Lupita Nyong’o discusses sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein
As nationwide discourse continues about sexual harassment, sexual violence and exploitative gender dynamics, Lupita Nyong’o bravely added her voice to the more than 50 women who have named Harvey Weinstein for his allegedly predatory actions toward them.
In a graceful and unsettling op-ed for the New York Times, Nyong’o wrote, “I have not been able to avoid the memories resurfacing. I have felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I have felt such a flare of rage that the experience I recount below was not a unique incident with me, but rather part of a sinister pattern of behavior.”
Nyong’o addressed how people in the entertainment business often meet and build in non-traditional work spaces, including homes, hotel rooms and over dinner. She conveyed a desire to maneuver creative spaces with her Yale School of Drama education and create quality work with industry heavyweights – without compromising her personal safety.
The actress shared anecdotes where Weinstein, she said, pressured her to consume alcohol and spend time alone with him in fairly isolated spaces. Her piece reminds readers that men often feel entitled to women, our time, our bodies, what we consume and whether we are consumed. Some men even use their professional experience and seniority to pressure, pursue and violate women.
“Harvey led me into a bedroom — his bedroom — and announced that he wanted to give me a massage,” Nyong’o wrote. “I thought he was joking at first. He was not. For the first time since I met him, I felt unsafe. I panicked a little and thought quickly to offer to give him one instead: It would allow me to be in control physically, to know exactly where his hands were at all times.”
At this moment, people are increasingly coming forward with stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Both in-person and cyber discussions highlight the prevalence of these experiences, as with the #MeToo hashtag. While people who would describe themselves as survivors, victims and recipients of unwanted advances keep speaking up, the need for society to unlearn these dynamics and punish bad actors lingers.
All kinds of people should read, discuss and internalize Nyongo’s words. People whose professional and personal power dynamics can privilege their encounters should pay special attention to the article. Further, they should not be emboldened to sexually prey on people with different levels of bargaining power.