This is a piece that I wrote for the local newspaper I work for, published as a contributor’s column. I thought it should live here as well.
On any given Thursday, I typically leave work between the hours of 7:30 and 8 PM. It is almost always dark at this time, especially on a street with little to almost zero light pollution. While there is often beauty in this kind of darkness, it is also where much of my fear, as a woman, resides.
At the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards this past Sunday, Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. According to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this award goes to a candidate for their outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment, the first bearer none other than Mr. DeMille himself in 1952. Mr. DeMille and Ms. Winfrey are in the company of other award recipients, including Jerry Lewis, Harrison Ford, Judy Garland and Meryl Streep.
While many presumed that Ms. Winfrey would somehow incorporate feminist values into her speech, no one could have predicted the incredible excitement she established toward a future without fear for women. This omnipresent dread not only applies to women in the entertainment industry, but women across the nation and worldwide who have suffered and lived in fear of mental, physical or sexual abuse, whether from men in power or any man passing by them on the street; men who perhaps stand in their way of something as small as leaving work without running to their cars in the dark or something as big as realizing their goals and dreams.
After touching upon her own childhood, Ms. Winfrey began to discuss the importance of speech and the value of speaking your own truth.
“I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this,” Ms. Winfrey said. “What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been taught what not to do in order to avoid conflict with a male. Do not dress like you’re asking for it. Do not try to fight back. Do not go out on your own. In other words, know your place and give up your independence. In conjunction with this notion, the women who are victims of abuse or those who are taken advantage of are often conflicted as to whether to even report the crime or tell someone they trust because of the immense amount of fear they have toward the backlash they may receive from the public eye or their abuser/attacker. It is a vicious and sickening culture.
Living on Cape Cod, I’ve always thought that I was in a safe place. By definition, on paper, however you want to label it, the Cape is safe. It is considered a family destination for many, as well as a great place to live with the support of beautiful landscapes, a great small-business atmosphere, welcoming communities and an overall low crime rate.
But just because where I live is considered a safe place does not always mean that I feel safe. As a 23-year-old woman, I consistently suffer from a worry that lives in a dark corner inside my head. This dark corner of fear seems to take up more and more space as time goes on. It engulfs my mind when I hear stories of women being taken advantage of—in the workplace, by a stranger or even in their own homes.
Fortunately, the latter end of 2017 became a time in which women told this fear to crawl back into that small corner and spoke their truth about what has been going on for decades; the truth about what has been silenced for nearly all of history. Soon enough, a new male in Hollywood became front page news each week with allegations against them from women all over. While many denied, many also confessed. Ms. Winfrey commented on this revolution in her speech, stating, “Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.”
And this “we” she refers to does not only apply to women in Hollywood—it applies to women and victims everywhere.
“But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry,” Ms. Winfrey said. “It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.”
One thing that many women of all walks of life are now agreeing on is that time is up for these men in power who took advantage of fame, popularity, wealth or the simple workings of hierarchy. It is time for this fear to be banished from the depths of our minds once and for all.
I should not have to live in fear of any man who may pass me on the street as I fast-walk to my car when leaving work in the dark. I should not have to worry that I am defenseless if I were to be attacked when carrying an armful of groceries. No woman should have to worry about a man taking advantage of her nor should they have to comply with their male counterparts’ explicit requests in order to advance themselves or achieve something.
Ms. Winfrey concluded her speech by reminding the audience that the promise of a new way of life, a new norm, if you will, is soon to come, a day in which no woman has to withstand the abuse of a man in power in order to further her career, goal or dreams.
“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!” Ms. Winfrey said. “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”
A day without fear toward male peers, bosses, colleagues or strangers is a day I hope I live to see.