Opinion: Mourn the “good guys,” believe the women

Photo courtesy of Instyle.com | Founding members of the TimesUp movement at the 2017 Golden Globes wear all black in show of solidarity for those affected by sexual assault.

Last week I finished binge-watching Parks and Recreation for the umpteenth time. This week, I had my heart broken when I learned that one of my favorite actors on the show, Aziz Ansari, was accused of sexual misconduct. The #TimesUp movement that is happening right now in Hollywood is important and empowering. It is helping people around the world realize that they are not alone and that these kinds of experiences are not OK. I fully advocate for all the women stepping forward and send my support to those who cannot or choose not to share their stories at this time.

With that being said, this movement is exhausting. The news cycle is dominated by women’s testimonies of their assault and I find myself constantly re-experiencing moments and feeling emotions that I am actively working to move away from. Women whom I have admired, put on a pedestal in some sense, as independent and brave have stepped forward to share their stories. Just yesterday morning, decorated Olympic gymnast Simone Biles added her name to the list of athletes taken advantage of by the USAG team doctor. While is it empowering to reaffirm a single event does not define you, it is terrifying to know no matter who you are or what position you hold, you can be affected.

One of the most challenging components of this movement for me has been the loss of so many “good guys.” I am in no way saying these men should be pardoned for their behavior. But it is mentally exhausting to continuously lose men you looked up to as positive role models. Matt Lauer, the goofy dad figure I watched with my mom before school? Ed Wistwick, who showed me one of my first true examples of what a positive romantic relationship could look like between an equally powerful and ambitious man and woman when he played Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl? Aziz Ansari, who is changing the typical comedy narrative to fit a more diverse America? Each one feels like I’m losing a friend. I’ve felt myself grow more suspicious. Waiting for the next shoe to drop in what seems like a neverending line of shoes. Because of who I am and the experiences I’ve had, I will always believe a woman’s story — but that doesn’t mean it gets any easier to lose someone you thought would be on your side.

It is hard for me to reckon with all this new knowledge. Should I not watch Parks and Rec anymore? In that show, Leslie Knope is the ultimate champion for women’s empowerment. How does that character fit in with the actor who plays one of her best friends? I’m not sure what the right answer is — or if there is a right answer — but it is painful for me to imagine supporting someone who has so dramatically altered another’s life.

Writing this was not meant to be a pity party on how hard it is to be a woman. It was in some sense therapeutic as well as an acknowledgement that there is just a lot going on right now. This zero-tolerance movement is so important and necessary, but it is also important and absolutely necessary not to lose yourself – to be able to unplug, to surround yourself with people who are truly in your corner and to still enjoy the little things. Self-care has become so vital because I know I need to stay angry, stay vigilant and not accept the way things are. So I am going to take the time to sit back and binge watch– just maybe some different shows.

By: Riley Head ~A&E Editor~