Holiday Tips for When Your Uncle Asks Which Celebrities Have Sexually Harassed You
So you’re headed home for the holidays. Leaving Los Angeles, or New York City, or D.C. or another city where numerous men have recently been accused of sexual harassment – so really any city. You’re used to the usual questions from Uncle Arnie: “What celebrities have you met?” “How can we get on the Ellen show?” “Castle was cancelled. Do you know who I talk to about that?” But this year’s going to be different. This year Uncle Arnie wants to know if you’ve ever been in a hotel room with Harvey Weinstein, whether Louis C.K. ever asked if he could masturbate in front of you, whether you ever saw Kevin Spacey stick his hand down a PA’s pants and, most importantly, if you know who to talk to about getting Castle back on the air. These questions may seem invasive, inappropriate and none of his damn business, but you know they’re coming. So here are some tips to help you respond to your nosy family members.
1. Tell him that it’s unfortunately not just celebrities, and while you’ve never met Harvey Weinstein, you have had some rough run-ins with crew guys who told you that you are hot, but could be so much hotter if you took off your glasses and wore a better bra. Be warned, he will likely respond that you should have just thanked the icky crew guys as they were probably just trying to compliment you. Auntie Marlene will then chime in that they maybe have a point about wearing a better bra.
2. Remind Uncle Arnie that this is not just a Hollywood or D.C. problem. Ask him if he remembers your prom date, Marty? He’ll respond that he was always so sweet and respectful, and whatever happened to him? Well, he fingered you at the after party when you passed out from too much peach schnapps. If you feel up to it, tell him about your very real sexual assault, how it affected you as you grew into adulthood and changed the way you relate to men and relationships. Again, Auntie Marlene may chime in to tell you that it was probably a phase, she’s sure Marty’s grown up, and she hears he’s single and a lawyer now.
3. Point out that sexual harassers are all around us. While ‘ol Arnie may be enjoying some juicy celeb gossip without thinking about the very real women and men who are survivors of this epidemic of sexual assault and abuse, remind him that he likely knows a perpetrator, or worst case scenario, has behaved inappropriately himself. Is now a good time to tell Uncle Arnie that he shouldn’t continue pointing out how grown up your little cousin is now that she’s “filling out," and that maybe he should look at his own behavior and how it affects the people in his life?
4. Just straight up ask if he is still politically supporting Roy Moore or President Donald Trump? If he’s ever been assaulted or harassed by any of his all white dude colleagues? How he would feel if women debated whether the stories of his worst trauma were true or not, or if the way he dressed was “asking for it”? He won’t listen, but simply shrug and say, “Well, let’s give these men another chance. At least the ones writing lengthy ‘apology’ letters that don’t feature an actual apology, but rather state how inspirational they were to the women they assaulted.”
5. List for Uncle Arnie the ways this problem is systemic, not just a few “bad apples.” Point out that this problem is closer to home than he thinks. Be warned: Uncle Arnie doesn’t want to hear that your sexual assault was perpetrated by a nice kid you did improv with. He doesn’t want to hear harassment is also taking place in his workplace, or that assaults happen at the comedy clubs he and Aunt Marlene drive to on Saturday nights from their cozy suburban home. Tell him that the system is designed to protect perpetrators and silence their victims. That despite the many many many many verified sources, people will still ask if the survivors telling their stories are to be believed. Point out that it took one man to accuse Kevin Spacey for him to be rightfully exiled from the community, while five women have accused Louis C.K, and people still insist that it was “consensual” and “he asked.” Or that the stories we’re hearing about now are those of famous, wealthy, mostly white women. Low-income and middle-class women, women of color, trans-women, and differently-abled women are facing similar, if not worse abuse every day and no one’s paying attention to it. Several women have accused R. Kelly of rape, gross sexual misconduct and holding them against their will, but the outrage is minimal, because the survivors of his abuse are black women. Prominent white “feminists” are publicly denouncing survivors when someone they know and love has been accused of raping a 17 year-old black teenager – forgetting that it’s easy to be an ally when the accused is someone you already dislike and far more difficult, and more valuable, when you’re asked to speak out against your own. Thoughts, Uncle A? No. He’s probably moved on to complaining about why we have to have a special stuffing to accommodate your brother’s celiac, which sounds like a “queer disease” anyway.
Congrats, you’ve now successfully ruined Thanksgiving. As a parting shot, tell him you do know who to talk to about getting Castle back on the air, but have decided that men don’t deserve nice things, so you’re not going to help him. Maybe if he really looks at his behavior and his own complicity in this problem you’ll rethink it for Christmas.