For all those doubters and snarkers who callously wag their fingers and chide, “Why did she wait? What took her so long? Really?” Read Salma Hayek’s harrowing, epic-length history with Harvey Weinstein in last week’s New York Times. Her saga goes beyond the usual casting couch, or an oft-told tale of a mogul’s desire to wield power, or look who’s here: another mean, horny bastard.
Instead, this is the revelation of a delusionally entitled man’s craven drive to humiliate, to force all he encounters to a level far below his self-appointed stature. Weinstein’s insatiable, guilt-free willingness to destroy what he can’t have is devastating. And in Hayek’s case, he did so cannily and wickedly by holding her lifelong passion project hostage until there was no choice for her but to capitulate. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as soul rape, but this sure reads like it. No wonder Hayek suppressed it for so long. Who wants to dredge up the moment someone stomped on your dream and bludgeoned your dignity? Here is yet one more man whose life’s mission registers beyond my comprehension. Unfortunately, I seem to be encountering too many of these lately.
But, evidently, it’s not beyond others’ realities. Daily, we discover the dismaying behavior of professionals as diverse as chefs, ballet masters, TV anchors, internet moguls, journalists, restaurateurs, and private-jet-hopping CEOs who not only dismiss the concept of women as equal, but actually find them unworthy of any respect. And once you realize that their reprehensible choices could never have survived without their cadre of supporters and enablers, you have to shiver in shame for the society we’ve crafted that nurtures so much ugliness by way of fear.
I’m not a woman. As a Jew and gay and aging, I have experienced prejudice. But even revealing my status as someone living with HIV during the scourge’s early days never resulted in being threatened with actions so far beyond the word “contempt” that I had to stop reading Hayek’s account at one point just to exhale.
The front page of the same New York Times last week may have had you cheering because Roy Moore lost, but, remember, he did it just barely; it was black women who robbed the bigot of his victory ride on his horse Sassy, while far too many white women and men—scholars all—had no problem casting their vote in his favor. After all, those girls waited too long. So don’t reach for those pompoms just yet.
Weinstein may be an extreme example of what women are up against, but the story Hayek relates goes way deeper and is ultimately more disturbing and pervasive than a mall-crawling Southern predator, or the Diet Coke-driven tweet’s of a petty, barely literate, spiteful, and perpetually unhappy child who we only pay attention to because we—yes, we—were stupid enough to be goaded into handing him the key to the big sandbox.
The president is third-grade-spelling-bee-challenged stupid, plain and simple. Al Franken was set up, but, yes, he acted boorishly. But the pain the insidiously shrewd Weinstein inflicted on Hayek must make one realize that stupidity is not the fundamental reason we have forgotten how to treat each other well. Collectively and strategically, we have made choices to be unfair, unkind, demeaning, and, sometimes, when it suits us, even evil.
Yet, you know, if you have ever given in to your worst side, how much more work it is to sustain ill-will, diminution, and prejudice. Being awful is exhausting. Constantly lying is exhausting. And before you raise your hand and cry out, “Not me!” it is nearly as dispiriting to realize how much tacit complacency, procrastinating, and hands-in-the-air acquiescence is nearly as responsible for the prolonging of our sorry state.
You know what I want for Christmas? Not wishing and wanting to make the ugly go away, change the mindset of the accused, or expunge the memories of their victims—though I would love to give Salma Hayek (who is beyond charming in person btw) a big and thoroughly platonic un-Franken-like hug for her courage. What I want is for each of you to figure out how to be better daily, especially to those directly around you.
And then I want you to acknowledge that Alabama is just next door, and that Charlottesville isn’t merely a news story. I want you to be conscious that every woman’s welfare is your responsibility—or anyone treated unfairly for that matter. I want you to embrace the imperative that if we act promptly, learn more, pay attention, and reach out, maybe we can turn on the TV one day and not have to hear Sarah Huckabee Sanders lie ever again.
However, if you’re thinking of giving me and others gift cards instead of what I want right now, we ain’t ever gonna make it out of this hole, let alone wind up anywhere near the other side of the rainbow. And if we don’t get there, don’t even think of blaming this on You Know Who. This one is on us.
Thank you, Salma. Rot in hell, Harvey and Roy. And to all, a little kindness, for starters.
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