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On Tuesday We Wear White

white-dressThere is a dress that is sprawled out over the stool in the corner of my bedroom. It is a beautiful, gauzy white dress with an intricate sky blue detailing in the middle. It is one of my favorite dresses. And on Tuesday I will wear it.

I bought it from the Fox Hills Mall just before I left to go to Israel three years ago. I wanted to wear white on my Shabbat in Jerusalem, as the Kabbalists believe that Shabbat is a taste of the world to come, right down to the white of our garments. This was the closest to white that I could find, but it didn’t matter that it wasn’t all white; to me, there was perfection in the blue.

It reminded me on the little blue flowers on the Corelle dishware in my mother’s cabinet, or the Ottoman style fabrics that would make me think of my great grandmother’s life in Turkey. Yet it was long and dramatic, a statement of sorts. Just like the girl who would be wearing it.

I remembered how proud I felt wandering around the Old City in it wearing a white cardigan over my shoulders. I will never forget walking through the courtyards just above the Kotel and how it flowed around my body; the magic in the fabric was unmistakable. I would wear it many times after that, including on Tu B’Av, where Jewish women would go into the fields in white dresses and dance, and from there the men would pick a wife.

I am an American citizen, the third generation of proud Jewish women living here. When my family came here in the early 1900s, the world did not know of Auschwitz. It could barely conceive of the birth of a Jewish state. We were Jews seeking a better life, where the boys wouldn’t be sent to war and my family could be safe.

I remember sitting in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen with its warm wood paneling, cooking the delightful delicacies passed on to her from the centuries of life in the diaspora, and how thrilled she would be when she got an envelope that said jury duty.

“I love it,” she would say in that honey husky tone that was uniquely hers, yearning for another letter to call her for service. She hoped to learn and to understand the American justice system, to be a part of something bigger than herself, as my grandfather blared C-SPAN in the other room. How she told me in secret how she missed working and going to school. She was born in 1918; two years before the women got the vote.

Her daughter and I got into many battles together. My mom was born in 1945, almost 25 years after women got the vote. Being a woman in this country for her meant not necessarily pursuing her dreams the way her brother was able to, because women had certain expectations put on them. But she believed, even as the medical bills piled up in and the hair fell out of her head due to chemo, that this was the best place in the world to live as Jews.

“How can you not love this country?” she would yell at me when I would write one of my questioning American blog pieces. And there, watching her die and my opportunities fade as I tried to take care of her, I wondered how she could.

Neither of these women lived to cast their ballots in this presidential election. Six months ago, my mother was wrapped in a white shawl and buried in the ground in a pine box, per our custom. And on Tuesday, I will be wearing white too.

It’s because when I was 18 I discovered a copy of The Vagina Monologues in my mother’s bathroom. She didn’t understand those words of Eve Ensler’s, but I did. It was my voice as a woman who grew up in a town where girls were supposed to be quiet and accept their treatment at the hands of men. I was already 5’11 and had a voice that boomed, and a brain that was just as smart as anyone else’s. Why should I be silent?

My words spoke better on paper than they did in my vocal tones, scary as they may be. Yet they were meant to capture the distaste of what the world told me to be as a woman, let alone as a person. How I was told my aptitude for the written word was no match for the power of math and science. Yet even though I understood and respected logic and reason, I understood the heart is just as powerful. Why should I be silent?

Standing alongside me were the women who I came to know throughout my life, beautiful and strong, yet somehow felt silenced in telling their stories. They couldn’t speak their truths, ranging from sexual assault to health issues and discrimination in the workplace, for fear of retaliation. I understood the fears, yet I knew that their stories were also mine and should never be shamed or scrutinized. Why should I stay silent?

When the suffragettes of the early 1900s donned their colors, of purple, gold and white, they saw that we could be so much more. We didn’t need to stay silent. We were voices in this place just as much as others. We were battered and bruised, with women who pursued the presidency such as Victoria Woodhull (actually the first female candidate for president, even before the suffragettes were successful in their quest for voting) described as Satan incarnate. And we got that right, and for 96 years we have exercised it accordingly.

Now, after 96 years there is a woman running for president on a national-level ticket. She believes in what I believe in, as does the Democratic Party platform, so I am casting my vote for her. There is far too much to lose in this race as women if we don’t; I sometimes wish the men in our lives would see that.

For over 24 years, she has faced opposition to who she is as a woman: One who doesn’t stay silent. Who is ambitious and determined, and has every word thrown at her in the book. So have we all who have decided to take a different path than our mothers, who decide not to hide behind what we should be and instead strive for what we could be. We are loud and strong. She wears white. And we must too.

So Tuesday, I will wear white when I go to cast my ballot. The blue pattern in my dress, I realized, is to represent my matriarchs who gave my faith to me. Our Jewish faith instructs us to wear our prayer shawls with a thread of blue, and I believe truly that we pray with our hearts as much as our words. And my vote is a holy act.

My mother and grandmother believed in and loved this country, probably a lot more than my questioning mind does. They would have loved to vote for a woman for president. I am but one, but as one I am the culmination of generations and years of love and proud heritage, and will vote in their spirit. That is what I will be on Tuesday, standing with the rippling fabric that once flowed with divinity in my homeland, and will flow around me again.

My mother would always say to me, “Remember who you are.” I am an American Jewish woman, one of many. And on Tuesday we will wear white.

The Privilege Question

hqdefaultI have to ask about privilege. I have to ask.

My mind has been restless, turning over and over. Images from the news circle through my head: Convicted rapist Brock Turner in a button-down shirt exiting prison; opinion columns about Nate Parker’s rape accusations and the idea of consent; having an accused rapist in the NFL say that the most horrible thing that could happen is one of their players not standing for the national anthem.

You see why I have to ask. I can’t leave this question unasked anymore. There is too much at stake.

It’s because the question lingers in the back of my mind as I am sitting with her — at a dinner table, on her couch, over the phone, in a Laundromat. My dear friends, amongst so many, who tells me a story that might only be her story, that I wish could say was unique. I have heard her story before. One in five women have it.

I think about the night where I stood in a synagogue parking lot, or the one where I was lying in his bed in Marina Del Rey. One tricked me into letting him walk me to my car because he said he had a job for me, and I was looking for work; the other told me that he loved me before I forced myself to gather all my strength to throw him off of me while he was forcing me. In both cases, how I desperately tried to escape, and felt scared.

Then I watched how it disappeared so fast. The money was too powerful in both those cases. A flash of cash, and it all goes away.

Yet is it that alone? Nate Parker was the recipient of the largest distribution deal to come out of Sundance — $17 million. Yet in the wake of his rape allegations members of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences swear they won’t see his movie. Yet they don’t blink for Woody Allen and his numerous cases. They gave an Oscar to Roman Polanski, who can’t even come back into the country. So maybe it’s not money after all.

The question lingers in the air. I have to ask about privilege. I have to because it’s been there my whole life.

Even as a young girl, as my body matured into womanhood and my libido starting racing faster than I could, we were told to BE for men. Wear this makeup to impress boys. Wear this perfume to entice. Lose that weight, no man will find you attractive if you don’t. Men were the ones who told us what beauty was, and we had to follow.

But not too much, though — you don’t want to rile them up. As Britney Spears proclaimed her virginity, we were expected to be chaste too. The purity culture was overwhelming. It tore us apart, and it made us question, but in secret.

We couldn’t wear midriff shirts in school because they would tempt men, yet they could change their shirts in the parking lot. I asked this as a freshman in my newspaper class in a corner. One of the editors decided to publish it into my high school paper; as a result I almost got beat up by the football team. You weren’t supposed to say anything; why couldn’t I be quiet like the other girls?

It was the same school where the wrestling team got suspended my sophomore year for raping several boys with a broomstick lovingly known as Pedro. It took months for the school officials to find out, but the girls all knew; we were threatened with Pedro by some of the boys with a twinkle in their eyes. We were the victims, and in many ways the perpetrators; our silence, unknowingly, betrayed others.

I think of those boys, of the ones who took advantage. They felt like they could, it was their right. The need to feel powerful in weak-kneed adolescence was overwhelming, so they took an option those in charge allowed them to take. In many ways, whether it was through words or the actions and inactions of others, they were told that it was okay. It wasn’t. It still isn’t.

It’s the privilege that creates the world we live in, with rape culture, racism and income inequality taking their tolls. However, the privilege also lives in the silence, because we don’t feel pressured enough to speak out. We talk in corners, but not openly with each other and not as often as we should. We live in a world where rape victims feel the need to hide because they are told that it’s all in their heads and not to accuse falsely while very few rapists get punished for their crimes. And in some parts of the world, there is rape that is legal.

So I have to ask about privilege. I have to ask because I refuse to stay silent anymore.

Privilege gives others the right to tell you what to wear on my body, whether it’s a bikini or a burkini, when in truth it doesn’t belong to you. It gives others the permission to say what you should do with your uterus when they don’t have one. And there is no room for questions or consent; it’s “my way.” Privilege means taking freedom that doesn’t belong to you. It means enforcing silence.

Yet I am standing here. I am asking because I have a voice that refuses to listen to regulations on my body that have no foundation in reason. Who sees the suffering of my friends, from warped body images, racism and rape, and told to “get over it.” Who are told that we have to be what the world tells us to. We don’t. And we won’t.

So as long as my voice is clear, I’m going to keep asking about privilege. And you won’t shut me up.

Dear Hillary

819px-hillary_clinton_official_secretary_of_state_portrait_cropDear Hillary,

When I was 10 years old, on a chilly day in January, my mother sat us down at the kitchen table and made us write letters to our elected officials. Although I was too young to really understand what I was doing, one of those letters was to your husband, then president Bill Clinton. I haven’t written another one since then, but feel that now is the time.

You have to understand something about my mother: She loved this country. She was a Democrat, but proudly displayed the American flag on national holidays and put up a green light outside for veterans. When I challenged this country in my writings, she would write comments and say this country meant more to her and should mean more to me, to us and the future generation.

I was the rebellious one, taller than almost all the boys; the headstrong granddaughter of Turkish Jews blessed with my grandmother’s name, her bubbliness, savvy and sneaky sense of humor. The matriarch of our family who could have easily been a CEO if the times permitted, she could never have imagined America as it is today.

All my life, I heard things from outside my family structure; things that I can never shake out of my head, no matter how I try.

“Don’t be so bossy.”

“Sit still and be quiet!”

“Boys will never like a girl with so many opinions.”

“You don’t have to be so loud!”

As I got older, they morphed into other words, like “weird” and “strange.” And then there were my ex’s favorites: “You’re out of touch with reality” and “You f**ing b*tch.”

(As I am addressing what will hopefully be my future commander-in-chief, I hope you’ll forgive the language above.)

I’m sure you’ve heard all of these and worse. I’m sure my mother heard them too. We get them as strong women trying to break the mold. My mother, who was told “nice girls don’t go to college” in the early ’60s, worked part-time in packing at an ant farm factory to pay tuition at UCLA while her mother worried about her finding a husband. Fortunately for her, she found my father, a uniquely compassionate and feminist man.

My mom wanted to be a doctor, but “girls don’t become doctors.” Her brother did, and my mom worked in his office. She was wife to a theater artist and eventual entertainment tech executive, helping him type his MBA papers while enormously pregnant with my older sister. He encouraged her to finish her bachelor’s degree and her master’s, but at the end of the day my mother was the support for her ailing parents, two daughters and one niece, who had lost both her parents before she turned 30. She was the backbone of our family.

Growing up, while the world told me to stop being stubborn, she loved my resilience in disappointment. When I never gave up while others told me to quit, she was inspired. I made her laugh so much she nicknamed me, “the human Xanax.” Sure, as mothers and daughters go, we fought quite a bit. Although she was an active second wave feminist before I was born, we often disagreed about the ideas of men versus women. But at the end of the day, she was my strong, dutiful mother, with a dash of silly whenever she put on her light-up Mickey Mouse ears while working in her home office.

Meanwhile, I got my degree and married a man who was strongly and abusively conservative. I was too scared to speak up with my liberal leanings in fear of his rage. When the day came where I realized that he was too mentally unstable for the future, I fought my way out. My mother was there that terrifying night I left, calling me practically every five seconds to advise me, with my aunt giving me resources I needed to get out safely and legally protected and my friend offering me a safe house. In your own words, it took a village to get me out. I was broken, but determined to put myself back together.

Free of the constraints of marital censorship, the fight of feminism was mine to take on as a part of the younger generation, to shape how I wanted my future: Living independently and on my own terms, eventually working freelance in communications and obtaining national-level clients. Hoping for a full-time job to help pay off my student loans, but even when I didn’t get there, to keep applying. Keep moving. Be strong. Not necessarily with a man, but seeking one who longs to be my partner in family and the fight for equality. We as women can be the backbones, but we can be also the hands that hold tight to our dreams and work for them every day. The fight morphs and changes from generation to generation. And for many of those days, there was my mother, not always understanding but respecting.

I’m writing this letter to you because in April I cried at her hospital bedside because her face was so jaundiced and she was struggling to breathe. Her fingernails were the lightest shade of pink and she was running them through my hair. She told me she was proud of me and glad she got to know me as an adult. Less than two days later, I was wailing at the bedside, sitting on the hard floor holding that same hand, cold as ice while whimpering like a child, “I want my mommy.”

For two years, we fought the battle of breast cancer with her, sacrificing almost everything for her care. She died of a lung complication that took numerous doctors, plenty of “I don’t knows,” and eventually her life. It has been three months since then and there are still bills coming in that scare my father, her partner of almost 50 years, wondering how he’ll survive without his love. I think of your fight for health care and how my mother wanted to see it come full circle. How she cared about women’s health, teaching us at a young age that our bodies were not a place of shame but of pride. That being a woman was, in so many ways, an incredible thing.

And tonight, how I long for her to see you at this moment of your life, when “girls don’t become doctors” becomes “girls can become President of the United States.” It’s because she loved this country with her whole heart. And tonight, for the first time in a long time, I can say the same.

There are people out there who don’t trust you; many of them are women. It’s easy to throw labels around, toss words like they’re playthings: Corrupt. Criminal. Crooked. For almost 24 years, since you have come into the national spotlight as First Lady, you have heard them all yet remain stronger than Wonder Woman. You aren’t perfect, but as my mother used to say, you remembered who you are and kept moving. That is an incredible feat.

But the bigger task is at hand. The future of this country needs you: Allowing us to obtain quality educations without spending years in debt. Helping Planned Parenthood stay open and strong alongside access to birth control across the board. Making sure there are not only jobs for us, but equal pay for equal work. Letting us live without the fear of someone grabbing a gun and killing us. Allowing our parents to be comfortable in retirement, not scared of insane prescription and medical costs. Making sure that America is safe for all of us, no matter the color of skins we wear, those who we love and the places we pray. Yet still being someone who will be able to reach across the aisle, avoiding the dogged partisan politics of the past.

We, as the younger generation, need you to do this for us. We know what’s at stake in this election as you do. You have served as both Secretary of State and in Congress. You are beyond being a woman in this race; you are utterly qualified, and I put my faith in you.

One of my favorite stories is that, when you were a girl, you wanted to be an astronaut and you were told, “NASA doesn’t hire girls.” Well, guess what? I want to hire a woman for my president, and I have to believe that the rest of this country will too, for the sake of democracy. I hope you take that torch all the way to the White House for the memory of my mother, Jacqueline Amira Slutske, whose smile I saw reflected in yours Wednesday night after President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. So let’s get out there and show them what we’ve got.

Sincerely,

Reina V. Slutske

Black Widow and Me: A Tale of Two Uteruses

Last weekend, I looked up at the movie screens with all my friends as we watched Avengers: Age of Ultron. Bruce Banner was yelling at Natasha Romanoff about how he couldn’t have children due to his gamma radiation, and she made her own confession (SPOILER ALERT): During her assassin training, part of their “graduation” included sterilization. She couldn’t have children either.

Black Widow has had her share of controversy from the movie, but her infertility has developed a certain amount of ire when it comes to women as superheroes. But I sat there looking at the screen, and I didn’t see the anger. I saw me.

There I was somehow, but instead of a black catsuit it was a long skirt. I was a 27-year-old girl looking up at the blue sky in Long Beach outside of the ultrasound technician’s office, after being told she has her sixth blood clot. A golden engagement ring and wedding band glistened under the sun on my left ring finger. The woman who did my ultrasound said to me that it would be extremely risky to have children, and how it can be done but it would require a lot of medical care. Given how poor my ex and I were, this meant no children.

Somewhere inside me, I always thought I would be able to have kids, even though I knew there were risks involved. But this news was like a death knell to my potential fertility. I called my then-husband to tell him about the clot and what the technician said, but there was no love there. Only anger.

“You lied to me,” he sneered. “You told me we would be able to have children.” No questioning whether I was okay or not. Just that it was my fault we couldn’t have the normal life he wanted.

My then mother-in-law understood the pain somehow, but most people didn’t get it. Before we were married, I talked about having kids, never thinking that somehow my fertility would be called into question. I had told my ex before we walked down the aisle to wait five years after the wedding to have children, as we got married very young. And at 27, if you’re not trying to have a baby you’re not really thinking about your future fertility.

What men don’t understand about fertility is that it makes women feel a part of a sisterhood. From the baby dolls that we have as kids to the accentuating of our childbearing hips in fashion, we have been trained for potential motherhood for years. As a young girl, I remember the thrill of becoming a woman when I got my first period, how excited I was to sneak a pad and use it, and the fear of my mom finding out. We probably all had that experience.

In later years, it was a bonding experience between groups of girls. There was discussing the right birth control, hanging out so much your cycles began to sync with your friends, cramping and complaining about it, asking desperately for tampons in a bathroom stall, checking your backside for blood spots on white jeans, eating ice cream together and watching movies on the couch during PMS and the thrill that came with sex — with the dread of the days after until you got your next period. But as women, we did it together.

In those moments, you don’t think about having a baby, carrying a life with its heart beating away inside of you, although it’s there. As we get our periods, we are reminded once a month, every month (if we’re healthy enough, or not on a birth control that limits it) of this ability to create a living being inside of ourselves. It’s one of the reasons why menopause is so difficult; there is a feeling where a woman thinks, “Well, guess I’m not a woman anymore,” because she can no longer reproduce. There is a sense of womanhood that comes from fertility, whether or not we actually choose to have children. The difference is that most women get the choice. Some of us, like Black Widow and me, might not.

After that day at the technician’s office, my marriage would never the same. Shortly after, we went into couples’ counseling. Eventually he figured out that we could adopt, but the damage was done. Making him have sex with me before that was difficult, but then it became nearly impossible. My insecurity with the fact that I might never have children was weighing on me. I gained weight and felt less womanly, particularly as my friends were getting married and pregnant, often within quick succession.

One evening in December, I went to a baby shower. The women there began parading their children and my sadness increased inside of me. It had been two and a half years since that sunlit day in Long Beach, and I headed back to my apartment, where my ex was on the couch watching football.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Well, it’s hard going to baby showers, seeing as we might not be able to have children,” I replied.

“We’ll adopt.” It was curt in tone, almost as if he was saying that he didn’t want to have this conversation yet again with me. He went over a list in his mind of the things I needed to do: Pay this bill, take care of that call, do this or that. My heart was so empty that I couldn’t hear him.

“I need some time alone,” I said to him, and went into the other room to write. My fingers flew across the keyboard as I kept moving. Five minutes later, he came in at a commercial break with a bill and a pen.

“Oh my G-d, not another thing to do,” I whimpered. “You’ve got to give me some time.”

He threw the pen across the room and started screaming loudly at a high pitch. I watched as he began banging on the linen chest, heard him hit pillows in the other room, and run his hands up and down the blinds to make noise.

A part of my brain shrugged it off, because these tantrums with him were normal part of my life. But then I saw her, in the corner of my mind’s eye: A child, probably not more than four years old with long brown hair. She was cowering in a corner and crying as his tantrum spiraled, probably over some little thing like not putting something away the way he liked. How could you explain this to a child? What if he got out of control and hit her? How could I live with myself?

The five-year mark in our marriage was about to hit, and the pressure would be on for children. I knew that no matter what form it came in, I wanted a family, and I would protect my children at any cost. It was this moment of my life where my womanhood spurned me to action. A month later, I took my hopes for the future and very little else with me out the door, never to return.

In the years since then, I found that the women who I know where fertility is in question are the strongest women I have ever known. They are successful, smart, warm, empathetic and full of kindness. Some are married; others aren’t. They struggle, and with them I share my own, such as not knowing how to approach dating with this information or how to proceed with my future birth control. Together, we hope that one day it won’t be like this. But we find our strengths and manifest them in other places.

What the media doesn’t understand is that fertility is one part of us as women, but it’s large. I give Joss Whedon credit for creating a superhero who faces issues like all women do, because it makes us stronger in other areas. Being a woman is more than just being the superhero up front, but also the woman underneath. Sometimes it takes a “boys’ movie” to recognize it.

Deconstructing Hollywood

Hollywood is ingrained in the American DNA. It is a part of us, the message we send to the world about western culture. Even though Hollywood itself is not a pretty area of town (as only locals know), it’s the idea that comes with the name that sells it. The world funds this place, this concept, this crazy idea. And it all goes under a brand that lives on a hill in Griffith Park.

For those of us in the greater Los Angeles area, we live Hollywood more than the rest of the country. It surrounds us and gets under our skin, both the good and the bad parts. There is a sense of dreaming out here under the bright golden sun that can’t be replicated as well in other parts of the county. It’s why people come from all over the country on Greyhound buses, as the cliché goes. They want to be a part of this. And honestly, I can’t really blame them. It’s kind of amazing.

In the greater Los Angeles area, we’re all really a part of this industry, whether we’d like to be or not. I grew up with my dad bringing home editing bays for me to play on and Variety magazines to read. I swam in the lake at Skywalker Ranch as a kid and rode around the Universal backlot on a golf cart as a teen. My first term paper in high school was on the technical aspects and history of Citizen Kane (my idea). My parents encouraged my creativity. I was a part of Hollywood without being in the industry. But those of us who were raised in Los Angeles and its surrounding suburbs had similar experiences.

We knew celebrities growing up before they got famous, and often they were insufferable then too (trust me — ask anyone who knew Kim Kardashian when she was young. They all have the same story). We know people who have met celebrities or worked with them, and we all have stories if we have run across them. There are nice stories in there, as in, “I once had martinis with George Clooney at the Smokehouse and he was the coolest guy in the world” stories. But more often than not it’s the bad behavior, ranging from crazy coke parties to the numerous women shipped in like party favors, that most Angelinos remember.

In the past, it used to be that these people would be shrugged off. It was show business, and for the people involved in it, if you didn’t put up with the crazy antics that people with money would create, someone else would. We would nod at them during the day and at night share our insane stories with friends, not thinking anything about it. After all, it was the way it was. How could we change it?

It hasn’t been an immediate change, but the tides have been starting to turn over the years as to how the industry deals with bad behavior. And Cosby is the clearest evidence.

Bill Cosby was a part of the very fabric of our lives the idea that Hollywood shipped out for the world to see of American life. He had been a part of this entertainment industry for almost 50 years, telling jokes and creating sitcoms, hosting television programs among other such things. Here and internationally, he was a star.

As we know now, that entire time he was sexually assaulting women. It was a take on the famous casting couch myth: Beautiful young women wanting to make it in Hollywood, and he would offer to mentor them. He would make them a drink and they would black out. They would stand up for themselves, and he would ridicule them. When they wanted to talk about it, people would shrug it off and let it go; after all, who would believe them when this man had not only a squeaky clean image, but more money and power in the industry than most people had?

I wish I could tell you that Cosby was alone. It’s a lie. How many women have I talked to over the years that are actresses — serious actresses — who had higher-ranking men try to take advantage of them? How many Hollywood men have used their power to get women into bed with them, and the women went because they felt like they didn’t have a choice in the matter? And it has never stopped — to the point where the other day, one of my comedian friends was in an elevator and accosted by a guy who wanted to have drinks with her. He claimed to be a high-end producer and said that this was “a relationship business.”

Meanwhile, it seems to translate into what we see on screen. When casting calls go out, you read offensive language that no one bothers to correct, particularly aimed towards women. We are reduced to types: “ugly,” “girl next door,” “hot,” and “too big to be a woman, but there she is.” And then these roles get minimal exposure, maybe a line or two, if that actress is lucky. Meanwhile, the stories that are told are mainly male stories, and if they’re male stories, white male stories. There’s has never been room for anyone else. People have wanted to fight the system from the inside, but the inside has laughed it off and tried to push them off as if they were “little people” who didn’t know, couldn’t know. After all, this was Hollywood.

Over Thanksgiving, I spoke with my uncle about the Cosby case. He recalled visiting a friend in Vegas who was working with Bill Cosby. “Women were just lined outside the door. He was always a philanderer,” he said. “I don’t believe he raped women, though. He could get anyone he wanted.”

My dad and I sat there flabbergasted, trying to explain to him how the evidence was stacked against him, from 20 different women testifying to Cosby’s own comedic bit about Spanish fly. We had to remind him that rape wasn’t about sex, but about the power Cosby had as an individual with money. Rape was just one of the many abuses of it.

There, laid out in front of me, were the three generations of Hollywood: My uncle, who would shrug his shoulders and turn away from unacceptable behavior, pretending he didn’t know; my father, who would stand up against it but be shunned by people in higher positions of power; and me, who sees the change occurring and is willing to stand up and wants to be a part of it.

The social media age given people who don’t normally have a voice one that resonates and can make the world shake. It gives a rallying cry to voices that weren’t as loud before. It has allowed us to gain more information than we could in the past and make more informed decisions in media, and able to shun unacceptable behavior publicly.

Women are responding to harassment and fighting back against the Hollywood status quo, whether it’s by using the Bechdel test in trying to give more of a voice to women, responding to sexist casting calls or even putting their money more into movies with female lead characters than other movies. It’s incredible to watch us the power shift.

We still have a long way to go — women only hold three percent of decision-making positions in Hollywood and there are still improvements to be made in helping women advance in post-production, direction and more. But we are starting, and we will only grow. The Cosby case is a reflection of how far we have come. I keep reading in articles that people believe the story will die soon enough when there is a new focus. But it’s not going away. Bill Cosby is being held accountable, and while he thinks he still lives in that Hollywood age where celebrities can hide their bad behavior and make up for it in other ways, it doesn’t work that way anymore. This is a new era that will not put up with it.

When we make Hollywood a safer place, imagine the creativity that can come to the screen from everyone — men, women, black, white, Latino and more. When we keep deconstructing, we break down the walls so that the world can see us. And they need to see Hollywood, the real one — the grit and the love, the passion, sweat and tears by people who understand the responsibility we have as artists. It’s the reason why we love this place. It’s how we have ended up calling Hollywood home.