“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Yesterday I wrote about giving and receiving and today. I thought it was no coincidence that the above quote appeared on my Momentum Dashboard this morning. Last night, watching the Oscars I had a WTF moment when Kobe Bryant’s name appeared as a nominee for Best Animated Short Film. My brain was stuck. It was as if the starting gunshot was fired and I froze. My mouth wanted to say the word “Bravo” to Bryant for sharing his talent and love of the sport with the world, but my brain kept registering “error” “error” “error”. Because good and love and share don’t equate to Kobe Bryant, no he’s not a good dude, an alleged rapist with a slick legal team that destroyed the alleged victim. As Bryant thanked his wife and rattled off the sweet names of his girls, I could not reconcile this man towering over other men and women at the Oscars.
Tower. Power. Fear. Size. Dominance. Thwart. Dwarf.
Those are the words that came to me when I recalled watching him and another man on stage last night. None of the words are synonyms of good. I was rattled by this and struggled to write this morning. Knowing I needed to clear my head, I went for a walk with the dogs and queued up an unfinished episode from This American Life. I saw Saturday’s episode had posted and its title, “Five Women” intrigued me.
A different kind of #MeToo story, about several women who worked for the same man. They tell us not only about their troubling encounters with him, but also about their lives beforehand. Who were they when they entered the workplace, and how did their personal histories shape the way they dealt with his harassment?
I listened to it in its entirety and there were a few things that struck me:
- There is never one #MeToo moment
- Just how different men and women approach sex
- How one event in a woman’s life is so formative
- How other women just like me made similar decisions in their careers, like justifying behavior that was clearly wrong because they needed the job
- And that men who offend, harass, assault, and rape do not do so just once, they are typically predators veiled as manipulative opportunists
I am enraged right now. Thinking that for one fleeting moment last night that I nearly applauded Kobe Bryant for turning it around. No, no, no. He just got away with it. He’s no less despicable than Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Donald Trump. He’s as filthy as Harvey Weinstein. We can dress up these offenders, teach them how to write a story and convince the world that they are really good people. And externally they may appear so. But you can’t hire a pr-consultant to paint you as a respectable human being when inside you are not.
I am feeling pretty raw. Actually nauseous about the events in my life, the precursors to the biggest #MeToo offense. And yes, like one of the Five young woman I listened to today, I too remember the day the boys on the block looked at me, and my red, white, and blue bikini that I wore, differently. And I also remember being a reporter and being on the receiving end of unwanted comments about my the length of skirts and legs from the city council members in Wood Dale, Illinois. And how many times in my career male superiors used their sex as a tool to tower over me, exert their power, instill fear in me, establish their size and presence, dominate me, thwart my actions, and dwarf and diminish my presence.
The story of “Five Women” happened over decades and included relationships inside and outside of the newsroom at Alternet. Men and women were complicit, and because of that, they were all victims. #MeToo and #TimesUp isn’t just about the offender. When we all rise up, we are all empowered. When we turn a blind eye to the perp, all the good guys and gals go down with him. And that is why Kobe Bryant should not have been lauded. Why Nike should not have renewed its sponsorship. And why we have libraries where we can go and check the facts against this manufactured external nice guy image, to which we can rightly call bull shit.
Like the quote above said, find your gift and give it away. Kobe Bryant’s gift was not his masculinity. It was basketball, but he chose to dribble with his penis instead. He squandered and abused his gift. A short animation film with the musical talent of John Williams doesn’t change history. Alleged or not, you can’t rewrite that.
Last, as far as the Oscars go, thank God we started the evening with Sam Rockwell and ended with Frances McDormand.