Lindy West: 'Brave Enough To Be Angry'

Nov 10, 2017
Originally published on November 10, 2017 8:17 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're following more sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men this morning. The latest is Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Alabama. A woman told The Washington Post that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her almost 40 years ago, when she was just 14 years old.

In the entertainment industry, one of the country's top comedians Louis C.K. has been accused by several women of exposing himself to them in incidents dating back over a decade. Amid all these allegations, from Harvey Weinstein to NPR's own former top editor, women are wrestling with a question - how should they respond? Actress Uma Thurman was asked about this, and here's what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UMA THURMAN: When I've spoken in anger, I usually regret the way I express myself. So I've been waiting to feel less angry.

MARTIN: But is anger so wrong in this moment? Writer Lindy West says no. I asked her what she made of Thurman's response.

What did you hear in that clip from Uma Thurman?

LINDY WEST: You hear a really deep, relatable anger. And what she says is that she is not ready to speak because she knows that when she has spoken in anger in the past, it hasn't been well received and it's been, you know, punished in some way or another.

MARTIN: How has women's outrage - or lack thereof - how has that factored into how this whole moment has unfolded when it comes to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and how it's perceived?

WEST: You know, people are tired of pretending like we're not angry. And for the first time - at least in my living memory - we're seeing some real sort of large-scale consequences for some men who have, allegedly, engaged in really predatory behavior. So there's a lot of power in unleashing anger, especially anger that's been suppressed for so long.

MARTIN: Because the perception is angry men are strong, but angry women are viewed as hysterical, vindictive and downright scary. That has quelled those voices for a long time. You are seeing something different now.

WEST: Yeah. I mean, traditionally, we punish women for losing their temper in public. Women are supposed to be compliant and helpful and nice and, you know, play the support role for men who are the real actors in the world. And women who do lose their temper in public, we call them crazy. And we try to destroy them to a certain degree.

You know, it's really hard for me to even come up with any examples of women who had what we call a meltdown who were met with a positive response and taken seriously. I mean, we don't - meltdown is almost a gendered word, you know?

MARTIN: Does it feel that that is changing now?

WEST: I don't know. I mean, there's still a lot of hostility. It's hard to say whether it's being taken more seriously or received differently because there is still a huge backlash. I mean, I'm still seeing all the reasons why maybe these women misunderstood what happened to them. Or...

MARTIN: Blowing it out of proportion.

WEST: Blowing it out of proportion - or it was a different time. He was raised in a...

MARTIN: Right.

WEST: ...Different time when this was fine, as though all of our fathers and grandfathers were sexual predators.

MARTIN: Right.

WEST: And they weren't.

MARTIN: What is the role of men in this moment?

WEST: The role of men in this moment is to listen and to think critically about their behavior and to, most importantly, change their behavior. On a broader scale, I think it's really important for men to think about how much space they take up and to step aside and make some room for women, especially women of color - marginalized women who get, you know - who are far disproportionately affected by these forces.

MARTIN: Writer Lindy West - her newest op-ed appears in The New York Times. It's called "Brave Enough To Be Angry."

Lindy, thanks so much.

WEST: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.