BY LISA MARIE BASILE
I’m not trying to write a researched post or a think piece. I’m just writing to you, as a person. As an appeal.
I want to talk about the "witch hunt" against men by women and non binary folks. And about the way we talk about assault.
Many of us keep hearing people say that NOT ALL MEN (oh for the love of god, not again) have done "equally bad" things. Like, taking your dick out isn't the same as rape or wielding power or money over someone so they fuck you isn't the same as touching someone. There are lots of KINDS of assault, of course. We all know this. Although there are vastly different levels of short- and long-term trauma involved, what makes something that's nonviolent and space-invading okay if the other person didn't ask for it? There is a consent issue even if the body is not involved directly. Can we update this thinking, please?
Yes. There is difference between raping someone and staring at someone, both legally and ethically, but the fact of the matter is that ALL of these behaviors have gone un-checked for a long time and both require consequences. Different consequences, but consequences nonetheless.
The baseline consequence is that these assailants must look into the abyss and have it look back. They must know that they are predatory; they must live with it; they must die knowing it. Other consequences are legal, social, familial, professional, etc.
For society to be healthy, we need to tell our kids and men and boys (and everyone) that abuse of power is not okay in any way.
I’ve have heard a LOT of people saying that many of these stories coming out against Spacey, Weinstein, Louis, etc., are "bandwagon" stories. That they're tiring, not constructive, repetitive...and, the worst, "done for attention." (Because sexual assault attention is SO fun and validating, right?).
I have briefly considered these wayward opinions, which I have seen proliferated both by men as well as by smart, compassionate, and trusted feminists, women, and non binary folks.
But I disagree with these ideas.
If it feels like a "bandwagon" or a "witch hunt" it's because it is. For so long, women/non binary people have been told—either out loud, or quietly, through small, uncomfortable gaslighting moments and fucked up interactions—that our stories don't matter. Fuck yes, we have a hunt going. Do we sit inside while others ravage through the night for change? Or do we (those of us that can or want to) finally join, as we maybe have wanted to for so long? Remember: some of us stay silent for safety purposes. So we have to fight for everyone, even if they can’t for themselves.
I have two stories I’d like to share. About molestation and harassment. Both deal with sexual assault in different ways.
I’m saying it because I’ve been feeling safer—safe enough to do so. (I’ve already got all the attention I would need, thanks, so it’s not for that. #EyeRoll).
This is about being touched: At a young age—right before adolescence, I slept over a friend's house. The stepfather touched me as I slept. He touched my friend too. She was in the space as I was. I woke up. I told the friend in the morning what her stepfather had done. I told my mother. We went to the police. The youngest daughters said he'd raped them. The oldest, 16, said it wasn't true. Their mother called me a liar. The court case against him was lost. The two girls said they had lied. There was so much disbelief and so much attack against me (they'd said I was projecting my own lack of a father figure onto him) that the girls had just given in and tried to keep the peace and said it wasn't true. With all my heart, this shit was fucking true. He had me sit on his lap in the dark multiple times. But it was the 90s, a small town, and no one fought for me and my experience. I don't speak about this much, but do not for one second think it doesn't bother me that people like this get away with this fuckery. EVERY. DAY.
This is about being harassed: A few years ago I was in a management role at a startup. Another manager hit on me, tried to touch me, made advances at me. I told my young, "hip" boss what happened and he told me "that guy does that to everyone." He asked me not to speak up. They were selling the company. They didn't want to fuck shit up. I told the HR director who was leaving. This wasn't a silent situation. What happened? NOTHING.
Both are real and bad. And worth discussing in their own way. Both are systemic. Both are caused by society feeding ideas of (mostly) male power and dominance.
So if we are bandwagoning—whether in Hollywood OR in our lives in small towns and big cities away from the silver screen—it's because we're taking a chance we feel we are not alone in taking. Who wants to stand up and shout what happens all alone? It's bad enough most of us repress it just to be able to deal.
So, have some patience. Know that people are trying to find their way around in the dark. Know that this is the way to change. It's not perfect. If there were a manual for "how to finally make it known that male toxicity is a disease and is fucking everyone up since forever" maybe we'd know how to handle it. So, if you must critique a movement, consider the reasons it may be flawed first. Emotion is not perfect.
We see all these stories and all these admissions and we think it’s strictly a women’s issue or an issue done TO people (all people I might add: people of color, cis-het people, non binary folks, and people in the LGBTQIA community, every body, shape and size, everyone) instead of BY people.
But it’s more than that. This is a MEN's issue, mostly. It’s an assailant’s issue. The survivors can’t figure your shit out for you.
What this means: if you ARE in the demographic that hasn't abused your power or treated us like objects or raped us or even made us feel super uncomfortable or told us our allegations weren't real, then speak out. Speak out to other men and spread the fucking word. What kind of human are you if you don't?
And if you are those men: stand up, take responsibility and do the work to stare yourself in the eye and come to terms with how your wound wounded others. Fix this.
We cannot all heal unless we do it together.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief and creative director of Luna Luna Magazine. She is also the moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, entropy, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, greatist, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press), war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). her book, nympholepsy, was a finalist in the 2017 tarpaulin sky book awards.
Her work can be found in PANK, the Tin House blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center, The Atlas Review, and tarpaulin sky, among others. She has taught or spoken at Brooklyn Brainery, Columbia University, New York University and Emerson College. Lisa Marie Basile holds an MFA from The New School. @lisamariebasile