Once again, Gabrielle Union is coming through with news we can use.
The actor, who has set herself apart as a champion for justice and an intersectional feminist, has once again offered a smart and necessary hot take. This time, it’s about #MeToo — the movement of women, and a few men, sharing their experiences with sexual assault.
In a profile for the New York Times Style section, Union spoke about having to relive the trauma of her own rape night after night during the promotional tour for her recently released memoir, We’re Going To Need More Wine. Not only did she talk about it in the book, she noticed that women were eager to share their own horrific stories of trauma. This is certainly reflective of the digital sharing of stories that's taking place on social media with #MeToo, but Union isn’t afraid to point out that there are voices missing.
“The floodgates have opened for white women,” Union boldly asserted to the NYT. Elaborating on what she meant, the actor said, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.” These are the sentiments that have also been expressed by Jane Fonda, who insisted that Weinstein’s victims were heard because they’re “famous and white.”
White womanhood is often seen as inherently valuable and worthy of protection. Meanwhile Black girls and women are viewed as less innocent at ages as young as five. When Lupita Nyong’o penned an op-ed accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, she was just one of many. But it was only her account that he responded to directly. And despite decades of rumors that rival Weinstein’s heinous means of taking advantage of women, R. Kelly has yet to experience any of the repercussions that the Hollywood producer has. Even though Kelly is Black (making him more likely to be criminalized than his white peers), so are his alleged victims. And when women of color – especially those without the same tenure or wealth as Union – speak up about sexual violence, they are not met with culture shifting discourse.
At one point during the interview, even Union had to check herself. She initially spoke of passing the #MeToo microphone “back” to people with different experiences. “It should be passed to the side,” she corrected. And this is the real reason we need more people like Union. On her own platform that may not be as well-respected as Meryl Streep’s or even Gwyneth Paltrow’s, she knows how much bigger it is than, say, the woman who claimed to have been under R. Kelly’s control for years.
Union’s willingness to check her privileges and the blinders they may cause is something that more people who claim to support women need to learn.