THE WE­IN­STEIN EF­FECT

Is this an­other water­shed moment... or do we re­ally give a fuck?

NOW Magazine - - NEWSFRONT - By JANE DOE

How many sex­u­ally as­saulted and ha­rassed women have to get on the “telling” band­wagon be­fore we do some­thing about it? If they are white, rich and fa­mous celebri­ties, does it make a dif­fer­ence?

As pow­er­ful men are ex­posed in the lat­est sex­ual as­sault out­rage, will there be a We­in­stein Ef­fect, an­other “water­shed moment” that rape cul­ture ex­ists? Or do we re­ally give a fuck?

Aware­ness and di­a­logue around sex­ual as­sault have in­creased, and more women are be­ing em­pow­ered to dis­close their as­saults. But is that all there is? We’ve known about sex­ual as­sault in Hol­ly­wood for at least a cen­tury, while choos­ing to ig­nore how lonely, re-vic­tim­iz­ing and stig­ma­tiz­ing it is for those who choose to re­port – or the rewiring of the lives of adults and chil­dren who tell.

The ac­knowl­edge­ment of rape cul­ture can func­tion as a trans­for­ma­tive tool and op­por­tu­nity to be good cit­i­zens – or a dif­fer­ent kind of cit­i­zen. It can cre­ate rad­i­cal change in our so­cial­iza­tion and education and bet­ter in­form us of the racism, colo­nial­ism and misog­yny in­trin­sic to sex­ual as­sault. (They should never be sep­a­rated.) It can al­low us to ob­serve the de­gree to which rape func­tions as en­ter­tain­ment in our me­dia (watch any episode of Law & Or­der), as bounty and eth­nic cleans­ing in our wars and as en­ti­tle­ment in toxic mas­culin­ity.

Oh, there are sex­ual as­sault poli­cies. There are in­quiries, com­mis­sions and the ubiq­ui­tous talk-talk of most aware­ness cam­paigns, and there will be more post-We­in­stein, as in­ef­fec­tive as the ones that pre­ceded them.

Take the re­cent gov­ern­ment man­date to uni­ver­si­ties to de­velop new sex­ual as­sault poli­cies. If ad­min­is­tra­tors are hon­est, they will tell you that the “new” ones are re­dun­dant. Or ask the stu­dent who has been raped on cam­pus about it.

Why was there no re­portage dur­ing the re­cent ex­po­sure of cases of sex­ual as­sault deemed “un­founded” by po­lice that it is Black, Indige­nous and peo­ple of colour, dis­abled, sex work­ing, trans and im­mi­grant per­sons who are most af­fected by the prac­tice?

The mul­ti­ple com­mis­sions and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into mur­dered, raped and miss­ing Indige­nous women and girls are crim­i­nal in their neg­li­gence and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Po­lice, too, con­tinue to fail to in­form us about sex­ual as­saults they are aware of, valu­ing cap­ture above pro­tec­tion, de­spite be­ing found guilty of Char­ter vi­o­la­tions for do­ing so.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the sex­ism, ableism, im­mi­grant-

and homo- pho­bias we live with is crit­i­cal to un­der­stand­ing rape cul­ture.

You don’t get to be an ex­pert in sex­ual as­sault – as as­sumed by many gov­ern­ment, aca­demic, fem­i­nist, me­dia and institutional play­ers who adopt that role – sim­ply be­cause you are charged with de­vel­op­ing pol­icy.

You get to be an ex­pert by be­ing part of the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties who ex­pe­ri­ence the crime – who write, or­ga­nize and make art about it.

You get to be an ex­pert by at­tend­ing sex­ual as­sault tri­als and by in­ter­sect­ing the race, gen­der iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus of those who re­port – and those charged to de­fend and judge them – into your analy­ses.

Ex­per­tise de­vel­ops when you forego institutional lan­guage that pathol­o­gizes and erases. It in­creases when we in­cor­po­rate the knowl­edge that rape shield laws are sel­dom ap­plied, and the ne­ces­sity to use the tes­ti­mony of in­formed ex­pert wit­nesses at trial.

Ex­per­tise is de­nied when those who have ex­pe­ri­enced the crime, and their sup­port­ers, are ex­cluded due to “lack­ing ob­jec­tiv­ity,” a pop­u­lar no­tion with pol­icy wonks en­forced by some fem­i­nist agen­cies.

These are not new con­cepts. To ig­nore or be ig­no­rant of them and pre­sume ex­per­tise sup­ports rape cul­ture.

And what about penal­ties and con­se­quences for of­fend­ers?

Pub­lic shaming can be a de­ter­rent, but what about fi­nan­cial resti­tu­tion, com­mu­nity ser­vice and mean­ing­ful rein­te­gra­tion? Are they enough? Of­fend­ers will fight, and the piti­fully low con­vic­tion rate in le­gal rape cul­ture will sup­port their ac­quit­tals, but they of­fer more pre­ven­tion and ac­count­abil­ity than cur­rent poli­cies and leg­is­la­tion al­low.

Har­vey We­in­stein might be Hol­ly­wood’s sac­ri­fi­cial bull, but how many other of­fend­ers are safe? And what about our judges? Is the re­cent pro­nounce­ment by Chief Jus­tice Bev­er­ley McLach­lin that sex­u­ally as­saulted com­plainants shouldn’t ex­pect too much from the le­gal sys­tem all she’s got? Hell, we al­ready knew that. It’s why we don’t re­port, Madame.

When was the last time we heard rape, an­tiBlack racism or the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of sex work in an elec­tion cam­paign? Why aren’t mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral politi­cians pro­mot­ing gen­der eq­uity as a cen­tral is­sue in their work?

How many pissed-off ac­tivists will it take to af­fect change? We sit on pan­els and com­mit­tees with po­lice, lawyers and other bu­reau­crats to pro­vide so­lu­tions, education and train­ing (all for free) while those in well-paid po­si­tions out­num­ber – and ig­nore – us. If I sound an­gry it’s be­cause I am. Un­til we rec­og­nize the in­hu­man­ity of our sys­tems and the rape cul­ture they pro­mote, noth­ing can change. We will re­main locked in a war of words, de­nial and vi­o­lence with oc­ca­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties for trans­for­ma­tion that we let slip away.

Trans­form­ing be­hav­iour will re­quire sub­ver­sion, dis­rup­tion and in­ter­rup­tion of our institutional and be­lief sys­tems and education pro­grams that tap into the in­her­ent cre­ativ­ity of our youth at all stages of their de­vel­op­ment in the class­room. They are avail­able there and in the work­place if we choose to seek them out.

In­di­vid­ual rev­e­la­tions and rev­o­lu­tions driven through so­cial jus­tice and ac­tivism by fem­i­nism, anti-racism, Indige­nous rights, hon­our, joy and art are es­sen­tial to this trans­for­ma­tion. They can also lead to a hap­pier, more in­ter­est­ing and pro­duc­tive life. But don’t dis­miss your anger just yet.

Un­til we rec­og­nize the in­hu­man­ity of our sys­tems and the rape cul­ture they pro­mote, noth­ing will change. We will re­main locked in a war of words, de­nial and vi­o­lence with oc­ca­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties for trans­for­ma­tion that we let slip away.

Har­vey We­in­stein (shown here in archival photo) might be Hol­ly­wood’s sac­ri­fi­cial bull, but how many other of­fend­ers are safe?

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