Have you ever seen dominoes fall? In succession I mean. I’m talking about that trick where all the dominoes are lined up as neatly and precisely as humanly possible. Sometimes they’re put in some type of intricate design. I’d imagine it takes some time, setting up all those pieces. And then what happens? Someone nudges the first one. It falls, slowly, knocking into the next. Then that one crashes into the other, and so on and so forth, until that neatly, painstakingly put together row is knocked down entirely. It’s almost impossible to look away, watching as each piece falls.
I haven’t been able to look away from the news lately. For the simple reason that it’s impossible. With each new day, another piece seems to fall. It all started with Harvey Weinstein. Watching the news those few months ago, as newscasters relayed the information of some big wig Hollywood producer that I’d never heard of, was shocking. He’d done what? To whom? And then with each new day came a new accuser. The allegations mounted against him, knocking down his carefully pieced together empire.
But since then, more powerful men have followed. The list is expansive and jarring. Politicians such as Arizona Rep. Trent Franks and Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Household names like the Today show co-host Matt Lauer and CBS’s Charlie Rose. Even men who’ve, in public, rebuked sexual harassment, have been accused of the very things they denounced, like comedian Louis C.K.
At this point, by this year’s end we might have enough names to average one accused sexual predator per day.
So yes, it’s been hard to tear my eyes away from the news, as each of these men have fallen (and, disturbingly enough, some of the accused have not fallen, instead maintaining esteemed positions without consequence, but that’s another article for another day). But it’s led me to wonder if there’s any word that can acutely encompass the feeling of being surprised, but at the same time, not being surprised at all. To be clear, what I mean is this: the quickness with which these men have been exposed by their victims is surprising. It’s like that domino effect mentioned before. It’d be easy to get whiplash as each name is rattled off. Yet, any woman will tell you that they aren’t entirely surprised. Perhaps by the fact that these women (and men) are finally speaking out. In a culture that’s so interwoven with victim blaming, who can blame them for having not spoken up sooner? But deep down, women have known the seemingly unspoken rule of the world we live in. For those of you who don’t know it, here it is, in black and white: women are for looking at, and for touching, and if they have a problem with that? Tough.
The #metoo movement, started by and made up of The Silence Breakers who were recently honored as Time magazine’s Person of the Year, attest to the fact that sexual harassment is a fact of life for many women. The hashtag garnered countless tales of assault and harassment. According to UN Women, 35 percent of women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence. That doesn’t even include unwanted touches, groping, inappropriate comments, and a whole score of things that have been deemed as being acceptable in society.
This general acceptance of “the way things are” is what went into setting up this winding path of powerful men who could confidently commit these acts. From the seemingly mundane to the blatantly criminal, how many of these men even thought twice about their actions?
There are so many things that have fed this culture of allowing men like Harvey Weinstein to literally prey on women, unchecked, for years. Like setting up dominoes, it took time. However, there’s hope that these toxic beliefs may slowly edge themselves out of the social norm. The results of the Alabama senate race this week offer a small glimmer of hope. This race had been under close scrutiny following a mountain of allegations against Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore. Over a dozen women came forward in the past few weeks to say that Moore, while in his thirties, had engaged in or pursued sexual relationships with them while they were in their teens. Calls for him to step aside were numerous, even from members of his own party. He refused to step down though, and as the votes were cast on Tuesday night the nation seemed to hold its breath to see what the results would reveal.
It was far too easy to call to mind this past presidential race, when then-candidate Donald Trump was accused of sexual misconduct by nearly twenty different women. It was even easier to picture history repeating itself. After all, despite all of those accusations, Trump still managed to be elected into the highest office in the land. So why would this senate race be any different? However, this wasn’t the case. Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a civil rights advocate and former federal prosecutor, won the Senate seat in Alabama on Tuesday night.
According to ABC News, “51 percent of voters said the allegations against Moore were definitely or probably true.” Of those who believed that the allegations were true, 89 percent voted for Jones. The Washington Post reported that “about 4 in 10 [voters] said the allegations were an important factor.” However, “under 1 in 10, notably, said the allegations against Moore were the single most important factor in their vote.” These statistics show that this election might be, at best, a small step in the right direction.
And what would be another step in the right direction? Several of the women who spoke out against President Trump last year have come forward again, their voices even louder and more resolute than before. Senator Kristin Gillibrand even openly demanded that President Trump resign due to these allegations. His response was a fiery tweet that many believed contained a thinly veiled innuendo, which Senator Gillibrand called a “sexist smear.” If these allegations against President Trump were to be taken seriously, and real repercussions were to follow, that would certainly single the knocking down of perhaps the ultimate domino. A few months ago, that would have been considered unlikely to ever happen. But it’s clear that things are definitely changing. So, one can only hope that, as more women and men speak out against their assaulters, society can start knocking down long-held beliefs.