Why we shouldn’t normalize the names of attackers
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Contributor
This article may contain sensitive content.
The Harvey Weinstein stories currently in the spotlight—in which over 40 women have now accused him of sexual harassment and assault—is one that is far too common. It’s no secret that Hollywood—like any other industry—has a culture which allows powerful men to prey on the vulnerable. When the perpetrator is powerful and respected (Weinstein, Cosby, Trump), it’s even easier for them to get away with this awful, serial behaviour. Their privilege and power allow for a lack of consequences. Our society celebrates these people, going so far as to blame the victims or deny these crimes in favour of a positive light.
Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, and Woody Allen have all been implicated in awful sex crimes (the latter two against children, condemning them to an even deeper circle of Hell.) They’ve also all made important contributions to cinema, and their names will be remembered long after their souls have departed to scream in the fire forever. While their names may now be said with a cringe, there’s no doubt their legacies will be defended and honoured. Many will try to justify honouring these men and speak of positive experiences working with them. Their sex crimes have been known for decades, but we choose to ignore these allegations in favour of the person’s art.
As a culture, we love stories of violence and evil. We know the names of Ted Bundy and Robert Pickton, but few of us know the names of the women they raped and killed. These men will be studied and discussed for decades, but the names and stories of the women they victimized will not have the same legacy.
How many movies and TV shows are made about violent crime? Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is one of the most popular shows of all time, and it deals entirely with sexual abuse. Many dramas are about powerful men and their victims, particularly women. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and House of Cards all feature male protagonists that harm and kill others in society. I’m not saying Walter White and Don Draper are intended to be role models, nor am I saying that popular media is the reason for violent crime. However, I do think we as a culture have to respond to media and remind ourselves that it’s never “cool” to abuse others.Victims of abuse are reduced to statistics and seen as a societal burden, instead of human beings dealing with trauma. It’s seen as one’s duty to avoid being a victim, instead of everyone’s responsibility to detect and stop abusive behaviour. This behaviour is left to rot and grow worse when it’s someone powerful, and even more so when they’re male. Men ignore and encourage behaviour among their own kind, especially when it involves women.
I believe that we as a society can barely come together to admit abusing others is wrong, and have even more trouble blaming and punishing abusers for their actions. Having power and importance does not give authority to be a horrible person, but there’s a privilege in our society of deflecting that blame.