In the wake of the myriad allegations of sexual assault and harassment against film producer Harvey Weinstein, the question of the abuse of power has been raised not only in Hollywood but internationally, in every field. Women all over the world have used the #metoo hashtag to speak out about their experiences and highlight how widespread the problem truly is.
Emma Cline, author of the award-winning novel The Girls, whose fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Tin House, The Paris Review, and Granta, has written for The Cut about her experiences with sexual harassment in the publishing industry. She opens the article with an incident that occurred ‘years ago,’ at an awards ceremony for a literary prize she had won.
An older writer introduced himself. I imagined, for a moment, that maybe he saw me as a fellow writer. When someone gestured for us to stand together for a photograph, the writer put his hand on my back, then dropped it lower to grab my ass; how swiftly I was returned to my body, to the fact of my youth and gender.
She goes on to detail several other incidents of harassment by men high up in the publishing industry, begging for her number with drunken assurances that they would get her published, forgetting, ignoring or simply not considering the possibility that she had already been widely published. Cline then bravely relates a more extreme, more personal episode involving an abusive partner she had when she was twenty-two, which she did not report, thus illustrating the many levels on which power-play and abuse function in society. Cline says “This isn’t the first time I’ve written an essay about gendered violence. I wrote a whole novel about it. But here I am, again. And even as I write this, any anger I feel ebbs into weariness.”
Emma Cline | emmacline.com
She echoes the sentiment of many women, tired of enduring a seemingly endless series of comments, passes and worse. In response to criticism leveled at Weinstein’s accusers and the many people who have spoken out in the wake of the accusation, who did not immediately speak out following the incidents, Cline says:
Of course women attempt to appease men who’ve abused them, or try to transform the pain into friendship, blur the sharp edges in their minds into the shape of something manageable. It’s like teaching someone how to play a game and then punishing them when they follow the rules; women would act differently if we believed there was any other way to escape unharmed from the whims of men. We’re navigating a society defined by them, and suffering for it. Yet we’re blamed for our attempts to survive within those parameters.
Cline is brave to add her name and story to the ever-growing list of people speaking out about their own experiences. Hopefully this wave of stories and experiences made public will pave the way for real change.