I don’t usually post twice in a day, but I’m incensed. So, here we go.
TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNINGS: rape, sexual assault/abuse, gaslighting, and rape culture; cancer is mentioned in the first link
This age we live in allows for news to travel with the click of a button. This quick sharing means that the distance from a big celebrity to me isn’t that great. We’re almost live-streaming scandal at this point. Social media, digital news outlets, “outing”, and endless feminist struggles paved the way for Weinstein to finally be brought down. (Not that his downfall is complete.) And now, other sexual predators are toppling.
Yesterday, yet another rapist was outed. In case you missed it, Kristina Cohen accused Ed Westwick of raping her three years ago. As soon as the post and following articles popped up, the onslaught of total bullshit began: “Why didn’t she speak out sooner?” and “She’s making it up for money” and “[crying emoji] [heartbreak emoji]” and “Not Chuck Bass!!1!” If people weren’t tearing down Cohen, they were crying about Westwick.
I’m not going to get into blaming survivors for not speaking out or why survivors don’t give a shit about their abusers’ money. If you think rape survivors would, after years of gaslighting and trauma, finally speak out about their abuse just for money or attention — get the hell away from me and do some reading. (And don’t @ me with “It’s happened before!!” because, yeah Chadbro Lite™, I get that. There are over 7 billion people on the planet. All outcomes are possible. The likelihood that someone is lying about this? Slim.)
What I do want to talk to you about, fellow spectator, is mourning the rapist.
While I know that the world of media consumption is complex — the bigger the rapist’s portfolio, the harder the fall for them and the harder the separation of creator/product for us — I also know that you should refocus your attentions.
Every time you tweet “Not Ed Westwick! 😭“, Kristina Cohen’s name gets smaller and smaller. Her agency diminishes. Her voice wanes. Your support goes from “active survivor support” to “passive rapist support”. Why? Because you care more about what you’re losing than what Cohen went through.
I know you can feel more than one thing at a time. You can feel horror and disgust and rage for Kristina Cohen, while also feeling bummed out that you can no longer ogle Chuck Bass without feeling sick. I know that. I feel the same way. How we handle those feelings is important.
Tweeting about Westwick, Gossip Girl, Chuck Bass — whatever — with sad faces and “not another one” literally gives Westwick the numbers. But Westwick already has the numbers. He comes with them. Though he hasn’t done anything worthwhile since Gossip Girl (which ended in 2012), he has a huge fan base. Kristina Cohen does not have the fan base to back her, to support her, to defend her when morons claim she must be making all of this up for money. And instead of focusing your efforts on boosting a survivor’s voice, you’re cry-emoji-ing about an otherwise-irrelevant rapist.
And Kristina Cohen speaking out is not about you and your loss.
When a survivor speaks out, it is to help other survivors and to maybe bring justice to those who have been abusing their power and violating other human beings. If you are neither a survivor nor a rapist, your job is to listen to the survivor. If you feel so inclined, share the survivor’s words with others that way their message spreads. There is strength in numbers. For many survivors, the numbers are (and, therefore, the support is) small; the rapists have the numbers, the power, the benefit of the doubt. Your tweeted expression of loss tells other survivors that you care more about yourself than what they’re saying.
As spectators, we have to struggle with the aftermath of an outing. A lot of us loved Gossip Girl and loved Chuck Bass (despite the fact that he tried to rape Jenny Humphrey). Do we never re-watch Gossip Girl? Do we never re-watch… well, whatever else Westwick’s been in? (Seriously, guys, the amount of crying emojis I saw on Twitter today are laughable because Westwick has had 0 relevancy in 5 years.) That’s up to you. I’m not going to judge you for watching Gossip Girl or Weinstein’s old films. I’ll deal with my feelings about rapists’ products in private, maybe eventually share my conclusions publicly. For now, I’m going to be busy supporting survivors and raising their voices because they’re more important and shouldn’t be drowned out.
I hope this post gave you something to think about in terms of how we present our thoughts and the consequences of our 140-character tweets.
P.S. I know Westwick has denied the claims. I don’t really care.
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