By Nikhil Vaish
The mainstream media and coastal Americans are gushing about the Golden Globes this morning. People are lauding Oprah’s speech and pushing her to run for President in 2020.
I admire Oprah and she gave one hell of a speech. I agree with her that “speaking our truth is the most powerful tool we have…” but the problem lies in the fact that Hollywood has always hidden its truth, and refused to speak out, while being the first group to point fingers at everyone else.
Oprah’s brilliant speech and its full-throated celebration by the very people who have always had a voice and the power to speak their truth masks a deep hypocrisy and glosses over their lack of courage. Until they are willing to call out their cowardice we cannot truly move forward and ensure that the voiceless are no longer suffering in the shadows.
For me, therein is the problem with celebrating the Hollywood stars now jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon now that it is in vogue and there are no risks associated with speaking their truth. Is this not same truth they did not speak when it might have cost them an acting role or a seven figure salary?
Rosa Parks did not sit on that seat in order to become a trending hashtag. Mahatma Gandhi did not embark on fasts unto death to write a bestseller and Mother Teresa never wanted movies made about her life. These icons of history did what they did because they were tired of injustice and were willing to lose EVERYTHING to fight for all those who did not have a voice or could not fight.
All we are doing by applauding Hollywood is applauding spinelessness, and telling future generations that it is okay to wait to speak your truth only when it is convenient, only when it will not cost you anything personally, and only when it will not harm your career.
I am incensed that people like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek chose to stay silent. By doing so they made a decision that their careers, successes and fame were more important than telling this horrific truth.
I am not talking about when any of these actresses were starting out, living off someone’s couch and likely working two jobs just to make ends meet, having no voice or recourse. I am upset that when they became stars, powerful women in their own right, after they had paid their dues and earned their way up the ladder, and when they had the choice to share their truth – they still chose to stay silent.
By choosing silence they chose to leave in the shadows the millions of voiceless women who are taken advantage of and abused every day in their industry.
Meryl Streep felt compelled to speak out about the way Trump belittled a handicapped reporter, she cried, but never once did she feel the need to address the casting couch and horror stories of misogynistic, degrading and predatory behaviour of people she was close to and had worked with for years. I was deeply disappointed.
Make no mistake. I am glad that we are finally having this conversation and that a spotlight finally shines on the horrific experiences women across industries have suffered and had to endure and still settle for lesser advancements than men who may be less able or talented, purely because of their gender.
But for us to turn this moment into a lasting movement, one that results in real generational behavioral change, we need courageous people to carry the torch, not opportunists looking to burnish their own celebrity and trend on Twitter.
Courage is taking the plank out of your own eye before taking the speck out of someone else’s. I have not seen courage in Hollywood.
The Time’s Up announcement of a legal defense fund for underrepresented groups is a wonderful thing, but here is the thing about overcoming the greatest personal adversity: we cannot help people with handouts or defense funds alone. We need to inspire them to find their voice and find the courage to come forward. The only way to do that is through our own actions.
If the traditionally powerful have rarely been courageous, rarely put everything on the line, rarely spoken out against gross injustice, then how can we expect the single mother, the catering manager, the gaffer, the set decorator or the location scout to come forward and risk losing everything to do the right thing?