27-You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 -But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28
Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has started an avalanche of confessions that has inherently catapulted us into an era of airing out or venting off our steam as women. One woman’s report of sexual assault has led to other admissions and confessions.
Harvey Weinstein, CBE is an American film producer and former film studio executive. He and his brother Bob Weinstein co-founded Miramax, has directed many films, including Pulp Fiction, Clerks, The Crying Game, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Harvey won an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love. This past week a growing number of women have heaped numerous allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape against him, leading to Harvey Weinstein being fired by his company’s board of directors, and later expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. To date, 60 women have raised their assault flags.
Today, I am taking a cue from Alyssa Milano and herein report #Me too: I’ve been harassed, assaulted, and molested. There are some men, who generally feel, it is their right to and take women as sex objects and treat them anyhow. And in all cases, I ended up leaving the job.
Fast-forward to Malawi my first “#MeToo” time was when late Dumbo Lemani, (who later became United Democratic Front (UDF) minister, who was Marketing Manager in 1978 at the defunct Marketing Services Malawi (MSM), and I was a young graduate on a management trainee. Every time I passed his Lemani’s office, he’d call me in and tell me how he can make me a manager in shorter time if I agreed to be his “friend.” All these moves (that sometimes threatened to get physical), were made despite his second wife also working at the same company.
It was a blessing in disguise that I was called to start my post-graduate course at Chancellor College.
The second incident of harassment in the work place was in 1984, when former Official Hostess asked women any challenges they encounter (this was at the time Government was launching Chitukuko Cha Amain in Malawi – CCAM, I recall my sister (late Miriam) and my friend Emmie Chanika requesting me to ask about how the government can help women on sexual harassment situations in the work place. This was a challenge my sister and friend encountered in their work places (NICO and the Malawi Red Cross).
Sadly, while, the Mama Kadzamira (who was accompanied by cabinet ministers late Robson Chirwa and late Edward Bwanali), took the questions in tow, the rest of the nation decided to look at the question as an innuendo. So instead of dealing with this in the conversation, people after the meeting delved into flights of fancy and began to envision me being arrested for the innuendo in my question to the former Official Hostess (which was the farthest from my mind).
Very soon after this meeting, I was moved to Malawi News as assistant editor. The two pages that I edited (Women’s Page and Leisure Page, were discontinued.
In 1986, I was pregnant with my last-born child, and a high-ranking official at my work, Ben Kapeta, said the Daily Times had received a letter to select a journalist to go to the US to witness the elections (Ronald Reagan’s second term). To continue the discussion, Kapeta called me to his office three or four times a day for the duration of my pregnancy. My office was upstairs on the other side of the building; Kapeta would call me to go to his office to “discuss the pending trip to the US presidential elections.”
As time got closer, I planned for the trip (traditional outfits were tailored, made plans to leave my four-month baby and his elder brother with my Mum and Dad….). I also called the USIS Frank Kamwendo to get more information.
It was suspicious when apart from Frank not seeing Malawi on the list of country guests for the election monitoring, Kapeta stopped requesting the 3-trip per day to his office. In my frustration, I decided to discuss this with my Pastor Barbara. She told me that some men are attracted to pregnant women.
I was disgusted, humiliated, and felt used. I acted on this by writing to the Managing Director Daman, to lodge a complaint on being sexually harassed at BP&P premises. The letter asked the management to explain why I was involved in the farce (wasting company time, lying about a foreign government and most of all, harassing me in the manner I was subjected to and for over four months.
When the response came, I was chided and told that the error I had made (sending a blind copy to the Chairman of BP&P John Tembo), was too much to bear and that he’d closed the case. I was not to make another mistake.
The first mistake was asking Mama about sexual harassment (for this, my column – Women’s Page – was cancelled and I was “buried” as assistant editor at the weekly Malawi News.), the second was sending BP&P Chairman John Tembo a blind copy “at a time when the Board and management were on good terms,” Daman said.
I was made to sit with literary one foot out the door in a company where any turn I made, can be viewed differently, I survived six months. With such the threat from Daman, although a victim, I was compelled to resign from BP&P within two months.
Other cases of abuse range from a family friend offering me his sexual upkeep services (because maybe I’m not getting any at home, since he sees my husband on the dance floor with another woman, not me…). Then there was the time one man grabbed my breast when we were leaving a burial ceremony. When I asked him what he was doing, he said “you are now fair game, since your husband is not here!” To him since my husband had passed away three weeks from this assault, he could do anything he wanted with me.
I felt humiliated and my worth cheapened. That night I cried in my sleep for a different reason other than the loss of my husband.
The sting of sexual harassment and assault is painful, dehumanizing, disempowering, and disrespectful to all women.
To men, the message must still be that the women a mother, a sister, or a daughter to someone.
Give mother, sister, and daughter the respect we deserve.