Among the tens of thousands of tweets circulating the social networks after the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal erupted was one which really dismayed me both as a woman and as a Muslim.
It was from someone who is clearly enjoying the fact that so many “white men” have been outed as sex abusers yet no one was making a link with their religion since it only counts if you’re “brown or black.” Does he really think it makes a difference if a woman is sexually abused by a man of particular faith or skin colour? Such physical abuse is criminal, demeaning and traumatising in the extreme.
This sort of victim-hood among the Muslim community is bile inducing. While I agree, we Muslims are blamed for just about everything bad in the world today bar Climate Change and are regularly exposed to Salem-style witch hunts in an Islamophobic-driven media this is not the time to derive pleasure from the misfortune of others!
Women say they have been raped and abused. We do not need or want crass statements from men trying to introduce religion into this whole sordid affair! However there is a common link regardless of faith or skin colour in all of this and that is the sexual predators are largely all men. I couldn’t give a flying fig if these men are religious, secular or wiccan worshippers, it matters not especially to the victims. Can we Muslims please learn to empathise and understand what is going on here? Do we really have to dive into the same gutter as racists, Islamophobes and bigots?
Both women and men are now coming forward with their horrific tales of abuse at the hands of powerful men like Weinstein when they were young, vulnerable and starting out in their careers. It is now emerging some of the victims of abuse were even children. And just to be clear, at this stage, the child abuse allegations do not involve Weinstein and his lawyers have already issued a statement to media saying: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein.”
In the meantime, day by day, the evidence against him and other opinion leaders in the world of show business, politics, banking and the media is mounting. Stars like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have both revealed that Weinstein propositioned them in their youth.
It has been an extraordinary month in which nine women accused MSNBC’s political pundit Mark Halperin of sexually harassing them when he was at ABC News, the number of women accusing screenwriter/director James Tobak topped 300, 70 women have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, abuse and rape, and both United Talent Agency and WME announced they have dropped Bill O’Reilly in wake of a newspaper report in the New York Times that he had personally settled a sex harassment allegation for a staggering 32 million dollars. And let’s not forget the allegations against President Donald Trump!
However, just to muddy the waters even further, double Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey has also been implicated in the wide-ranging scandal for allegedly attempting to seduce the under-age actor Anthony Rapp by laying on top of him at a party in Spacey’s New York apartment in 1986 when he was 26 and Rapp was 14.
For some bizarre reason Spacey chose this week to reveal his homosexuality in the context of allegations of sexual harassment thereby conflating the issue of his sexual orientation with accusations of inappropriate behaviour. His gayness is irrelevant and it would have been better for him to just address the accusation of him trying to seduce a child actor.
Spacey says he can’t remember the incident but if it did happen he apologises. Naturally the LGBT community is appalled because this fuels the arguments from bigots and homophobes who constantly try and equate homosexuality with child abuse. If Spacey’s intention to come out as a homosexual at this time was to deflect attention from the abuse allegations then it hasn’t really worked. Being out and gay is not really a seismic curtain twitching event anymore in the West and many other parts of the world unless you’re a member of the Flat Earth Society.
However, what it does highlight is that while women appear to be the predominant victims in this explosion of #metoo revelations, men can be victims as well. I’ve spoken to a few male gay friends who say they’ve also been targeted and inappropriately touched in gay clubs and the workplace as a result of predatory men with a macho-driven sense of sexual entitlement.
There are said to be several male interns and researchers who are victims of predatory MPs in the British Parliament. I’m not sure why anyone is surprised. There is a very male environment in Parliament and even with a female Prime Minister is makes no difference. Until there is a 50-50 representation on the benches, it will remain a macho workplace.
The good news is that many of the male MPs are having sleepless nights over the contents of the now legendary Westminster women’s WhatsApp group. These predatory men who see most women as a sexual challenge despise and fear one thing … women talking to one another. Watch this space – more revelations will come out this week.
If it is happening in the upper echelons of our society you can also bet it is happening elsewhere and so we now need to act and start transforming our workplaces and leisure culture. Sexual harassment, whether it’s a quick grope, inappropriate text or email to full on physical abuse including rape should be reported.
Once again this gives me the opportunity to talk about gender balance in the workplace and the importance that where we work reflects our diverse society in Britain today. I truly believe if more women were engaged in politics, offices, industry and commerce there would be less sexual harassment in evidence.
A good place to start re-programming the male mindset would be in our schools where children can be taught about what consent and abuse really mean. The reality is most harassment comes from men – men of faith and no faith – and instead of exuding schadenfreude because the scandal (so far) involves a bunch of largely white men we should be focusing on gender and asking exactly what is the problem with men today?
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