Me & Harvey Weinstein

XY_161956414There were four ten-year-old girls playing in a field in Bosnia in the early nineties. A Serbian jeep pulled up with four soldiers in it. The soldiers got out of the jeep and called the girls to come over, in a strong soldier kind of way. Three of them stepped toward the men. Their obedience was immediate. It was a reaction to years – generations, actually – of men telling women to do something, and the women doing it without consideration. Reaction. The fourth, the one I met, turned and ran into the woods. She is the only one who survived.

Flash-forward to Harvey Weinstein. “Wait,” I hear you ask. “Are you seriously equating the raping and murdering of Bosnian women by Serbian men to Harvey Weinstein?” Yes. Yes, I am. I think the tenets of how women react to men’s directives are all part and parcel of our DNA – and something we can and must program out for future generations.

So women went up to his room for meetings. At last count, more than ninety women have now told this story, and as far as I can tell, the ending is mostly the same: they ran away, got away, pushed him off, or put him off with a delayed promise of succumbing after an Oscar win. Not one has said they did as asked. Without judging these accounts, would it have changed the way you viewed their stories if they had? If some of the women said, “I did what he asked, and I don’t know why. But I didn’t think about it, I just did it.” Is it possible the ones we’re hearing from are the ones who knew to run? Like the one young girl in Bosnia who was the only one to react against what she was told to do? Is it possible there are so many others who didn’t, and because of the ‘shame’ of their actions, aren’t speaking up?

Repulsive as this might sound in this particular context, is it possible that there could be something in the female DNA – the same DNA that inclines us towards nurturing – that when called upon to obey (do we have to re-visit hundreds of years of marriage vows?), we might just do it? If I’m honest with myself, and I’m truly not proud of this, but if I’d been in the shoes of these women (thank God I wasn’t), no matter how disgusting it would have been, I fear I would have done it. I would have watched him take a shower. I would have done it. I would have then put it out of my mind and tried very hard to not “go there” and evaluate my own behavior, let alone his.

I had a high-powered job at one of the big eight accounting firms in the early eighties. I had an affair (thought I really loved him) with my boss, a partner. He was being audited by the firm for his expenses (he was fired… we are talking felony avoiding fired) and he asked me to go to a hotel room and help him create the back-up for his expense accounts while they were auditing him. I did it. I never once stopped to think about it. I just did it. I did it because he told me to. He didn’t ask me; he was a mess. He told me. Forcefully. Firmly. And, I did it.

A few weeks later, he asked me to put that hotel room on my company American Express. I refused. My brain kicked in then – putting the expense on my card triggered something that made it feel different (versus my earlier complicity, where I was reacting).

Looking back, I felt no responsibility for my “accessory to a bad thing” status. I had zero ownership of that night in my own head. It belonged to him, and I was another pair of hands. I see now that it’s worth exploring, and that there are oh so many other examples in my life of the same reaction in me to things I don’t wish to own.

We women have really been dealt a psychological blow, forced into playing defense for far too long. Centuries of self-preservation, love for the male species, and/or a desire to be liked, accepted or… considered for a well-deserved role in a movie we worked our whole life to get to, make us react, without thought. Turns out, sometimes, the best offense might just be a good offense.

And just to clarify: whether we act or react, the true shame belongs to the perpetrator. Let’s not forget that.

What I’m interested in is mentoring the generations who’ve come after mine to stop, look, and listen before they act – in a way that might diminish the power of a perpetrator. When I think back to that night in the hotel, my biggest regret stems from the ground I gave in the self-esteem department – a loss multiplied by the possibly hundreds of times I didn’t use my power, or my voice, around men like Harvey Weinstein. I’d like future generations to be spared those kinds of regrets.

That young ten-year-old girl who ran into the woods in Bosnia? Her shame, she told me, was that she didn’t wait for the others to follow – or go back to help them. That they didn’t get away, and she did. So even the one who acted courageously was consumed by guilt, assuming responsibility for the others’ reactions. Over the years, I saw how she punished herself. I believe she never felt that she deserved her survival, when in fact, in my opinion, she should take taken to the rooftops celebrating it.

So, women of today, may the women speaking up serve as the inspiration to us all. Let’s vow from this day forth to obey the better angels of our own voice and power. We might just change the trajectory of those who come after us. And, Heaven knows, there’s no shame in that.

God Bless America ... I Think

I have had dark moments in my life – moments of true impotence, moments when I realized the future was beyond my control.

The day Nixon resigned, I was at a Catskills resort straight out of Dirty Dancing. They wheeled in a TV to a sea of left-wing New Yorkers who cheered with glee while I stood in the back of the room silently weeping, because I just couldn’t believe that a President of the

Continue reading…

Finish What You Start

I don’t finish things. No, seriously, I don’t finish things. I have never, and I mean this earnestly, even finished a cup of coffee. I like the idea of coffee, like I like the idea of writing books and things longer than 650 words, but I just don’t finish them. I have lived in my present house for five years and I still haven’t unpacked.

Don’t get me wrong. I finish things for others. Projects

Continue reading…

The Handmaid's Tale Book Review

I know someone who wrote my favorite book thus far this year (2016 and 2017!). It’s Abby Fabiaschi, and the book is I Liked My Life, which went into a publishing book war with four major houses bidding on it. Lucky her. Lucky me for getting to read a pre-published copy.

Moving right along.

We were speaking on the phone about some other matters, and we started talked about The Handmaid’s Tale, which is coming

Continue reading…

Paul Simon & Politics

I am a Paul Simon fan. Big-time. I’m not sure it’s reciprocated.

It went like this.

It was the late 80s. It was New York. And I had just moved into a beautiful building on Central Park West.

I was heading up the elevator with my brilliant five-year-old daughter. (If I were allowed to write about her, I would tell you just how brilliant she is.) The doors opened, and he got on.

Said 5yo

Continue reading…

Invader Got in By Hiding in the Grocery Bag

Invader in my house.

It was terrible. I’m not sure, but I think he got in through a grocery bag, hiding underneath the grapes, turmeric, coconut milk, fresh Atlantic salmon, and lemons. I had no idea. Swear. And, before I could call the police for help, he disappeared into the abyss that ends up on my thighs with nary a trace charting the roadways it took to get there. Evading the authorities yet again.


Continue reading…

It's Women's History Month and I’m Not Celebrating.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m oh so very proud of the hordes of women who have gone before me. My female ancestor who sailed over in Mayflower times with Thomas Hinckley (she probably thought he was nuts for making her come). My mother-in-law, who taught me that if you need to use the restroom at a friend’s house, you should go home because you have been there long enough. Gloria Steinem. Ruth Bader

Continue reading…

Marching is Good. Changing Our Own Behavior is Better.

Long, long ago, in a country now far, far away, a man of color took the stage at the Democratic Convention in the United States of America and rallied a nation around the notion that the United States of America is about all of us.

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino

Continue reading…

My GD Neighbors Who Clearly Don't Use Electricity

Every few months my electric company sends out an e-mail telling me how my energy conservation compares to my neighbor’s … and it’s never good news. Anyone who reads Freesia Lane knows I’m a competitive person and that I get anxious if I don’t perform well, so when I first received this email, I thought, Gotta get on this! But every month it’s getting worse — this month they say I’m 32 percent worse than

Continue reading…

Dear Nebraska

I went to the University of Nebraska in 1972 and stayed four glorious years. During those years I cheered for the Cornhuskers on many a cold and rainy day. I became a PiPhi sorority girl; I had found a home at a time when my own home was so very far away and newly fractured. I went to Alliance Nebraska and stood up for my BFF when she took her vows. I made friends with

Continue reading…