Instincts are difficult to describe but easy to know. If we’re feeling unnerved, the very least we can do is listen to those inner voices
Friday 20 October 2017
Aside from the words “massage”, “bathrobe” and “undressed”, there’s another theme that recurs in the allegations – more than 50 of them – against Harvey Weinstein: many of the women felt uneasy as soon as they met him. The sickening allegations have reminded me just how important it is that we trust our instincts.
If you don’t get to the bottom of this piece, please remember this crucial caveat: I am not placing one iota of blame on the women whose trust was abused – the responsibility for that will always lie with the person who did the abusing.
In the case of Harvey Weinstein, and so many others, the choice about whether to ignore our instincts is distorted to the point of being almost meaningless. The women’s decisions were deeply affected by the fact that their entire careers could rest on this man – a fact Weinstein knew how to play all too well.
That’s what power does. It doesn’t just affect the choices we have available to us, it affects the way we choose between them.
But on those rare moments where we can choose; where we’re deciding whether or not to go for a second date, whether or not to share a ride, and when there’s that voice within us saying “that guy seems like a bit of a creep”, we should listen, rather than heeding the million other voices that say “you’ve got no reason to think that” or “he doesn’t seem so bad” or “stop being crazy”.
We should stop gaslighting ourselves.
Instincts are difficult to describe but easy to know. I’ve shaken hands with men and seen a look in their eye that makes my throat dry up. I’ve sat beside men on trains and felt their legs a fraction of an inch closer than they needed to be. I’ve paid for things and had men touch my hands as I place my money down on the counter. We often feel utterly paralysed in those moments. You can’t stop meeting men, riding trains or paying for things. And to speak up would be to expose yourself to ridicule, to show yourself as a monster who has lost their mind to paranoia.
The very least we can do in those situations, the absolute bare minimum, is to listen to those inner voices.
We can have so little information available to us when we meet someone new. Rather than saying “I don’t want to read too much into that”, we should trust that the little signs are revealing of something bigger.
This is about unlearning a lesson that is good in one classroom but not in another. Yes, we should be generous; yes, we should give people a second chance – but not when it comes to our mental and physical safety. It’s just not worth it.