As of late, social media and news outlets have become a flurry of sexual assault allegations and revelations by Hollywood talent. The first domino in this study of the mighty falling was Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by numerous women, so severely that he was not only fired from his own company but stripped of his membership at the Academy and pretty much detoxed from Hollywood. But several actors, producers, and directors have been accused since then, including Brett Ratner, Ben Affleck, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Andy Signore, Chris Savino, Roy Price, and several others. These allegations were overwhelmingly white at first, but that has since changed as John Singleton has entered the discussion.
These assault allegations have made us all take a much harsher critical look at Hollywood and the kind of talent they have working in Tinseltown – because let’s face it, this situation isn’t something that was revealed on its own time; many of these allegations are being revealed several years after the initial incidents. There’s a multitude of reasons for this, but the main thing is that no victim of sexual assault, abuse or rape should be pressured or coerced into talking about it until they’re ready.
It’s also worth noting that the one who started it all, Harvey Weinstein, had been relatively mum on the whole thing until Lupita Nyong’o went public about her assault – and for some reason that caused him to speak, seeming dumbfounded that a dark-skinned Black actress would even have the audacity to fix her mouth to say he assaulted her. This speaks to the double standard of pressure that Black people, particularly Black women (though male talent has been impacted as well, more on that in a moment) face in the industry. Why would a woman as “undesirable” as Lupita Nyong’o warrant a powerful man like Harvey Weinstein’s interest?
The dark way that the stories about these allegations have been received when coming from Black people, versus coming from white women, is very telling of the racism and hypocrisy that is still very evident in Hollywood. When Terry Crews bravely came forward to talk about his assault, a lot of people ridiculed him – because no matter what, a man like him should have been able to push back against the assault. He should have done something about it. I saw none of these comments when Anthony Rapp came forward about his experience with Kevin Spacey.
Could it have to do with Crews’s size and reputation as a ‘strongman’? Sure – but I think the more important, and more likely factor here is that Crews is Black. Black men are expected to be strong and resilient, and stand up without question to something like sexual assault; Black men are expected to stand unflinchingly against predators and not show any emotions, lest they are called silly or pansy or gay.
And even when Lupita Nyong’o did come forward, there was relatively no support from her compared to the outpouring of voices that fell behind Rose McGowan when she first started the entire expose on Hollywood talent. Black women supported her, of course, as always – but white women were relatively silent. Where was the sympathy for Lupita? Why didn’t anyone seem to get behind her, even though she went through her horrendous experience in great detail?
In fact, Rose McGowan started an entire movement – simply from a few tweets. She went on to speak at press events, and even be barred from Twitter because of her “powerful” call to action for women. As a response, some major accounts run by women of color started the tag #WoCAffirmation, which aimed to call attention in the opposite direction – to say that women of color, though often ignored and forgotten by the industry, would lift each other up regardless. Predictably, several white women who’d supported Rose McGowan got angry at this.
We’ve seen the way the industry regards women of color. Onscreen, they’re rarely thought of – in large amounts, any “major” advancement for women on screen is sorely lacking women of color. The first female lead in Star Wars, Rey, is white – and so are most of the other female characters in that universe. Katniss Everdeen, though she’s implied as biracial in the books, is white in the movies. Furiosa, who was said to have been a major turning point for women in Mad Max Fury Road, is white. Emma Watson’s Belle in the live action Beauty and the Beast remake is white. And there were hardly any women of color in Warner Bros. recent Wonder Woman film – despite how much we all loved it, you have to admit that’s an area they dropped the ball.
So it’s not too surprising then to see this reflected in the way women of color are treated when they come forward with sexual assault allegations and try to have candid discussions about sexual assault in the media. Black women are accused of “lying” to get ahead when discussing their rape all the time; no one, for a second, wants to believe that they could potentially be telling the truth. But even powerful Black actresses like Lupita Nyong’o are not taken as seriously as white actresses. Because a Black woman’s voice is always second to a white woman’s.
We have serious problems in the Hollywood landscape. I am sure in the coming days, more and more women will accuse talent of assault. And this is something that we all must take a critical look at – not only the men who have been accused but the women who are doing the accusing. Remember that women of color have voices, and they matter just as much as white women. Remember that sexual assault is much more common than the media wants to admit. And remember that, no matter how much a certain director might be talented or your childhood hero, once they’re accused of something like this it’s time to throw them – and anyone similar to them – out of Hollywood.