“It can’t be true, what those women are claiming,” said a woman at a banquet I was attending last week. “Why would they wait so long?”
I pondered her perspective. Perhaps she has never been molested? Perhaps she doesn’t know what it’s like to be the powerless in the presence of the powerful?
Yesterday Salma Hayek, in a New York Times article, broke her silence about her experience with Harvey Weinstein. Why talk now? “(T)he mere fact that I was ashamed to describe the details of what I had forgiven made me wonder if that chapter of my life had really been resolved.”
The avalanche of women speaking up and saying #MeToo will have—if it hasn’t started already–an inevitable backlash. Many, including other sexual harassers, want women to stay quiet.
Silencing women has happened frequently in the past, as Professor Mary Beard noted in Women & Power. In the book, she describes a mythical story in Ovid’s Metamorphosis about Princess Philomela, who is raped by her sister’s husband Tereus. To prevent her from reporting the rape, Tereus cuts her tongue out.
Yet in this mythical story the women in the story do speak, not in words, but in deeds. Philomela weaves a tapestry that tells about the assault and shows it to her sister. Her sister then kills her son by Tereus, boils him, and serves him to Tereus as a meal.
“Men sexually harassed because they could,” wrote Salma Hayek. “Women are talking today because, in this new era, we finally can.”