THE LATEST THINKING
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The Narrative that Allows Abuse
The historical narrative of the white male makes abhorrent behavior such as Harvey Weinstein's easier to perpetrate.
The story of Harvey Weinstein, while extreme (I hope), is far from unusual. There are myriad reasons people in power feel they can take advantage of those who want to gain a toehold. Some of those use that power to its ugliest extremes and others wield it more subtly. Of course, most of the people in power in the United States are white men, so they are the ones who are most often the abusers. Because they are in power, not only do they have and sometimes misuse the power, but they control the narrative that maintains the power.
As a student, I remember wondering what all the women were doing while the men were out writing the Declaration of Independence, fighting the American Revolution, saving the Union and freeing the slaves. Really? Betsy Ross sewed a flag? That’s the best we women could do? In sixth grade, I wrote the classic “what I want to be when I grow up” essay, but my answer wasn’t classic: I wanted to be the first female president. Why does this stick with me? I am sure I wrote dozens of similar essays over the years. It was the reaction I got. What I remember most about that essay was my sixth-grade teacher whispering to her colleagues and pointing at me. The message I got was: You are “other.” What a crazy idea from a 12-year-old.
We’ve taken a few steps since then, but as the details of Weinstein’s appalling behavior surface, we realize how far away we still are. What does this have to do with a historical narrative? Everything. When you feel “other,” outside the stream of people who affect change and do great things, you are already fighting even before the real battle begins.
Thank goodness I live and work in a place where the teachers and administrators are trying to alter the narrative, giving women and all the diverse cultures and ethnicities that make up our nation their historical due. It is an uphill battle, but acknowledging that people other than powerful white men have always been a part of our rich heritage empowers the “others.” It is only when we understand that we are all a part of the narrative that we will be able to change it and have the strength to turn back those who would use their power to abuse.