by Hallie Underwood, ’20
Music is pounding in the Urban Outfitters dressing room but to me it’s but a melody muffled from the bottom of an indoor pool. I’m staring at myself in a crop top I found in the sale section. There’s something about the shirt’s pale yellow hue that is flattering but a full-length mirror depicts a girl of timidity and insecurity. With a jerk, I pull the garment over my head. Changing back into my comforting turtleneck sweater, I leave the fitting room to survey the entirety of the store. Wide-hipped mannequins with Slenderman’s face breathe down the back of my neck as I aimlessly wander down the desolate isles.
Just that morning an iPhone alert startled me awake, informing me that another woman had spoken out about Harvey Weinstein. Harvey Weinstein. The movie tycoon’s echoed through my mind as I dragged myself down the stairs and make myself a bowl of cereal. For years, Weinstein has taken advantage of women in Hollywood, inviting them to hotels of extravagance and pressuring them into discomfort. Surely, this man is a criminal, right? A scheming fox spends years killing neighborhood kittens and is put to death by the neighborhood watchman. I thought surely this man would trade his suits of costly Italian wool for a cheaper, more orange ensemble. It’s rape, right?
Pictures of Weinstein clutter my television screen as evidence so painful and insecure is disclosed. Silenced for years, they come forward, telling the press what has become all too familiar. With each victim’s encouraging statement, each inexpressible bravery, each blinding glimmer of hope and justice … news articles surface, spreading like wildfire and leaving assault victims’ statements in its asphyxiating smoke. “Harvey Weinstein Completes One Week of Sex Rehab; Sources say he is Doing Well”.
I cannot and I will not speak for victims of Weinstein’s assault. I was not trapped in the corner of his hotel room and I can not hear the husky sound of his voice as he silenced women, begging them to stay. I cannot speak for news outlets, fixated on every word of every source close to him, and I cannot speak for anyone naive enough to disregard the issue. But I can listen to the voices of these women, both boisterous and inaudible, strip the sickening image of the man with the scruffy facial hair from my mind and take a long look in the Urban Outfitters dressing room mirror and tell you what I think.
I am sixteen. I am a young woman, bound to the comments of my skirt’s length and my demand to go back to the kitchen. Night comes and I can’t walk to my car without an anxious frigidity surging over me; music loudens and I can’t dance without fear a boy will grab my hips. Congresswomen are rarities and my family still snickers when I engage in political conversation at the dinner table. Playboy magazines are selling out and are hidden in teenage boy’s sock drawers, and women are expected to equal its contents. I study flashcard after flashcard and wonder if being successful will mean forfeiting thirty cents of every rightful dollar to a wage gap. I liked the color of that yellow crop top and it was on sale, but I left it behind because it showed my bellybutton.
Harvey Weinstein deserves to be imprisoned. Countless women have said no or anything but yes: it is rape. It is not our dancing, our skirt length, your sex addiction or even our face on the cover of Playboy that answer for us. We deserve to be spared the insanity of feeling silenced and the respect to be seen as equals. We’re beautiful, inventive and witty individuals, vigorous and ready to be influences. To a scheming fox like Harvey, we’re just wide-hipped mannequins with Slenderman’s face. With each rapist hospitalized and comforted and each case of sexual assault forgotten, our voices continue to muffle and our vulnerable society continues to rot.