Elizabeth Olsen plays grieving widow in new Facebook series
By ALICIA RANCILIO
Wednesday, September 26
NEW YORK (AP) — Elizabeth Olsen is not a user of social media, has never been married, and has never experienced profound loss, but the actress has spent her 2018 surrounded by grief as a young widow in the new Facebook Watch series “Sorry For Your Loss.”
The 10-episode, half-hour drama premiered earlier this month on the social media’s new on-demand platform.
“It’s just a journey into how we handle grief and sometimes it’s not in the prettiest of ways, and what it brings out in people,” said Olsen.
Viewers see her character, Leigh, not only contend with a new reality and future that she never imagined, but deal with the pressure to move on from her loved ones. There’s a poignant scene where Leigh’s sister Jules (played by Kelly Marie Tran) asks her to return to the house she’s been avoiding for months — that she shared with her husband — and pick up some of her own clothes so she can stop borrowing hers. On the surface it seems like an easy ask, but beneath the surface it’s so much more.
“It’s a readjustment to how you walk through life and we’re just watching this woman adjust to how she is going to move forward because the only thing she can do is move forward,” Olsen said. “There’s no going back.”
Olsen, who is an executive producer of the series, has been involved in the project from the beginning, from its pitch to filming, and also sat in on post-production editing sessions. It’s been a welcome challenge for the actress, best known for playing the Scarlet Witch in Marvel movies.
She calls it “the No. 1 learning experience I have had.”
She says Facebook Watch felt like an appropriate home for show because the social media site is where people go to share important details.
“What I know about Facebook is that it’s a place where people find out about births and they find out about deaths and they find out about where the services will be,” she said. “It’s a community for those big experiences in people’s lives and those big moments.”
As far as tackling grief, Olsen has absorbed as much information as she could find on the topic and she wanted to portray it as realistically as possible.
“It’s constant if you’re looking for it,” she said. She studied author Joan Didion, whose 2005 book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” chronicles how she lost her husband and daughter in a short amount of time.
Olsen says she’s learned that memory is its own hurdle in the grieving process, and the series uses flashbacks to help viewers understand Leigh’s relationship with her late husband, Matt (played by Mamoudou Athie).
“When the memory starts to become foggy, (people) really feel like they didn’t just physically lose a person, now they’re losing them in their thoughts and that’s the most painful experience,” said Olsen.
And she says there’s something to be said about portraying a character who’s confronted by loss at a young age.
“She is a young woman who has lost a husband and it’s different than being a little bit older and wiser and having already experienced and trained yourself how to best go through pain and trauma,” Olsen said. “I don’t think she’s had anything this difficult in her entire life, so the person that she is, is not thoughtful right now, and that’s what was fun about it as well. It’s just kind of having some erratic behavior at times.”
Olsen is already thinking about more episodes.
“I do think about like what could we do with season two and how we could even play with our concept of memory and how we use flashbacks, and how to use it for other characters. I’d be interested in like shifting perspective a bit more and getting more creative with that, since you can’t really tell this story again.”
THE CURSE OF EVE
By Robert C. Koehler
This is so much bigger than Brett Kavanaugh, or the outcome of his nomination.
Women are suddenly opening their secret wounds. Their trauma — often many decades old — is becoming, for the first time, public. So are their tears.
Enduring a sexual assault is only the beginning of the journey through hell.
This is the awareness that has accompanied the Kavanaugh nomination and the politically motivated dismissal of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against him, beginning with Donald Trump’s all-knowing tweet: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”
It’s not easy being vulnerable!
But Trump’s callous ignorance has opened up the gates of grief and fury.
“I was watching CNN and I just broke down. I just lost it. I finally started experiencing the emotion.”
This is law professor Jeanne Woods, a friend and correspondent, talking to me a few days ago, letting it out. She was raped 45 years ago, when she was 20 years old, living in her own apartment (first time ever, her own place) in West Philadelphia.
What happened to her wasn’t simply horrific. It came wrapped in shame and confusion. This is my fault. This is my fault. Shhhhh. Tell no one.
The perpetrator was the former student of a friend, a young man struggling with his life. He had been in jail. He needed guidance — somebody to listen to him and give him encouragement. The friend had asked Jeanne if she could help him out and she was happy to oblige.
The following is a combination of Jeanne’s written account of what happened and my interview with her:
“We chatted amicably for several hours. We shared our mutual love of Khalil Gibran. (It was the seventies.) In my naiveté, when he said he had no place to go, I allowed this man I barely knew to stay overnight. I said, OK, you can crash on the sofa.”
In the middle of the night, he came into the bedroom and hit her in the head with an empty wine bottle. “There was glass in the bed, glass in my hair. I didn’t lose consciousness, I woke up.”
He tied her up, held a knife to her throat, raped her. “He refused to leave for three days, until he was sure I would never tell.”
Even then, when he finally left, she wasn’t finished with the ordeal. He tried to break into her apartment a short while later, but someone was with her and he gave up his attempt. She moved.
That was her last encounter with him.
And she moved on with her life. She told a few friends, but not the person who had asked her to meet with the attacker. She did not report it to police.
“Fear, shame. It was my fault! I had let somebody stay in my apartment. I asked for it.
“At a minimum,” she wrote to me, “your reputation will be dragged through the mud. You will be called a liar, your accusation diminished by the flippant descriptor, ‘he said, she said,’ portraying your experience as frivolous.
“It’s the curse of Eve. Woman as Temptress. I remember my all-girls Catholic high school, the nuns intoning, ‘girls, be chaste, be pure,’ because boys just can’t help themselves. If ‘something happens’ it is our fault. Our responsibility.”
So Jeanne bore this private blame for most of her life: “I did not allow myself to feel anger or grief. I never cried about it, even in private. I just picked up with my life as if nothing had happened.
“The Kavanaugh travesty has allowed me to cry at last, forty-five years after the event. Thank you Brett, and Chuck and Orrin for this public spectacle, for parading your misogyny before the world. It has ripped off the scabs, forced me to relive my terror, forced me to feel my grief. Hopefully, soon (with your help) I will get to the righteous anger that is my due. I am on my way to healing, as the nation is on its way to coming to grips with our diseased, pussy-grabbing culture.”
Three accusers have now come forward against Kavanaugh and the culture of male privilege in which he came of age, with allegations ranging from indecent exposure to attempted rape to possible participation in gang rape. The accusations are getting harder and harder for Republicans to ignore, dismiss or “plow through.”
But beyond the guilt or innocence of the nominee, America’s culture of shame is being torn to shreds as women like Jeanne Woods simply come forward with their stories. CNN reported, for instance, that the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which maintains the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE), experienced a 57 percent increase in calls since Ford came forward with her initial accusation.
And spurred by Trump’s dismissive tweet, hundreds of thousands of people, both women and men, have begun sharing their stories of abuse under the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport, according to CBS.
The culture is shifting, as the short-term agendas and long-term misogyny of so many of the nation’s “leaders” are being interrupted, at long last, by the outrage of victims who suddenly realize they are not alone.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.
After a fatal shark attack on Cape Cod, will the reaction be coexistence or culling?
September 27, 2018
Carlos G. García-Quijano
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Marine Affairs, University of Rhode Island
Carlos G. García-Quijano has received research funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Sea Grant.
Interactions between people and animals offer insights into human culture and societies’ core values. This is especially true with respect to large predators – perhaps due to a collective memory of our evolutionary past as hunted prey.
Along with fellow anthropologist John Poggie, I have been studying relationships between humans and white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) on Cape Cod since 2015. Atlantic white sharks have historically preyed on grey seals, but largely disappeared from Cape waters after hunting reduced local seal populations in the 19th century. After the Marine Mammal Protection Act was adopted in 1972, seals recovered in force, and white sharks have followed.
Since the mid-2000s, shark sightings in Massachusetts waters in summer and early fall have progressively increased. Until recently, the public response was largely positive. Our work with local stakeholders indicated an encouraging but delicate balance in the relationship between people and sharks.
But with more sharks appearing, risks increased. In 2012 a swimmer sustained moderate injuries from a white shark bite. Another swimmer was seriously injured by a shark on August 16, 2018. Then, on September 16, a 26-year-old bodyboarder was killed in what is believed to be the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936.
We have been told often on Cape Cod that a fatal attack could change everything. Now the region faces a choice: Live with predators, or try once again to eliminate either sharks or their prey.
A changing ecosystem and economy
Cape Cod is an extremely popular warm-weather destination that is highly dependent on beach tourism. Its year-round population of about 215,000 swells to over 500,000 in summer.
According to a 2012 study led by Massachusetts state shark biologist Greg Skomal, white sharks are repeat seasonal visitors to Cape Cod waters, and new white shark individuals continue to be recruited to the region every year. Anecdotal evidence supports this pattern, with shark sightings and beach closures increasing around the Cape. Media reports have featured sharks killing seals just feet from a beach and taking striped bass off fishing lines.
Sharks are culturally salient for practically every human society that has come into contact with them. Part of this reflects the risk of attack. Fatal shark attacks in the Americas have been documented by archaeologists as far back as A.D 1000.
In a variety of coastal locations, including South Africa, Australia and California, beach tourism and water sports-dependent economies have developed in the presence of white sharks. On Cape Cod, however, the timing has been different. As grey seal populations dwindled by mid-20th century, white sharks “left” the area.
Meanwhile, the relationship between people and their local coastal environment shifted as the Cape transitioned from a fishing-dependent economy into a water tourism destination. Most tourism revenue for the entire year is earned in summer – precisely when sharks converge around Cape Cod to hunt seals.
As sightings increased around the Cape over the past decade, the Massachusetts state government and nongovernmental organizations such as the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy launched acoustic tagging and monitoring programs to understand shark behavior. They also conduct public outreach and education initiatives to help people understand, appreciate and respect sharks.
Embracing the return of white sharks
We have interviewed and surveyed more than 1,300 Cape Cod residents and visitors to document challenges and opportunities posed by the sharks’ growing presence. For example, while the risk of shark attack can negatively impact beach tourism, visitor interest in white sharks is also a potential source of revenue.
In previous research, I have found that the tourism industry can be highly responsive to people’s interest in charismatic wildlife. The Cape Cod town of Chatham has adopted white sharks as icons, branding itself as “the summer home of the great white.” In June 2015 Massachusetts enacted regulations restricting recreational and commercial activities around white sharks.
Shortly after the August 16 nonfatal attack, we conducted an online survey of 1,120 Cape Cod residents and visitors to assess beliefs, attitudes, values and knowledge about white sharks in local waters. Overall, nonresidents’ attitudes seemed to be driven by their general views of nature and sharks’ place in it. Residents tended more to draw on their experience of local issues and conditions, such as how their use of beaches and local waters had changed because of sharks. They also were more likely to refer to the return of seals as a driver of rising shark populations.
Other researchers have found that when people perceive the presence of large land predators as conveying both risks and benefits, they are more likely to tolerate those predators near places of human activity. In our survey, respondents strongly agreed that white sharks had great potential to attract tourism revenue and raise environmental awareness. However, there was less agreement about how much inherent risk from sharks was acceptable. Residents were more likely to be concerned about the growing potential for shark attacks to harm tourism, fishing and their own enjoyment of water activities.
Respondents almost universally opposed lethal control measures. However, some residents strongly supported seal culls, and a number of them called the Marine Mammal Protection Act an unwanted intrusion into local affairs. In their view, the law had caused overpopulation that threatened fisheries and human safety, both via direct conflict with seals and by attracting sharks.
Massachusetts state marine biologist Greg Skomal explains how little is known about white shark populations along the East Coast.
A decision point
Since the fatal September 16 attack, one local politician has endorsed culling both sharks and seals. Biologists call culling ineffective and assert that tagging sharks is providing crucial scientific knowledge. Nonetheless, the attack has raised serious concern on and around Cape Cod, and is spurring discussion about the ethics of profiting from shark tourism.
As a precedent, Cape Cod officials and residents could look to Colorado, where cougars recolonized the area around Boulder in the 1990s.
As with sharks on Cape Cod, cougars were not purposefully reintroduced. Rather, measures protecting their habitat and food sources and restricting hunting made it possible for them to return to a new, human-dominated landscape, where leisure and outdoor recreation had largely replaced extractive resource uses such as logging and ranching. And Boulder residents had developed new sets of beliefs, attitudes and values about sharing space with large predators. After a high-profile fatal attack in 1997 and a contentious political process, Coloradans opted to forgo lethal control and focus on modifying human behavior near cougars.
Ultimately, in my view, the only activities that humans can manage and modify in a lasting way are our own. Social science can help communities strike a balance with nature by identifying acceptable trade-offs between the risks and benefits of coexistence. The return of white sharks to Cape Cod is just the latest example of the complex challenges, opportunities, and trade-offs posed by conservation in a time when humans have such broad influence over the natural world.
Some black Americans see racial comeuppance in Cosby saga
By ERRIN HAINES WHACK
AP National Writer
Thursday, September 27
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — After spending years building his persona as a model husband and father, Bill Cosby took an abrupt turn nearly 15 years ago with a now-infamous speech to an NAACP convention.
He used his celebrity status to condemn poor African-Americans, chiding them to pull up their sagging pants, deriding them for having children out of wedlock and blaming them for their impoverished circumstances.
“Are you not paying attention? People with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack with names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap, and all of them are in jail.”
Cosby himself is now in a Pennsylvania prison cell, and many black Americans see his sentence as a moment of racial comeuppance.
As they learned of Cosby’s three- to 10-year prison term for sexual assault, the same people who were his targets in the 2004 speech regarded his fate as a convergence of karma, hubris and hypocrisy. Some quoted Cosby’s own words in tweets announcing the sentence.
Cosby “made the decision to focus his attention on beating up on the black poor, on telling the world that black people were dysfunctional, pathological and undeserving of equal protection under the law,” said Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill. “When somebody like that, who positions themselves as the moral authority of black America, gets called onto the carpet, you ain’t getting no breaks here. People are going to be frustrated.”
Writer Michael Arceneaux said Cosby’s contempt for people who grew up in low-income communities, as Arceneaux did in Houston, left him with little sympathy for Cosby, who also hailed from humble beginnings.
“I found it enraging,” Arceneaux said of the “Poundcake” speech, so called because Cosby make a remark about blacks supposedly getting shot in disputes over dessert cake.
“I knew he was a hypocrite. To learn how much pain he has caused to women over decades . I find it ironic. Those speeches proved to be his undoing. I’m glad he got what he deserved,” he added.
Cosby’s own words were a catalyst for his downfall. In a July 2015 memo outlining the decision to unseal a 2005 deposition in the case, a federal judge cited the speech: “This case . is not about defendant’s status as a public person by virtue of the exercise of his trade as a televised or comedic personality. Rather, defendant has donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, child rearing, family life, education and crime.”
“The stark contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist, and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct, is a matter as to which . the public has a significant interest,” he continued.
Cosby pointed to systemic irresponsibility, not racism, as the root cause of what was wrong with black culture. But after his sentencing, spokesman Andrew Wyatt called Cosby’s trial “the most racist and sexist” in American history. He referred to the entertainer as “one of the greatest civil rights leaders” and accused the media, judge and prosecution team of prejudice against a black man.
Cosby, who is 81 and legally blind, was the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be sent to prison. The movement, which began a year ago, has centered around men in Hollywood, the media and politics. While several powerful men have lost their livelihoods and reputations, no one else has lost their freedom.
Tuesday’s sentencing came amid a firestorm surrounding the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who is accused by three women of sexual misconduct as a high school and college student. Kavanaugh has denied all of the allegations and is expected to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford.
Rather than reveling in revenge for Cosby, the focus now should be on justice for all credible accusers, Columbia University political science professor Keith Boykin said.
“He disappointed me. He didn’t put anything in my drink,” Hill said. “As awful as he has been to the world, my commitment is not to punishing Bill Cosby. It’s getting justice for his victims.”
Whack is the Associated Press’ national writer for race and ethnicity. Follow her work on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous .
Things have changed since Anita Hill – sort of
September 27, 2018
Professor of psychology, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Meg Bond was a member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace that helped to inform the report referenced in this article. She also receives funding from the ADVANCE Program of the National Science Foundation.
University of Massachusetts provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
In 1991, Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Thomas was nonetheless confirmed. Now, as Brett Kavanaugh faces an allegation of sexual assault, observers are saying that “things have changed since Anita Hill.”
As a scholar who studies gender dynamics in organizations, I believe the question of whether the #MeToo, #TimesUp and related movements have ushered in significant change is intertwined with three other questions, for which there has been some research:
Are sexual harassment and sexual assault still as common?
Are women now more ready to report?
Are women’s reports taken more seriously?
Anita Hill’s experience involved workplace sexual harassment that was sustained over time. Christine Blasey Ford reported an attempted rape at age 15 that was a traumatic, intense one-time incident. Yet there are also clear similarities: similar alleged sexualized mistreatment, similar last-minute accusation derailing what seemed to be a foregone conclusion, similar male-dominated group standing in judgment, similar strong feelings from the public.
On the surface, the parallels are uncanny.
Are sexual harassment and sexual assault as common now as they were in the early 1990s?
The research suggests that sexual harassment and sexual assault still happen at alarming rates, but assessing change over time is complicated.
In terms of sexual harassment, a detailed 2016 report by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission summarized decades of research, including studies that found that 85 percent of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment.
Across studies, researchers have found that the more blatant forms of sexual harassment, such as threats or coercion, are somewhat less common than when Anita Hill accused Thomas, while the hostile work environment forms, such as sexist and sexualizing comments and sidelining of women, still abound.
These studies show that sexual harassment rates remain particularly high for women of color and for women who are isolated, economically vulnerable, or in settings where more traditional beliefs about gender roles are held – or a combination of all those factors. Not much seems to be changing in terms of these dynamics. But survey studies do not tend to look at incidence year by year.
Data about legal claims provide some insights about change over time. There were 10,500 reports of sexual harassment filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1992, the year after Hill testified; 11,300 such cases came before the commission in 2011.
In terms of sexual assault, the Department of Justice estimates that rates have fallen 63 percent since 1993, from 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993 to 1.6 per 1000 in 2015. But it’s important to avoid confusing this reduction with “problem solved.” One recent poll reveals that about 25 percent of college-age women reported being sexually assaulted in 2015.
The findings summarized above do not lead to a definitive conclusion that harassment has gone up or sexual assault has gone down. There are at least two complicating factors.
First, in what seems like a contradictory finding, reports often go up, not down, following interventions designed to reduce sexual harassment. Rather than signaling spiraling incidence, increased reporting is often intertwined with increased awareness of what constitutes unacceptable behavior.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission numbers have ebbed and flowed over the years with reports rising to over 15,000 per year in the late 1990s after Anita Hill’s testimony. It would not be surprising if the number of cases goes back up in the next few years after the past year’s events. And such an upsurge may well represent progress because it may say more about changing norms about how women should be treated than about the incidence of harassment and discrimination.
Researchers have also found that saying “yes” to a survey item that simply asks “have you ever been sexually harassed” hovers in the 25 percent range. However, many of the same respondents who say they have not been “sexually harassed” will say yes when asked whether they have been “threatened if you did not cooperate with a bosses’ sexual advances.”
Second, the risk of relying on formal reporting, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Department of Justice data, is that this only captures the cases where women filed a formal report. This brings us to question number two: Are women now more likely to report to authorities?
The vast majority of cases of harassment or assault are not reported to anyone in authority. This was true in the time of Anita Hill, and it remains true.
Studies reveal that as many as 90 percent of women who experience workplace harassment never report it. That has led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to conclude that the least common response to harassment is to take some sort of formal action.
Decades of research have shown that women also have rarely reported sexual assaults, and that is true to date. In a 2015 survey of more than 1,000 college aged students, only 12 percent who said they had been sexually assaulted reported the incident to police or other authorities. About a quarter of all survivors never told anyone – not even a close friend.
A recent Department of Justice report estimates that only 23 percent of sexual assaults in 2016 were reported to police, compared to 58 percent of aggravated assaults.
The reasons why gender violence is not reported have also not changed much over the years. Women – then and now – have good reason to worry that they might be shamed, disbelieved, humiliated and ostracized.
Changes in culture
The personal struggle around whether reporting an incident is worthwhile is grounded in an understanding of the real costs – emotional, relational, economic and professional. And that leads to the third question: Are women taken more seriously now than they have been in the past?
In some pockets, yes; in others, clearly no.
There is not yet much empirical evidence of changes in societal attitudes about sexual harassment and sexual assault since #MeToo. One thing we do know, however, is that the accusations in both Supreme Court situations are engendering similarly strong reactions from political commentators, senators and the general public.
In response to Anita Hill, 1,600 African-American women took out an ad in The New York Times to indicate their support. More than 1,000 of Ford’s fellow students have signed a letter that attested to the rape culture that surrounded their shared high school experience. Then and now, the accusations ring true for many other women.
The #MeToo movement has clearly triggered greater discussion not only in social and traditional media, but also in public discourse, academic panels and special issues of professional journals.
Yet, these indicators beg the question of whether reports of gender violence are taken seriously by powerful decision-makers.
The efforts to discredit Ford’s allegations are reminiscent of responses to Anita Hill and are clearly so entangled with political agendas that thoughtful, serious reactions to the allegations are getting drowned out by talking points. Those include questioning the timing of the polygraph or casting a reluctance to come forward as something other than a well-founded worry about being shamed in public.
Here is what we know more generally: Studies reveal that employees – both men and women – who speak up about workplace harassment face retaliation, trivialization, hostility and reprisals. One study found that 75 percent of formal reports of workplace harassment were followed by some form of retaliation, ranging from shunning by coworkers to denial of a promotion. Women also face doubt and blame when they report sexual assault – some even refer to the response as a second rape.
Have things changed?
Public awareness of both sexual harassment and sexual assault seems to have gone up, but rates remain troubling and the barriers to reporting and being taken seriously remain unchanged.
If the Senate Committee supports a full, respectful investigation that is outside of the political circus, and waits to hold a vote on confirmation of Kavanaugh until after all the facts are in, then we could conclude that something significant has shifted.