should figure out what’s going on with her and why she isn’t laughing at my hilarious and totally not-at-all ill-conceived joke.” So to solve this problem he looked me right in the eyes and said, “You’re not a feminist. Are you?”

Now, I’m not the same person I was when this happened last year. Now I know better. I know that it’s important to stand up for what that you believe in. But then, I didn’t. And I had just moved to a new place and they were my only friends, and I didn’t want them to cast me aside just because I’m a feminist.

I shrugged. “Kinda.”

I actually said that. I told them that I was kinda a feminist because I didn’t want to have to deal with the argument or the judgment that would have followed if I told them that I’m a women’s rights-marching, straight-up feminist. Just as an aside here: if you have to sacrifice parts of yourself so that your friends won’t judge you, maybe it isn’t worth it to stay friends with those people.

Looking back, if I’d have had the confidence then that I have now with thanks to feminism, I definitely would have stood up and given them a three-hour dissertation on how feminism is something this world desperately needs. I would have pulled out a sixty-point slideshow and educated them on everything. But I didn’t. Because I was afraid. I didn’t want to be judged and I didn’t have the backbone to tell them that they were wrong. After that, I found that this is a very real fear for many people — namely women — who believe in feminism but haven’t grown into their inner-advocate yet. A lot of men have a way of making us women feel small and, at some times, even useless. It’s hard to stand up to someone of whom you are afraid. This fear comes from past experiences and stories we see on the news. This fear, we are told, is invalid. But, look at the news, look at the women who have been hurt — or worse, who have been murdered by — their significant others. How are we supposed to see articles about how three women are killed every day by an intimate partner, and not be terrified? That fear alone is the reason it’s difficult to stand up against a male in a place of power. We never know what could happen. We are murdered for saying no, we are murdered for ignoring them, we are murdered for walking down the street. The fear that men in power have instilled in women since the beginning of time isn’t new; and we’re seeing examples of that with men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and countless others being brought to light in the age of Me Too and Time’s Up. Men who have sexually assaulted and abused women physically have thrust their power against women to ruin their careers and livelihoods, silence them, and traumatize them for as long as men have had power, and it is only just now beginning to be given the attention it deserves. But this is only the beginning of the solution to a much larger problem.

This is something that a lot of people think about every day. There are so many people out in the world who are feminists, but won’t admit to it because they’re afraid of what people will say to them. And to that I say, “Fuck those people.” Be who you want to be. There’s always going to be something that people can judge you for; and if there are men out there who are going to judge you for being a feminist, you probably don’t want them in your life anyways because your association with them takes away from your own power and goodwill.

I talked to a few people in the past week about what feminism means to them and why they think feminism is important to have. I spoke to men and women of different sexualities. I suppose I wanted to prove a point, as it is important for the world to know that feminism isn’t just for women and it isn’t just for men. It is mutually beneficial. After all, that is what equality is. Isn’t it? Why would someone say no to equality? Well, that’s simple. Some men say no to feminism simply because of the way it’s named. One popular argument being, “If feminism is really about equality, then why don’t we just call it that?”

First of all, feminism is called feminism because it’s about bringing females up to the same status as men. We’re fighting for the rights of females, because we don’t have the same every day rights as cis men. We could call it equality; we could, because that’s what it is. We aren’t going to, though.

It’s actually kind of hilarious that cis men want to take a word away from us, not to mention the fact that it drives home the point. They want to take the female out of feminism. They don’t even want us to have the rights to one word. They can have the rights to our bodies, to our minds; why should they get our word too? But that’s fine. There’s a reason most cis men hate feminism and it’s because they don’t know what feminism is. Sure, they know it’s about equality and equal pay and all that. But they also think we’re insane. They label us a “feminazis” and “irrational”. They don’t take the time to sit down and learn about it. And why should they? In one of the conversations I had, bisexual woman Annika said, “It’s kind of our fault that people don’t understand. We don’t take the time to teach people about feminism, we just get angry with them and refuse to comment.” And I agree, it’s definitely part of the problem. People who oppose us don’t take the time to learn. Of course not. They oppose us. Why would they want to learn? It needs to be our responsibility to teach in order to bring people over to our side. Getting angry is only going to reinforce their beliefs that feminists are all crazy. We need to educate. There are people like Gloria Steinem, who has used her platform for decades to inform the community about feminism. We need more people like this. We need women in powerful positions to stand up and to educate.

A person who wishes to remain nameless said, “I try to see from everyone’s perspective, even if it’s maddening.” There’s an importance in listening, just as there’s an important to being heard. If we ignore the needs of the people around us, what are we doing to make our communities better when most minorities intersect with the feminist movement to large and varying degrees? It’s easy to see equality only from one side of the spectrum. Looking to the other side, thinking as a man, that’s hard. I think if we do this, if we listen to the needs (no matter how maddening it is) we will be able to better educate the people who don’t understand. And we need to realize that there are people out there who are radical. There are feminists who take their beliefs too far. Does that mean it’s all of us? No. Does that mean it’s most of us? No. But they are out there. We need to see this from the other side’s perspective, and like Annika said, we need to take the time to educate, even if it’s maddening that that responsibility has fallen to us.

In an interview with Gaige, a gay man, he said “We have plenty of white, cisgender men in power who want to stay in control; and they feel that letting women and people of color or different orientations have any power will ruin everything. As an American you should stand for equal rights for other people.” There is so much intersectionality within our community; there are people struggling with more than just one problem and we need to be there for each other as much as we possibly can. If we’re not supporting each other, then what are we even doing in this life? There’s no point in bringing the people around you down. The LGBTQ+ community should be one of support and love, and this includes feminism. In his interview, Gaige also stated, “I completely support equality not just for different genders, but for different ethnicities and sexual orientation no matter what you believe in.” I think this is a viewpoint we should also shoot to have. Supporting everyone no matter what, that’s what our world needs.

Trans man, Kris, was asked if he would call himself a feminist. In response he said, “Fuck yeah, I’m a feminist. I am proud to be a feminist. I’m proud to be an intersectional feminist, meaning I view trans women as needing feminism, women of color as needing feminism, white women as needing feminism, and even men. There’s a common misconception that men have nothing to gain from feminism, but men do benefit from feminism. That’s not why it’s important. It’s important because it helps women, which helps society as a whole. I’m proud and thankful to be living in a society in which I can openly express my opinion on feminism without fear of retribution.”

Cis, white, straight feminism is easy. I’m not saying that these feminists don’t have it rough, they still face a lot of problems with violence and unequal pay. But, we need to look at the statistics. 44% of lesbians, 47% of transgender people, and 61% of bisexual women encounter sexual assault. 53% of trans women of color are sexually assaulted. These numbers are too high. These numbers are almost half, or above, and there are people out there telling us not to be afraid? These numbers are not a joke, they are real life and entire gender. White, straight, cis women need to start calling for the support of their fellow feminists. Putting pads on walls not only isn’t going to help, but it separates women into unnecessary categories. Step up and stand up for people who need us most

Feminism isn’t just for women. It isn’t just something that straight, white, cis women benefit from. It affects all of us — woman of color, transgender people, and as Kris said, even men. Sure, supporting feminism is a good thing to do because feminism is important. But it’s more than that, it’s coming together as a community for something that’s important. It’s supporting each other when the cause doesn’t line up with your direct needs. It’s knowing that that support will help your children and your sisters and your friends. It’s supporting other people selflessly. And with that support, it’s being able to proudly say, “I’m a feminist,” and know that the community will have your back.

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