Almost Every week we see, once-powerful men being brought to negative light and sometimes removed from their jobs in light of sexual harassment and assault allegations. At first, it was a slow tilt of an axle with Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly who saw their careers turned upside down by women who accused them of years of unwanted sexual behavior. Then came movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged acts of sexual assault and harassment, which completely tipped the axle. Now, the amount of women’s voices grows more powerful every day as more allegations against powerful/wealthy men go public across numerous industries and life in general. This has even inspired a worldwide movement known as #metoo allowing women to share their experiences of sexual harassment. Of course these allegations don’t come without any cost or repercussion some that could affect these women’s lives, safety and careers and yet still they rise. After much research on the history of famous sexual allegations from past till present and everything that comes with being a women in these types of situations, one cannot help but think of Maya Angelou’s famous poem “Still I rise”. Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I rise” draws a connection to every women who has spoken out against sexual harassment/assault renewal and perseverance not only in the industry but also daily life in general and why others are gaining confidence.
For starters looking at one of the earliest allegations towards Harvey Weinstein made by accuser Ambra Battilana Gutierrez the brave model who risked her career by speaking out against the Weinstein in 2015. After Gutierrez accused Weinstein, she was faced with tabloid attacks and was unprepared for the barrage of negative pres that she gained. Tabloids were twisting her words and making it seem as though she was lying about the whole incident which ultimately caused her modeling career to dry up. Gutierrez herself stated “Even restaurants in Soho, where the fashion world hang out, closed their doors to me. I was unwelcome.
“(NY Daily Mail) This ties into the first stanza of the the poem “Still I Rise” Maya Angelou starts off with”You may write me down in history, With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise” Tabloids and pres tried to belittle Gutierrez and make it seem like she was the one at fault, ruining her name and career. But in the end still she rises. Due to the recent sexual allegations Weinstein has faced and the amount of women coming out against him and his recent firing from his own company Gutierrez’s allegation is no longer seen as a joke or lie. Already this month, the former model shot a bathing suit campaign in Miami and a bridal spread in Midtown and is on the cover of Daily Mail for being confident enough to speak out against him.(NY Daily Mail) She was also spotted in New York recently in top shape glowing(DailyMail). Maya Angelou’s second stanza states “Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room.” Gutierrez is a real life example of “Still I Rise” through the toughest of situations when one is treated upon like dirt and yet she still rises through renewal and perseverance. Another prime example is the story of former news anchor for fox news Gretchen Carlson who first showed women that it was possible to take on influential men and live to tell about it through perseverance.
She accused Roger Ailes, the late chairman of Fox News, of sabotaging her career after she rejected his sexual advances. Ailes thought that after sabotaging Carlson career that, that would keep her silent about the whole situation weakening her to a state of silence but on the contrary it only made her rise. In stanza 4 of “Still I Rise” Angelou states “Did you want to see me broken?, Bowed head and lowered eyes?, Shoulders falling down like teardrops,Weakened by my soulful cries?” which is exactly what Ailes expected of Carlson after her allegation of against him turned on her.
Even going as far as to asking her a second time stating “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.”-Ailes(USA Today) contrary to what Ailes expected just like the poem “Still I rise” “You may shoot me with your word” Carlson created a new agenda: Combating sexual harassment. She recently published her book Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back(USA Today) and she’s lobbying Capitol Hill to end forced arbitration agreements in sexual harassment cases. Not only that but the settlement ended in a 20 million dollar which played a key role in Roger Ailes stepping down as FOX news CEO. Once again like Maya Angelou said in “Still I Rise”You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise” In the end Carlson still rose to the challenge even though having to deal with high in power hatefulness and is encouraging other women to do the same.
In response to the growing number of women coming forward about sexual harassment/assault about different famous male celebrities, women have been using #MeToo as a way to share their own experiences with sexual assault and/or harassment and how they overcame it. Not only does this movement completely embody the theme of “Still I Rise” it also ties closely to the author Maya Angelou herself. When she was younger Maya Angelou was raped at age 7 and did not speak for five years. “Still I Rise” was part of her collection “Why the caged bird sings” which has part to do with her way of speaking about her rape and the sense of renewal and perseverance she had to that allowed her to get through it which is exactly what the #MeToo movement is doing. Every day there’s a new allegation. The #MeToo moment has, in about a month, overturned the landscape of a handful of highly visible and high-powered workplaces. It has given women a sense of confidence and security and most importantly a strong support system.
This movement is doing exactly what stanza 9 says “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave”, women are no longer afraid to speak up, they are using the gift of a platform that women who were in similar situations created to shed light to the issue of sexual harassment and assault from men in higher power. “I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise” In the end there’s a defiance in the poem just as to how women are defying society’s brush off of sexual harassment.
The poem just like women is trying to prick the conscience of the oppressor, by exhibiting a sense of confidence and perseverance while showing an all around positive outlook.