By Razan Azzarkani
This month’s Golden Globes were the first awards ceremony held since #MeToo went viral. To commemorate it, celebrities brought social justice activists along as their plus-ones, and many more wore black to show support with the Time’s Up movement, a new Hollywood initiative to purge the industry of predators.
While I’m sure they mean well, repairing the damage is going to take more than wearing black.
After all, Hollywood has collectively spent years perpetuating a rape culture, a sexist culture that did absolutely nothing for women of color, working women, women in the gay and trans communities, women of diverse religious backgrounds, and others. In fact, it often did the absolute opposite.
Elite men accused of abusing women have not only repeatedly gotten away with it – they’ve been praised for their work, given awards, and offered new jobs. Men such as Woody Allen, Casey Affleck, Johnny Depp, Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein. Only recently have some faced some sort of consequences.
But then there was Oprah.
Oprah Winfrey won this year’s Cecil B. Demille award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” The first black woman to get the prize, she accepted her award to a standing ovation – and gave a rousing speech that inspired people only as Oprah can.
She talked about the women who aren’t talked about: the domestic workers, the women working for minimum wage, women who have no choice but to be silent about their abuse because they have a family to feed. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up,” she said.
Oprah gave a voice to the voiceless, who don’t have the luxury of being the famous, rich, mostly white women with more power to speak.
No longer will women have to remain silent and endure because “this is what men do” or believe these are experiences that come with being a woman. No longer will women have to be shamed into silence because they aren’t believed, because they’re not rich enough, white enough, pretty enough, whatever enough to be believed.
The solution isn’t, as some are already demanding, for Oprah to run for president. The solution is to listen to women everywhere, and empower female activists in their work.
Women like Tarana Burke, senior director of Girls for Gender Equity and founder of the #MeToo movement, and Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Women like Aniqa Raihan and Leilani Ganser, young activists I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with. They were brave and courageous enough to publicly fight back against their abusers after receiving little to no help from their university campuses where the assaults took place. Despite stigma, backlash, and struggle, Raihan and Ganser continue to fight every day for justice, for themselves and for women everywhere.
Even Hollywood’s getting wise, the New York Times reports. Time’s Up set aside a $13 million legal fund “to help less privileged women – like janitors, nurses, and workers at farms, factories, restaurants, and hotels – protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.”
“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have,” Oprah said. Until “nobody ever has to say ‘me too’ again.” A new day is indeed on the horizon.
Razan Azzarkani is the executive assistant at the Center for Global Policy.