As disgusting as this sounds, this past week, I had a fantasy about Harvey Weinstein.
In my fantasy, I’m a pretty young lady in my early 20’s, just out of college, with high hopes of landing a part in a blockbuster movie. His assistant has arranged for me to meet him in his hotel room at the Fairmont in Santa Monica. He greets us at the door in a suit, dismisses his assistant, ushers me onto the couch, and excuses himself for a moment to put on something a little more comfortable.
He comes out donning a robe. He eagerly walks over and tells me that he’s got a bunch of movies he’s considering casting me in. He sits down next to me and tell me it would be highly beneficial to my career if I become his “friend.” I’m young but I know what he means by “friend.” I’m shocked. I’m disgusted. I want to puke all over him. He’s a big guy so I’m also a bit nervous. All the while I’m thinking about my acting career. Worrying that if I say no to this big, ugly man, that I will never get my big chance in Hollywood.
Here’s where the story line deviates from the accounts of his many famous and non-famous victims whose stories have pervaded the media this week.
The moment he reaches over to touch me, I perform what’s called in Krav Maga (KM) a “soft technique” on him and redirect his hand away from my body. He laughs, thinking I’m playing with him. And understandably so. I’m a petite young lady weighing in at 110 pounds. In contrast, he’s two or three times my weight. And he towers over me. He definitely does not feel threatened by little ‘ol me. In fact, he thinks my rebuff is endearing. Game on, he thinks to himself, now more turned on than he already was by my insolent gesture. A smug grin forms on his obese face as he moves in for the kill.
I think the same thing – game on! – as I use my keen acting skills to play the role of a timid, scared, aspiring actress who will eventually succumb to his salacious sexual fantasies. Somehow, deep within my inexperienced self, I know that this is really the most important role I will ever play in my life.
He stands up and says, “Please come with me.” I stand up, hopeful that he got the message and that we’ll finally talk about my career at the table. Instead, he grabs my wrist to pull me into the bedroom. I easily pull my hand away using another soft technique in Krav Maga called a wrist escape. This infuriates him. “Shana, please go into the bedroom with me.” I just look at him. He’s confused. He asks me again. I shake my head. “Shana, do you know what happens to women who are not my friend?” I shake my head even though it is now crystal clear to me what happens. He mistakenly takes that as compliance. “Just come with me,” he says and puts his arms around me and begins to lift me up, I assume to carry me to the bedroom. The moment I feel his arms around my mid-section, I drop down low and shove my arms out quickly to create space between us. I slide them up the sides of his back and grab onto the fat that covers his lats. I bring him closer to me and knee him a few times firmly in the balls. He slumps forward. I send an elbow #7 down onto his neck for good measure, so I have enough time to leave. He’s in major pain, yelling at the top of his lungs. “You’ll never work in Hollywood!” he shouts as I go to grab my purse and leave, not turning my back on him for a moment. I survey the room in case there is someone else there who might try to attack me. When I reach the door, I whisper “I will survive,” a nod to Gloria Gaynor and all women who have been mistreated by a man. I may leave without a career path, but I definitely leave with my dignity.
My fantastical story was largely inspired by an event that recently took place in my life. Last week, I earned my green belt (considered the first upper belt) in Krav Maga.
I am over the moon excited about this achievement. It took a lot of training and focus. This happened just as Harvey Weinstein’s victims broke their decades-long silences. It’s almost impossible not to put myself in these women’s shoes and wonder what I would have done had I been them.
Unfortunately, I did not grow up learning how to defend myself. My fantasy is really just that – a fantasy – because I didn’t know how to fight back in my 20’s or in my 30’s. I was in my 40’s when I started taking Krav Maga. I didn’t even know how to properly punch someone until 2 ½ years ago.
I realize that part of what is so disgusting about the Weinstein accounts is the psychological stronghold he has over women in the entertainment industry – that his position in Hollywood allowed him to convince women that their careers would be non-existent or ruined if they didn’t acquiesce to his sexual bullying and demands. But I thoroughly believe that when women have the confidence and know-how to defend ourselves physically, we will also have the confidence to stamp out this type of sexual bullying – in the workplace or anywhere. Even for so many, at home. Outer strength begets inner strength. And vice versa.
In an opinion piece on CNN.com, Alexandra King poses the following question to her female readers: “Have the accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers reminded you of an experience you have had personally?
Why yes, Ms. King, they have. Sadly, more than just one over the years. I’ve been blatantly ogled in meetings, had my a*ss grabbed at a business conference, was the object of pornographic jokes and drawings rendered by “white-collar” colleagues, been asked to quit my job so my boss could date me, and been severely berated in front of team-mates by a senior executive to whom I reported. To name a few. And like the actresses who have expressed remorse and shame for not having stood up for themselves with Weinstein, I, too, wish I had had the courage to be stronger in how I handled these disrespectful, unscrupulous men.
It makes me sick that my daughters might face some of these as well. That’s one of the reasons they both take Krav Maga. They need to be able to defend themselves. They need to have the confidence to speak up and know they can back up their words with physical strength if need be. I want them to know that no matter what, it is never OK to be demeaned by a man in any way in the workplace – or anywhere.
Margaret has been taking Krav Maga for six years in the kids’ program where she is a junior instructor. She’s now taking adult classes and recently earned her first adult belt. (This is her sparring at the end of the test.)
Just yesterday she asked me to escort her into a 711 store because there was a scary looking man sitting in front. But I can tell that her confidence is increasing in these situations. And I attribute that growth partially to her Krav Maga training. One day soon, she will feel confident that she can be in scary situations without me or her father.
My hope is that every woman regardless of age will have the strength and resolve to defend themselves against the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. Hopefully my fantasy will soon become a reality.