Today, we have victory.
When I saw the news alert that Harvey Weinstein had turned himself in to face rape charges in New York, I wrapped myself in the moment. Filled myself with strength from the courage of the Salma Hayeks and Ashley Judds and Rose McGowans and Jodi Kantors who gave name to and helped slay our monsters.
Because now when I see pictures of Weinstein, I see a monster. And I see the faces of the monsters who’ve stalked me and so many others all our lives. They’re the ones we came to believe could be survived, but never defeated.
We were wrong. They can be defeated.
Today, we have victory. We are buoyed and emboldened, because we know tomorrow, it’s a new fight. But now we will have each other, which means everything.
I stood on stage in a ballroom in Phoenix last week, receiving an award for being part of Rep. Don Shooter’s expulsion from the Arizona Legislature for sexual harassment. “It was more emotional than I anticipated,” were the words I said to a dear friend with me and on social media. To the people who offered their congratulations. Who thanked me for speaking out. For standing up.
But I knew that was weak sauce. Those weren’t the right words.
Partly it was the realization as I got a standing ovation with a group of near-strangers that it had taken all of us and dozens of others, many anonymous, to bring about some bit of ridiculously long overdue change to the Arizona Capitol.
Part of it was what I said when I sat back down next to another honoree: “I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe saying something made a difference.” Which, in retrospect, seems sort of ridiculous of me.
It was a flood of emotions: I felt guilty for being honored in front of women who’d been through catastrophically worse things. I struggled with feeling mad for something so sensible being so damn hard and taking so long. I was hopeful, which made me anxious.
I’d come to be comfortable with no hope. Unrealized hope is exhausting.
So it was that. In that moment, on a stage in a sparkly ballgown, I was emerging from a decades-long fog of no-expectations, no-emotion, no-faith-in-change, no-nonsense coping to maybe having a glimmer of hope that things would be different for the students I teach, one of whom was being honored alongside me.
Standing there, I remembered the faces of so many monsters I’d encountered, dealt with, coped over.
Standing there, I felt strength as I hugged the other honorees and realized they all had monsters of their own. And together we’d slayed one of them for all of us. That I wasn’t alone. None of us were anymore.
I realized it was the anniversary of my college graduation, when commencement speaker Bill Cosby gave me the willies as he ran his hand down my back in front of the president of the university. That even by then, I’d become so acculturated to tamp down my Spidey senses that I never said a word.
I saw the face of the music teacher when I was nine. The father of the four little boys I stopped baby sitting. The older college guy a high school friend had to break the door down to rescue me from. The man who threatened my job. The client who stroked my face in front of my boss. The colleague who told me his wife was jealous of me because she knew he wanted to sleep with me — and asked whether I was interested. The stranger who grabbed my cheeks and tried to kiss me on the lips at a business event the day Shooter was expelled and the friend who stood next to me and did nothing.
Bosses, supposed friends and business associates continue to teach me that I’m never totally safe if I’m not very careful. They had me believing that I just had to deal with it. Alone.
I didn’t drink at all until I was 30; and I never, ever drank at work. I don’t go to the lobby bar on business trips. I didn’t wear open-toed shoes or sleeveless dresses until I was in my 40s. I always talk about how much I adore my husband. And I’ve never talked about how I have done all this on purpose to deal with the major and minor monsters.
Because I always just dealt with it. Alone.
But as I stood on that stage with these brave women, looking out at those who were cheering us and thanking us? I felt the strength of not being alone. I heard relief and wonder in the voice of the woman I’d never met but who had come forward to slay a monster with me when she said, “I’m so glad we have each other. Thank you for what you did. I couldn’t have done it alone.”
I realized that the monsters lose when we draw strength from each other. They aren’t nearly as scary.
I had a moment this morning when I saw the news about Weinstein. I thought of the decades this took. We’d transformed these powerful, arrogant, dangerous, intimidating, frightening people by calling them for what they are: our monsters.
And we’re stronger for it.
I know there will be more battles. And it will be frustrating and imperfect and sad some days.
But today? Today, we have victory.
Mi-Ai Parrish is the former president and publisher of USA TODAY NETWORK’s Arizona Republic and azcentral.com, president and CEO of MAP Strategies Group, and Sue Clark-Johnson Professor of Media Innovation and Leadership at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University