23rd Oct2017

Lupita Nyong’o, Harvey Weinstein and the Perils of Toxic Masculinity

by admin

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 13:  Actress and presenter Lupita Nyong'o, wearing Max Mara, speaks onstage at Women In Film 2017 Crystal + Lucy Awards presented By Max Mara and BMW at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on June 13, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images )

A few days ago, Lupita Nyong’o joined the chorus of womxn sharing their experiences of being sexually harassed/violated by the once-invincible Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein. Her recollections have deeply affected me as you get a since of how her interactions with Weinstein troubled her but how she tried to negotiate her experience of being sexually harassed whilst also making sure not to destroy her once-fledgeling career. The fact that Nyong’o kept quiet about her experience for so long because she believed that she was the only one who was being sexually harassed by Weinstein, speaks to the power of rape culture as it silences its victims whilst emboldening its perpetrators.

Weinstein has denied Nyong’o’s claims, saying that he has a different recollection of his interactions with her. Considering that approximately 40 other white womxn have come forward about their experiences of being sexually harassed/assaulted by Weinstein, the fact that he is disputing the claims of the only black womxn who has accused him of sexual violence/assault has a pungent stench of racism to it. Although I will not get into it in full detail, reminds us of how black womxn have and continue to suffer at the hands of white men- particularly white men in positions of power. Weinstein’s response to Nyongo’s claims remind us that black womxn continue to be fetishized and brutalized. Black womxn’s features are desired whilst black womxn themselves are continuously disrespected. But I digress here.

Following the initial press coverage of Weinstein’s continuous pattern of sexually predatory behavior towards actresses, Weinstein released a statement claiming that his predatory behavior is the result of his growing up during 60s and 70s. Furthermore, his publicist claimed that he is an old dinosaur learning new ways. Obviously, these attempts at justifying his actions are highly problematic as he seems to not recognize that being a sexual predator is wrong irrespective of when an individual perpetrates acts of sexual harassment/violence. His (and his team’s) attempts at justifying his behavior brings to mind Tyler Ford’s critique of how men’s predatory behavior is often blamed on male hormones. Ford, who is a transgender agender activist, discusses his experiences of being both the subject and the object of the male gaze. The expression “boys will be boys” exempts men from taking responsibility for their actions. We often excuse men’s misdeeds by blaming their misdeeds on nature or the wily actions of their (often female) victims. We need to understand that Weinstein is an extreme example of the toxicity of male privilege. In order to truly address this problem, we need to problematize the patriarchal systems that create men such as Weinstein and the other men who casually sexually harass womxn as womxn occupy the spaces that “were not made for them”. As womxn, we need to understand that our experiences of being sexually harassed/assaulted are not our responsibility. Our society needs to do more to address this permanent plague of toxic masculinity for all of our sakes.

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