Terry Crews plays a super buff policeman on television, but what his recent actions IRL showed true strength.
The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star appeared in front of the Unites States Senate Judiciary Committee on June 26 to advocate for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, using his own experience as a powerful example of why the bill is necessary. Crews spoke alongside activist Amanda Nguyen, the creator of the bill (and a serious badass). Signed into law in 2016 under the Obama administration, the bill aims to remove the burden of sexual assault from survivors. When implemented, it will mean that survivors will have the right to fully subsidized rape kits, access to police reports and access to counselling services.
In his powerful six-minute opening statement, Crew detailed his own alleged assault by Hollywood agent Adam Venit at a party in 2016. (Venit denies the allegation and the Los Angeles County District Attorney has determined that “the case is not a felony,” Variety reported in March.) He also spoke candidly about how rape culture had previously influenced his own views about women.
However, by speaking out about toxic masculinity, Crews became the target of some very toxic behaviour courtesy of rapper and producer 50 Cent a.k.a Curtis James Jackson III, who instead of supporting Crews and other survivors, used the opportunity to ridicule and belittle Crews’ experience.
Following Crews’ testimony, the rapper made a mocking Instagram post (which has since been deleted). The post contained two photos of Crews, one where the muscular actor was shirtless with the text “I got raped” and “My wife just watched” on either side of his body. Below was another image of Crews with a rose between his teeth, labelled “Gym time.” 50 Cent captioned the post “LOL, What the f-ck is going on out here man? Terry: I froze in fear, (laughing emoji) they would have had to take me to jail.”
50 Cent received swift backlash for his post from celebs and fans alike, most notably from #MeToo founder Tarana Burke.”This is sickening,” Burke tweeted. “I get asked on the regular why I think the #metooMVMT hasn’t taken off in hip-hop/r&b – well, case in point.” Burke then went on to call out the one celeb who defended the rapper’s comments: music producer Russell Simmons (@unclerush on Instagram), who’d responded to the initial post with a short, but telling, comment in the form of a cry-laughing emoji.
shit like this is the reason men don’t come forward as victims of sexual assault often. 50 Cent is publicly mocking Terry Crews, allowing Russell Simmons (friends with Crews’ abuser who tried to get him to drop the charges) to openly laugh at him. pic.twitter.com/J16TUvDUYi
— wesley (@wslymcln) June 26, 2018
Simmons himself faces 13 accusations of sexual harassment and rape and is being investigated by New York police. The music producer is also friends with Crews’s alleged abuser, and reportedly encouraged the actor to give Venit “a pass.”
And if you were wondering whether 50 Cent regrets his Instagram post, the rapper responded to the backlash on Twitter by doubling down on his sentiments, acting as if the whole situation was a big joke and deflecting any chance at a productive conversation around his actions—and toxic masculinity as a whole. “This is me recovering from having my sense of humour removed this morning,” the rapper tweeted, alongside a photo of himself asleep on a couch. “People are so sensitive, my doctor said I will be fine in six weeks, but my publicist said if you see any journalists play DEAD. (angry emoji) get the strap.”
This is me recovering from having my sense of humor removed this morning. People are so sensitive, my doctor said l will be fine in six weeks, but my publicist said if you see any journalist play DEAD. get the strap pic.twitter.com/yOTngui8ra
— 50cent (@50cent) June 27, 2018
But while 50 Cent is trying to play off his comments as a joke, what he’s actually doing is upholding toxic masculinity.
At the core of this issue is an outdated idea of what it means to, “be a man.” Chatelaine‘s 2018 #TheManSurvey found that 57% of the Canadian men surveyed grew up believing that “being a man” meant physical strength, and author Rachel Giese points to the sociological metaphor of the “man box” to describe the social rules of masculinity, in which men are told they have to be unemotional, aggressive, strong, risk taking and *always* in control. Transgressing these rules is un-masculine, and to be vulnerable, as Crews was when testifying, is feminine or weak. But this is a seriously detrimental attitude, in part because it deters male survivors from reporting.
In the United States, one in six men will experience sexual harassment or abuse in their lifetime, but most of these incidents go unreported. (In Canada, an estimated 90% of all sexual assaults—regardless of gender—go unreported.) Fears around masculinity and assault can be especially prevalent in racialized communities, where there can be even more shame and stigma around assault thanks in part to the repercussions of colonial trauma.
Fiddy and Simmons’s inability to see beyond this backwards stereotype speaks to the harm this form of masculinity has on everyone. Because it really *does* affect us all. The stigma can deter survivors from reporting, and for those who do take the step to disclose, having their accounts disbelieved or mocked can be re-traumatizing. As for the rest of us? This form of masculinity, when unchallenged, can lead to the perpetuation of misogyny and rape culture and bar us from moving forward as a progressive, equal society—and that isn’t good for anyone. While emphasis has been emplaced on raising boys and re-defining masculinity from the bottom up, if anything, the rapper’s comments demonstrate the need to open up the masculinity conversation to all generations.
That’s something Crews is well-aware of; in fact, it’s precisely what the actor was warning about in his testimony. Unfortunately, the message didn’t seem to affect them.
“As a man, I was taught my entire life that I must control the world,” Crews told Congress. “So I used power, influence and control to dominate every situation from the football field to the film set, even in my own home with my wife and children.” Growing up, Crews noted that he viewed women as less than him, belittling and overlooking their voices. But his own assault changed that. “The assault lasted only minutes, but what he was effectively telling me while he held my genitals in his hand was that he held the power. That he was in control,” recounted Crews. “This is how toxic masculinity permeates culture.”
WATCH – @terrycrews full opening statement: “I am honored to use my platform and story to help create additional civil rights protections for survivors across the nation under the Sexual Assault #SurvivorsBillofRights.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 26, 2018
We can only hope that with more men speaking out, naysayers will realize that assault can happen to anyone. And survivors, regardless of gender, deserve our support.
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