When I write this, on 14 October 2017, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is still making headlines, some week after being outed as a sexual predator. Hourly, new celebrity names trend on Twitter; women who are coming forward about Weinstein harassing them, or other male celebrities also being outed as creeps, pervs and gropers.
Comments fly. Victims are blamed for not speaking up sooner. Weinstein himself blames his behaviour on his “sex addiction” as well as him “coming of age in the 60s and 70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.” Lindsey Lohan says that all criticism aimed at Weinstein is ‘wrong’ because he has never done anything to her, despite working together on several films. Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik writes in an article that modesty is the best way of avoiding unwanted sexual attention, and how she was lucky to avoid it by ‘not being a perfect 10’.
These are all cliches. Empty words. Total bollocks. Because this is not a Hollywood problem, a problem related to sex addiction, culture or the attractiveness of women. This is a problem that occurs when men are in powerful positions. And if you are a woman, or a man who bothers to listen to the women around you, you will know that this happens everywhere, even in the most unexpected places. Like publishing.
As an editor and writer, I have experienced two types of sexually predatory behaviour that stem from two very different relationships. As an editor, I am the one in power. Rejecting a short story may sometimes result in rape threats by a man trying to retrieve that power. But as a writer, trying to get published, I have found myself in rooms with men interested in looking at more than just my script. I find the former situation easy to shrug off — telling a man ‘no’ and have him throwing his toys out the pram just doesn’t faze me. But having someone abuse their power and my trust in them is what really feels like an encroachment.
And I know many women who have been in similar situations, at universities, book launches, as well as online. And just like Weinstein, these men work hard to uphold a liberal and progressive profile in the public eye. If we as young writers, students or employees speak up and out these men, we stand to lose our careers. We also risk more abuse and harassment from friends and colleagues. A prime example would be actress Amber Heard, who still suffers online bullying after coming out about her ex-husband Johnny Depp hitting her.
Well, what an uplifting piece of writing to introduce the new issue! This foreword had nothing to do with the poetry and short stories that will be published tomorrow. I just wanted to say one thing: Watch out for men in the literary world, or rather, men in power positions anywhere.
Also: Fuck Howard Stern.
SRL Issue 22 will go live on Sunday 15 October, featuring fiction by:
and poetry by:
Edward Jesse Capobianco