In 2016, Shaun White had to pay the piper for doing some pretty disgusting things to a former member of his band Bad Things. Essentially, in order for Lena Zawaideh to keep her job as a drummer, she had to wear sexy clothing (including underwear), watch pornography, and be the recipient to perverse text messages. He did this for years. Five, I believe. She eventually sued him for unpaid wages, eventually enveloping his perverse behavior into the lawsuit. Screenshots were used as evidence, and he, unlike many sexual predators, didn’t deny the acts or their gravity. He paid out, and stuck his tail between his legs; in 2017 the suit was settled.
Two issues now come to light that for some reason have been completely ignored.
First; the duration of the harassment. White harassed and sexually belittled her for years. I’ll never deny how uncomfortable, demeaning, and disrespectful that must have been for Zawaideh, however, why didn’t she quit the band? If my coworker or employer did things like stick his hands down his pants and told me to smell them, why on earth would I continue working there? If watching pornography became part of my job, and wearing a shirt with holes in it that revealed my nipples became part of my job, you can be damned sure I’m leaving. Zawaideh tolerated it for so long because, “I did not want to cause injuries to the band, or be fired by White.”
In an ideal world, no, she shouldn’t have to put up with this, but I can’t stress enough how this isn’t an ideal world. People from every side of the political, religious, racial, and economic spectrum commit terrible atrocities—including lascivious ones—to members of their own group, as well as others; this world is anything but ideal. So no, Zawaideh ideally shouldn’t have been exposed to this, but she was. However, her occupation wasn’t derived in indentured servitude. I know it’s probably going to be uncomfortable to hear this, but she made a choice to stick in there rather than jump ship.
In a text message between the two, regarding White wanting her to cut her hair and her resisting, he said, “Are you sure you want to make this decision?” Meaning, she was in the position of either choosing (hence the term decision) or refusing, or in other words, walking away from the job. He never physically tore her clothes off and raped her. I realize many reading this will interpret me as victim-blaming or belittling Zawaideh, making White seem less responsible, etc., but that’s not the case; he’s still responsible for the actions he chose to perform. But are we being fully honest about the actions she chose to condone? Did she do all she could to put up boundaries, or separate herself from someone so arrogantly lascivious? This is an important question, because each time she was complicit to him, she gave a drunk a drink.
Why do I bring this up? Because the case was settled after years of harassment. It’s not victim blaming to ask Zawaideh, an adult, how those first instances of crude, lascivious behavior became years, because critical self-reflection is what helps us see red flags and respond to them accordingly, not enable or justify them. A text message of White’s erect penis is a red flag. Weinstein in a bath towel is a red flag. They’re clearly predators, why be prey?
In other words, if we were to classify the harassment, was White’s harassment of Zawaideh terminal, meaning, Zawaideh had absolutely no way of evading or remediating, or was it non-terminal, meaning, she had access to means of evasion or remediation? These are real—albeit uncomfortable—questions to ask, because this isn’t an ideal world; it’s pretty ugly, and ugliness isn’t perpetuated from only one side. It never has been and it never will be.
If we continue on the path of viewing harassment cases in an imbalanced way—“Only men are responsible!”—then there will be women who choose to give men in power blowjobs for a few years, only to sue them afterward for mega money. The awful examples don’t end there, but I won’t go further. We need to have practical foresight for what we’re advocating, but unfortunately, #MeToo is such a reactive ideology that it refuses to explore or even validate this line of thinking.
This reminds me of how, amidst all the Hollywood actresses the #MeToo movement exalted who claimed to have been abused by men in power, it included the ones who willingly performed sexual acts on Weinstein to advance their career. Keep in mind Zawaideh didn’t tolerate White’s behavior for a month, she tolerated it for five years. Thus, #MeToo has a lot of clarifying to do, because what they view as “abuse and harassment by people in power” is a much more complex matter than they want to believe.
The second issue that has come to light is: #MeToo used a potshot to create unnecessary drama.
White had just completed an historic gold medal run and was of course, high. Not, not on drugs, but high on competitive success. As a thirty year old he bested decade-younger competition and was feeling elated. Yet, in an Olympic press conference, the gold medal winner was asked if he believed a previously settled sexual harassment suit would tarnish his legacy. Caught off guard, he misspoke. Before you call me a harassment apologist, ask yourself: “Have I ever misspoken when I was completely caught off guard?” (If you say, “I never [insert White’s lascivious behavior]!” then you’re completely missing the point.
White misspoke in his response by referring to the sexual harassment lawsuit as “gossip.” No, it wasn’t gossip, and he knew that: he admitted so during the trial, and reiterated the case’s seriousness in the post press conference press conference that Leftist ideologues necessitated. Everyone knows his sexual harassment case wasn’t gossip and that it was a big deal, but the media and the ideological Left loved his mis-step. Thus, the #MeToo movement succeeded in a winning a petty victory, pivoting the spotlight off the Olympics and onto a sexual harassment case that had already been settled. Why does he have to pull out some crystal ball and attempt to predict the future about his legacy to some journalist addicted to controversy-porn? Only history can tell if he’s worthy of being remembered, so what’s the point in asking him this question right after he got yet another gold? This is no different than attending someone’s second wedding—whose first ended due to his/her infidelity—and vehemently “opened a discussion/raised awareness” in the church about whether his/her previous marriage’s infidelity would tarnish this one. The Olympic journalist was clearly making a dark statement about White’s character, rather than celebrating his incredible athletic achievement. Advocates of the #MeToo movement will likely say, “That’s right! Why should we forget about his awful past!” But again, I wonder if the movement has truly and fully thought this statement out.
Can people not change? Should they not be given a second chance?
If the answer is “Yes, but depending upon what they did,” then that same gradient should be applied to those claiming to be abused. One-size fits all thinking just don’t work, does it?
If the answer is no, then the #MeToo movement is going to have to explain to minorities and members of historically marginalized groups with criminal records why they shouldn’t be given a second chance, either.
Hence, relativizing social doctrines just creates chaos, but that seems like exactly what #MeToo is unwittingly advocating.
Unlike many women who the #MeToo movement represent, Zawaideh was never overlooked. I tend to think the women who were raped and then overlooked, (not those who negotiated with sex), would be the ones on #MeToo’s radar. But is Zawaideh really the ideal spokesperson for the #MeToo movement?
The #MeToo movement and all its apologists succeeded yet failed at the Olympics, because even though there has been a lack of what they deem sexual harassment and abuse at the actual games, they found a way to get some in there. Even if it was by taking a potshot at an Olympic gold medalist with a regrettable past.