Our country is suffering from severe cognitive dissonance.
In early October, multiple women came forward to accuse film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. Since then, many more individuals have come forward with similar allegations against almost two dozen other male celebrities and politicians now that a national conversation has begun.
Many are asking why all of this is happening now. The epidemic of violence throughout our upper-class society is not new. In 2014, dozens of women accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault from decades prior. In 2010, pictures of Rihanna beaten, bloody and bruised surfaced as she accused her then-boyfriend Chris Brown of domestic assault. In 2010, Casey Affleck settled two court cases in which he was accused of sexual harassment by costars.
Even with these accusations, Casey Affleck has won multiple awards, including an Oscar and continues to star in movies. Brown released new albums, and starred in a documentary on Netflix. Cosby’s trial was declared a mistrial, and the new court date has been pushed back to 2018.
Some of the recently accused have apologized. When Ben Affleck tweeted out his condemnation of Weinstein’s actions, he was reminded by Hilarie Burton that he had once groped her on live television while interviewing him on TRL. In response, he admitted fault and issued an apology. Louis C.K. was accused by multiple female comedians of indecent exposure and sexual harassment. He responded by issuing a public letter of apology and has seemingly not fought Netflix and FX’s decisions to sever ties with him.
Others have denied accusations, such as director James Toback who has been accused of sexual harassment by over 200 women. President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women dating back to 1993. Roy Moore has been accused of sexual assaulting multiple teenage girls. All men either deny any wrongdoing or have actively shamed the women that have come forward against them.
Whether those whom have come forward are being believed or not, whether the accused conduct themselves with honesty and humility, the entire situation still begs the question as to how it got this bad in the first place. Modern rape culture promotes victim blaming and warped messages of consent.
Our society generally doesn’t like to have uncomfortable conversations, so it’s easier to either assign guilt to those who come forward or outright deny their stories. We look up to these public figures, so when it’s revealed that they are not the heroes we thought that they were, it leaves us in a precarious place: vehemently deny evidence and testimony no matter how credible to keep our world view in tact, or swallow the bitter pill and accept the possibility that someone we once admired has done something awful. This is the issue our country is grappling with now. There is no easy answer, either. It’s hard to admit that we could be so wrong about a person, but it’s morally irresponsible to put anyone up on such a pedestal that we cannot even entertain the notion of wrongdoing.
It is time we take a hard look at how we receive those who make these accusations, as well as the way we maintain a culture of ignorant bliss when another public figure is inevitably accused. We need to acknowledge that this culture of victim blaming and cover-ups is only hurting our country, and that we all have a responsibility to promote fix it over time, step by step. We owe it to future generations that they inherit safer a world.