Mugshot Madness (Fashion Edition): NeNe Leakes Is Selling Shirts With Her Mugshot on Them Following “RHOA” Drama

Sheree Whitfield really thought she was doing something when she brought up NeNe Leakes’ old mugshots. Unfortunately, her little shade backfired and NeNe is the one getting the last laugh.

Thanks to Sheree, NeNe is ready to embrace and profit from her past. On Tuesday (Jan. 16), NeNe took to Instagram to debut two t-shirts available on her online boutique featuring a mugshot from an arrest from 25 years ago. “From MUGSHOTS to MILLIONS,” she wrote.

Instagram Photo

One of the shirts also includes the phrase “Growing Pains.” NeNe explains that growing up without her father and mother contributed to behavior that led to her being arrested when she was 25.

“Growing up without my mother or father i experienced many growing pains but without them, i could not be who i am or have accomplished the things that i have today.

“Your past does NOT determine your future. From Trial to Triumph i hope that i can inspire anybody to embrace and not be ashamed of what your past has made you become today!”

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NeNe’s new “mugshot collection” was inspired after Sheree tried to come for her by bringing up her old mugshot during the most recent episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta. Sheree was feeling some type of way after NeNe questioned her relationship with Tyrone Gilliams—who is currently in jail for fraud—and called him a con-artist.

Leakes later said on Watch What Happens Live!:

“I really don’t care about Shereé bringing up a mugshot. Anybody can get a mugshot. A mugshot does not equal 10 years in prison for doing a Ponzi scheme.

“And by the way, Shereé can be worried about her own mugshot, her son got a mugshot and her man got a mugshot.”

NeNe’s own run-in with laws occurred back in the early 1990’s. A 25-year-old Linnethia Johnson was arrested in 1992 on three felony counts and one misdemeanor count of thefts of service from a phone company.

She pleaded guilty to all four counts and was ordered to repay $2,650 and was placed on two years of probation. However, NeNe was later arrested three more times for violating her probation and shoplifting.

NeNe’s mugshot t-shirts are expected to go on sale later this week exclusively at her Swagg Boutique in Atlanta and its website.

Mugshot Madness (Fashion Edition): NeNe Leakes Is Selling Shirts With Her Mugshot on Them Following “RHOA” Drama is a post from: Gossip On This – Pop Culture, News, Videos & Humor

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Tyler Hilinski: Washington State Quarterback Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

21-year-old Tyler Hilinski, a quarterback for Washington State, was found dead of an apparent suicide Tuesday (Jan 16) in Pullman, WA.

Pullman police said Hilinksi suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was found with a rifle and a suicide note next to him.

Police said they were dispatched to Hilinski’s apartment after he failed to “show up for practice earlier in the day.”

Hilinski, a native of Claremont, California, had just finished his redshirt sophomore season for the Cougars. He enrolled at Washington State in January 2015 after attending Upland High School in Southern California.

He started the team’s “Holiday Bowl” game against Michigan State last month, and was due to take over as the starting QB next season.

Washington State president Kirk Schulz tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hilinski family.”

Washington State student body president Jordan Frost wrote on Twitter, “My deepest condolences and prayers go to the Hilinski family. May God give them peace and restoration in this time,” and provided the number to the school’s 24-hour counseling line.

Hilinski’s younger brother, Ryan, is a highly-regarded quarterback prospect in the Class of 2019, ESPN reported.

Pullman Police detectives and the Whitman County Coroner’s Office said they were “conducting a thorough investigation” to confirm Hilinski’s cause and manner of death.

Tyler Hilinski: Washington State Quarterback Found Dead of Apparent Suicide is a post from: Gossip On This – Pop Culture, News, Videos & Humor

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Why Did The Last Jedi Fail so Badly in China?

“Fail” is a kind way of putting it. “Bombed” is more accurate. The latest Star Wars epic is likely to earn less than movies like Valerian (remember Valerian?) and Geostorm (huh?) in the Chinese market.

Although The Last Jedi was the biggest movie in North America in 2017—raking in a domestic box office of $591 million and $1.2 billion worldwide—China is the world’s #2 market and therein, The Last Jedi has spluttered and struggled and finally been put out of its misery.

The film has done so badly that Disney is pulling it from China after a mere two weeks of play time. “It’s performed much worse than we could have expected,”  Jimmy Wu, chairman of nationwide Chinese cinema chain Lumiere Pavilions, told The Hollywood Reporter. Ouch.

The Last Jedi bowed with $28.7 million in China but only managed to grab $2.4 million the next weekend, which is a decline of 92% and mind-bogglingly bad by giant movie standards. So what happened here?

THR puts forward the theory that The Last Jedi, as a sequel that relies heavily on nostalgia for a trilogy released decades ago, plus prequels and one-shots, doesn’t hold appeal for Chinese audiences who are not already invested in Luke Skywalker & Co.

…a large part of Star Wars’ struggles in China stem from the fact that the original three films never received a wide release in the country.

“Because of the complex characters and themes, the prequels, and all of the multi-generational layers that are part of the culture, or cult, of Star Wars, it’s been hard for young Chinese filmgoers to get into the franchise.”

The Force Awakens did much better in China, but that movie was the first of the new Star Wars films and benefited from audience curiosity. Rogue One also performed better than The Last Jedi, but Rogue One was a standalone film and featured Chinese stars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen. By contrast, as THR points out, “the new Star Wars films lean especially heavily on references and nostalgia for the originals.”

We imagine that might only increase after The Last Jedi—although, with the loss of Carrie Fisher and what happens with Luke, it could be the case that the new young generation of characters could be going it alone now. Still, I can’t imagine we won’t see a Force ghost or two.

This box office implosion news made me step back and consider what it must be like to look at The Last Jedi with eyes that are not steeped in Star Wars lore. While those of us who love the property often thrill at in-the-know references and winking nostalgia, for Star Wars newbies all that nuance is lost, and throwbacks can feel confusing. If you’d never watched a Star Wars movie before The Last Jedi, what would you think when Yoda popped up? Who the hell is Leia and how does she fly back to a ship after being blown into the frozen vacuum of space? Why does everyone keep calling Kylo Ren “Ben”?

The Last Jedi is a very long movie with several complex plots happening that might not seem worth the trouble of following if you’re not already invested. Considering this, even The Empire Strikes Back, which many of us hold to be the best Star Wars movie, would likely suffer a similar reaction. Would we care who Darth Vader’s son is or who Luke’s sister is if we never saw A New Hope?

The Last Jedi‘s failure in China makes sense, and it makes me wonder what, if anything, studios will do to avoid this in the future. We’re living in an age of reboots and franchises that lean heavily on what came before. While many films try to do a sort of recap via exposition to catch new viewers up, the deeper and more complex the mythos—and the more characters involved—the harder that becomes.

It’s an argument for investing in brand new properties with the potential to grow into worldwide phenomena, no prior histories attached.

(via THR, image: Disney/Lucasfilm)

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Ann Curry is Back, and She’s Got a Story to Tell About How “Not Surprised” She Was By Matt Lauer’s Firing

Ann Curry was unceremoniously let go from the Today show after only about six months of co-hosting in large part due to the orchestrations of Matt Lauer, her overpaid senior co-host who was recently booted from the NBC family after allegations of his chronic sexual harassment (complete with an “assault button” on his office door) were made public by several women coming forward. Now, she’s back with a new show, and a story to tell.

Curry is back in the public eye thanks to her new show on PBS called We’ll Meet Again, in which she will, as she tells People Magazine, “explore people’s beautiful wishes to reconnect with the people who helped them survive.” But of course, in addition to talking about the show, her life now, and her plans for the future, she’s, of course, talking about her time on Today, particularly with regard to Lauer.

In an interview on CBS This Morning (the video of which you can watch above), when asked about the allegations against Lauer, she said “I can tell you that I am not surprised by the allegations.” When co-host Norah O’Donnell pressed her to elaborate on what that meant Curry, hesitant about “walking a line” when discussing her former workplace, said:

“I know what it’s like to be publicly humiliated, and I don’t want to cause that pain to somebody else. I can say that I would be surprised if many women did not understand that there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed… it was verbal sexual harassment.”

When O’Donnell asked if that verbal harassment was pervasive, Curry said, “It was. Yes. Period.”

Thanks to Jezebel, we have some preview quotes from their full interview with Curry, which will be appearing in the issue that drops on Friday. To start, she says that when she was fired from the show, it was of course difficult, “But I had to let go. And I learned that when you not only let go but open your arms wide and learn the lessons that an experience—no matter how bad—can teach you, that’s when you rise.”

“I can say today I’m stronger now,” she continues. “I’m smarter. I’m happier, as happy as I’ve ever been. And my compassion has only grown. When you go through the pain and learn the lessons, you will be changed for the better.”

And, when talking about her new show, and about her career in general, Curry’s motivations are basically the opposite of Lauer’s. “I’m in it to give,” she says. “Not to get.”

I’m so glad she has a new show that seems to suit her, and that she continues to take the high road despite everything she’s been through. And when she “gives” moving forward in her career, I hope what she gives is plenty of hell.

(featured image: screencap)
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J.J. Abrams Returns to Sci-Fi Television With a New, Female-Led Creation All His Own

image: stock_photo_world/Shutterstock AUSTIN - MARCH 14, 2016: Director JJ Abrams speaks at a SXSW event in Austin, Texas.

J.J. Abrams is co-writing and directing Star Wars: Episode IX, and continues to Executive Produce on HBO’s Westworld. However, he certainly didn’t create Star Wars, and Westworld, which is based on a Michael Crichton film, was created for TV by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. It’s been eight years since the last show he created and wrote, and 11 years since the last sci-fi show he created and wrote. Now, he’s finally returning to the original sci-fi television that made him.

As reported by /Film, Abrams is currently shopping around a new, original sci-fi show to potential homes like Warner Bros. TV, Apple, and HBO. The untitled spec script being shopped tells the story of a family — a scientist mother, her husband, and their young daughter — who all get into a terrible car crash.

“After the mother winds up in a coma, her daughter begins digging through her experiments in the basement and winds up being transported to another land amid a world’s battle against a monstrous, oppressive force. Her father then follows her into this new world.”

I’m thrilled that this not only centers a female character, but has the girl’s mother be the scientist whose work she’s following. As I’ve written about before, the projects that have come out of Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions all seem to deal very much with characters’ “daddy issues:” wanting to have a better relationship with dad, wanting to please dad, whereas mother love is expected and taken for granted with rare exceptions.

Of course, the character’s relationship with her dad will certainly play a big role, what with him following her into this world. However, it’s her mother that will guide and inspire her, and whom she’ll no doubt be trying to emulate. That’s so important. Here’s hoping they’re a family of color.

*gasp* Maybe they could even be Latinx! I’m just saying, Latinx can be scientists, and we can’t have The Flash‘s Cisco holding it down for everybody.

The last show that Abrams created and wrote episodes for was 2010’s short-lived spy drama Undercovers, which starred Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe as a married couple who just so happen to be CIA agents. Before that, Abrams created and wrote episodes for Fringe which, in my opinion, was some of the best and most entertaining sci-fi on television.

And of course, there’s Lost, which he wasn’t involved in for very long, but in the time he was there managed to come up with many of the ideas that made the show what it is. (I’m not here to have a Lost fight, but I will fight you if you talk trash about the Lost ending which, PS, Abrams had little to do with.)

I love Abrams’ films, but whereas his films so far have often been homages to other people’s films, it’s in television that Abrams has been truly groundbreaking. I’m really looking forward to seeing this show, wherever it ends up.

Though if it ends up being an Apple show, I might have to throw things. Stop trying to do everything, Apple! Just focus on giving me a phone with a damn headphone jack!

(image: stock_photo_world/Shutterstock)
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Ellen Pompeo Reminds Us Why It’s so Empowering and Important to Have Other Women in Your Corner

Image of Shonda Rhimes and Ellen Pompeo Photo credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com

Ellen Pompeo, the star of Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy and the highest-paid actress on a primetime drama, sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about negotiating her salary, moving into producing, and how her relationship with Shonda Rhimes has inspired to push for better pay and more creative control in her career.

Pompeo recently signed a massive new contract with ABC which will see her earn $20 million per year. She’ll be paid $575,000 for each episode of Grey’s and have two “full backend equity points” on Grey’s which will bring her an additional $6-7 million. (She also got a seven-figure signing bonus.)  In addition, her contract includes pilot commitments and office space on Disney’s lot for Calamity Jane, her production company.

“I’m 48 now,” she told The Hollywood Reporter, “so I’ve finally gotten to the place where I’m OK asking for what I deserve, which is something that comes only with age.”

Pompeo spoke about the importance of her relationship with Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes in getting her to this point, and how Rhimes pushed her to negotiate for more. “In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power,” Pompeo said, “she has empowered me … She got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power. Now, what did that look like? It looked like her letting me be the highest-paid woman on television, letting me be a producer on this show, letting me be a co-executive producer on the spinoff and signing off on the deal that the studio gave me, which is unprecedented.”

Rhimes also spoke to THR about her perspective. “As a woman, what I know is you can’t approach anything from a point of view of ‘I don’t deserve’ or ‘I’m not going to ask for because I don’t want other people to get upset,’” she said. “And I know for a fact that when men go into these negotiations, they go in hard and ask for the world.”

And so, when Pompeo wants to ask for more money, Rhimes said she gave her this advice: “Decide what you think you’re worth and then ask for what you think you’re worth. Nobody’s just going to give it to you.”

Pompeo also discussed her previous doubts and questions about salary. “For me, Patrick [Dempsey] leaving the show [in 2015] was a defining moment, deal-wise,” she said. “They could always use him as leverage against me — ‘We don’t need you; we have Patrick’ — which they did for years. I don’t know if they also did that to him, because he and I never discussed our deals. There were many times where I reached out about joining together to negotiate, but he was never interested in that.”

“At one point, I asked for $5,000 more than him just on principle, because the show is Grey’s Anatomy and I’m Meredith Grey. They wouldn’t give it to me. And I could have walked away, so why didn’t I? It’s my show; I’m the number one. I’m sure I felt what a lot of these other actresses feel: Why should I walk away from a great part because of a guy? You feel conflicted but then you figure, ‘I’m not going to let a guy drive me out of my own house.’”

“So, what does it look like when he leaves the show?” she continued. “First, it looks like a ratings spike, and I had a nice chuckle about that. But the truth is, the ink wasn’t even dry on his exit papers before they rushed in a new guy … I couldn’t believe how fast the studio and the network felt like they had to get a penis in there.”

After Rhimes’ deal with Netflix was announced, Pompeo came to her and discussed whether they wanted to continue with Grey’s, which airs on ABC. Rhimes said she wanted to continue, since the show is “the mothership,” and she told Pompeo, “Let’s find a way to make you happy. What do you want?”

“What I said to Shonda,” Pompeo said, “is the truth: ‘I don’t get to do anything else, and that’s frustrating for me creatively. I make 24 episodes of TV a year, and as part of this deal, I cannot appear anywhere else. And directing is cool but, to be honest, it just takes me away from my kids.’ Then I said, ‘So, it’s got to be a ton of money. And it has to help me with my producing because producing is something I really enjoy. That’s my creativity now.’”

“Acting, to me, is boring,” she continued. “An actor is the least powerful person on set, so I don’t care about chasing roles. Plus, at my age, it’s pretty unrealistic. Not that I can’t do a cool cable thing, but I’m not going to have this whole second life as a movie star. I’m not fuckin’ Julia Roberts.”

And so Pompeo got pilot commitments and lot space for her production company as part of her Grey’s contract.

While she’s grateful for the support and influence of another powerful woman like Rhimes, Pompeo emphasized that power won’t be enough to change the system. “I should also say this: I don’t believe the only solution is more women in power, because power corrupts. It’s not necessarily a man or a woman thing. But there should be more of us women in power, and not just on Shonda Rhimes’ sets.”

“My 8-year-old daughter gets to come here and see fierce females in charge. She loves to sit in the director’s chair with the headphones on, yelling ‘Action’ and ‘Cut.’ She’s growing up in an environment where she’s completely comfortable with power. I don’t know any other environment in Hollywood where I could provide that for her. Now I hope that changes … and soon.”

(Via The Hollywood Reporter; image: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock)

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Rian Johnson Explains Why the Reveal of Rey’s Parents Was Crucial

Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is still filling us in on the thought process behind his space opera epic, and it’s clear he spent a lot of time considering the big question of Rey’s parentage.

Johnson was aware that the mystery of Rey’s direct lineage dominated fan discourse immediately following The Force Awakens and in the intervening years. I’ve personally pored over theory articles and watched many, many videos that laid out why Rey was descended from everyone from Obi-Wan Kenobi to Emperor Palpatine.

So it was shocking to many of us—and to Rey herself, who pursued the matter of her parents throughout The Last Jedi—to hear that Rey was just, well, Rey, with no other well-known moniker attached. Her parents were essentially nobodies; as Kylo Ren puts it cruelly and succinctly, “Filthy junk traders. Sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert.”

In the latest Empire Film Podcast, Johnson went into more depth about how he came to make one of the bigger, twistier decisions in Star Wars plot history since The Empire Strikes Back. Per Vanity Fair:

“I went through all the possibilities of who her parents could be,” Johnson said. “I made a list, with the upsides and downsides” (a list that was probably promptly destroyed by a harried Lucasfilm intern). He landed where he did because he was fond of “breaking out from the notion that the Force is this genetic thing that you have to be tied to somebody to have. It’s the ‘anybody can be president’ idea, which I liked introducing. The foremost thing, though, was just dramatically, storytelling-wise.”

Johnson explains that for Rey to discover that she’s not secretly the product of some anointed name would be “the hardest thing” and would knock her off-balance:

“The hardest thing to hear is, ‘Nope, this is not gonna define you,’” Johnson added. “And, in fact, Kylo is gonna use this to try and undercut your confidence so you’ll feel you have to lean on him for your identity . . . you’re gonna have to make the choice to find your own identity in this story.”

Laid out like this, the choice for where Rey came from makes a lot of sense—and it comes with a nicely egalitarian message that your last name doesn’t have to be Kenobi or Skywalker in order to be the hero of the story. It also adds an emotional charge, and a vulnerability, that would have been absent if Rey had suddenly found out that she was Han Solo’s long-lost daughter, and Rey eventually overcomes that vulnerability with aplomb.

Kylo Ren tries to wield the disappointment of Rey’s parentage as a weapon to “win her over.” In a tactic that many have pointed out has every hallmark of an abuser, Kylo follows up the “filthy junk traders” line with, “You come from nothingYoure nothing, but not to me.” You can see the conflict that his harsh words spark in Rey, but ultimately, she rises above the pain of the revelation about her parents and escapes the snare of Kylo’s attentions. It’s all the more impressive when we consider what Rey has just been confronted with. Rather than let this define her—as she might have leaned on her family history if it turned out Qui-Gon Jinn had secretly fathered her—she makes the choice, as Johnson says, to discover her own identity thereafter.

It’s a considerable break for Star Wars, if we consider that the original trilogy contained possibly the most shocking family reveal in history, but that’s part of what makes Johnson’s choice for Rey so important. It was the last thing that most of us expected, and that narrative fastball helps to define Rey going forward far more than her blood association with a famous figure would have.

I’ll admit that, like many fans, on my first Last Jedi viewing, I was disappointed about this choice for Rey. It’s a mark of just how much we’re conditioned to expect the hero to be from a great family or under the sign of a prophecy—how deeply that idea, stretching back to the most ancient of myths, is still ingrained in our storytelling. By my second viewing, I thought it was rather brilliant, though some questions still remain: If Rey’s parentage was up to Johnson to decide, was there a different plan for her plotted out back in The Force Awakens time? Will we ever get to see that list of potential parents and upsides and downsides? And what would The Last Jedi possibly have looked like if Luke had turned to Rey and been like, “Oh yeah, forgot to mention, I’m your father?”

It’s fun to consider the possibilities, but ultimately, I appreciate that Rian Johnson broke with tradition and gave us a hero for a new Star Wars age, someone immensely powerful and capable who came from “nothing.” That’s always an important message to hear, and we get it emphasized by the last shot in The Last Jedi, which shows a lowly stable boy using the Force. In fact, another important takeaway from The Last Jedi is that descending from a storied line can fill you with hubris and authoritarian rage, and a famous last name doesn’t prevent you from being the actual worst.

You can listen to Johnson on the Empire Film podcast below:

(via Vanity Fair, images: Disney/Lucasfilm)

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The Very Existence of Non-Disclosure Agreements in Sexual Abuse Cases Is Despicable

mckayla maroney gymnasts abuse nassar

Olympic gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas. Maroney, Raisman, and Douglas have all accused USA Gymnastic’s Dr. Larry Nassar of sexual abuse and child molestation.

Last month, Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney opened up about being sexually abused for years by her team’s doctor, and she’s nowhere close to being the only victim. More than 140 women and girls have accused the same doctor, Larry Nassar, of abuse disguised as medical treatment. Some of those accusers include recent gold medal winners Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and, sharing her story just yesterday, Simone Biles. Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after being found in possession of 37,000 images of child pornography, and is currently awaiting sentencing for the separate abuse charges.

Nassar pled guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct, but all of his victims have the opportunity to testify against him, either in person, in writing, or an audio or video recording.

Testimony hearings began today and nearly a hundred victims are expected to participate, but it was being reported that Maroney (and presumably many others) may not be able to testify because of the nondisclosure agreement she signed as part of her settlement with USA Gymnastics. That caught the attention of Chrissy Teigen, who offered to cover the fine Maroney would possibly be forced to pay if she broke her NDA.

Kristen Bell and Michael Schur also offered to split the cost.

Many, many other non-celebrities have also offered to chip in small amounts. Fortunately, USA Gymnastics has announced that they will not seek money from Maroney for, as they state, “her brave statements made in describing her victimization and abuse by Larry Nassar, nor for any victim impact statements she wants to make to Larry Nassar at this hearing or at any subsequent hearings related to his sentencing.” They say that the organization “encourages McKayla and anyone who has been abused to speak out.”

That’s a smart move on the part of USA Gymnastics and the only decent thing to do. But the fact that there was a nondisclosure agreement to begin with is despicable. It’s also potentially illegal.

Maroney filed a lawsuit against the organization for failing to “properly investigate, discipline or remove Olympic Team doctor Larry Nassar” as well as their “illegal and immoral attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse.”

Maroney’s attorney said in a press release, “The US Olympic Committee had to know that the victim of child sexual abuse in California cannot be forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of a settlement. Such agreements are illegal for very good reasons, they silence victims and allow perpetrators to continue committing their crimes. That is exactly what happened in this case.”

I am very grateful that the silencing of victims of child abuse is illegal in California (I’m not sure about Michigan, where Nassar is being tried, or any other state), and it sure seems like it’s about time that this extends to the victims of all sexual crimes. Far too often, we hear of women who have been silenced by NDAs as part of settlements. We only know of them because many women are choosing to break those agreements and share their stories anyway in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

When that happens, when women accuse men like Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer or members of Congress and end up reaching settlement agreements, the women regularly end up being blamed for the actions of their accusers. They are told that if they’d spoken out or gone to court or do any of the things victims are “supposed” to do, then their abusers would never have hurt anyone else. And you know what? In a perfect world, where women share their stories, are believed, and justice is actually, you know, just—then sure, I’m onboard with that sentiment.

But the overlap between the people who blame women for signing settlement agreements, accusing them of exploiting men for money, and those who attack or simply refuse to believe women when they do speak out, is large. That this attitude is also applied to children is abhorrent.

Women have a lot to navigate when it comes to recovering from assault. In addition to the actual trauma of the event (or, in many cases, events), there are often issues of shame, power imbalances, fears for one’s career, concerns over public opinion, and so much more. There’s the knowledge—not just a worry, but a certainty—that when speaking out about any man, let alone a powerful or beloved or trusted man, a woman will receive blame and even vicious attacks.

Women have to overcome so much if they choose to speak out against their abusers. Many victims don’t even get as far as a settlement agreement because even that takes a huge leap and a decision to take action. But if someone does choose to take a settlement fee rather than go public and expose themselves to all that entails, and then if they ever do want to speak out in the future, either for their own steps towards closure or to amplify others’ voices, or to add to the testimony being given against one specific abuser, they have overcome enough. There sure as hell shouldn’t be legal recourse in place to protect those abusers.

As we see over and over and over again, there are always plenty of people ready and eager to blame women for signing NDAs that vow to stay silent about the abuse they’ve suffered. Why is there not even a small fraction of that outrage aimed at the very idea of NDAs that cover sexual abuse? Rather than blaming women for staying silent, why not blame the systems that make sure they stay that way?

Sure, in theory, they are there to protect the innocent. It’s easier for rich men to pay large sums of money than to go to court. But as we’ve seen with the outing of so many serial abusers—both alleged (there are those NDAs) and convicted—these agreements are, time and again, not used to protect innocent men. They are used to silence women who have suffered assault and harassment for the specific purpose of allowing these men to continue their patterns of abuse. And if a victim wants to speak up one, five, ten, fifty, or however many years later, no amount of settlement money should prevent that.

(image: Shutterstock)

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Things We Saw Today: Black Lightning Lit up the Internet and the Ratings

First look image of Cress Williams as Black Lightning Credit: The CW

Last night, CW’s Black Lightning premiered and not only was I watching, but it appears everyone decided to tune in and #GetLit. According to SyFy Wire, the results from viewership are “2.31 million total viewers and a very solid 0.8 demo rating, the network’s best series premiere in two years behind the launch of Legends of Tomorrow (3.2 million/1.2 demo rating).” In addition to the great ratings, the show has gotten pretty much universal critical praise and with a 13-episode-run, there is hopefully very little chance of the series going through a slump the way some of the 22-episode shows get. Regardless, I’m in it for the long haul and am excited to see what the universe continues to show us, especially when it comes to Anissa and Jennifer.

  • For those people who watched The Shannara Chronicles, it has unfortunately been canceled. So for all of us looking to gawk at the physical perfection of Manu Bennett, looks like it is back to Spartacus reruns. (via CBR)
  • Party Game where you have to do a nerdy presentation after drinking? Sounds like my kind of party. My index cards on the mortality of characters in Harry Potter are prepped and ready. (via Buzzfeed)
  • Have you charted all of the jumps from Quantum Leap? Well no worries, someone has finally done it so you don’t have to. (via AV Club)
  • There is a new show called Brujas in the works about Afro-Latina witches and I am already waiting for casting news. Instead of working on a Charmed reboot, let’s go in this direction. (via People)
  • Apparently a Sister, Sister reboot is going to be happening. The news was confirmed by Jackeé Henry in an appearance on Steve Harvey’s talk show this Tuesday. Well…you know if Full House can do it. (via Jezebel)

Have you watched the Black Lightning premiere yet? What did you think? And if not what are you waiting for?

(image: The CW)

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“Aziz, We Tried to Warn You:” Lindy West Reminds Everyone That Feminists Have Been Talking About Consent for Decades

Aziz Ansari

Since the Aziz Ansari conversation began over the weekend it has reaped several think-pieces from multiple sites. Some really thoughtful that recognize the greys of the situation and why it is an important part of the larger #MeToo discussions. Others, being really dismissive about “Grace” and her experience.

In her opinion piece for The New York Times, author Lindy West mentions books, essays, and events taking place between 1975 and today that brought issues of sexual harassment, rape, assault, and consent into the public eye. She explains that while many of these things were happening in feminist academic and pop culture circles, Aziz Ansari was also working on his own career and writing. While we have slowly been gaining languages and terminology for certain feelings and experiences—the discussion of the experiences themselves is not new.

“There is a reflexive tendency, when grappling with stories of sexual misconduct like the accusations leveled at Ansari this past weekend — incidents that seem to exist in that vast gray area between assault and a skewed power dynamic — to point out that sexual norms have changed. This is true. The line between seduction and coercion has shifted, and shifted quickly, over the past few years (the past few months, even). When I was in my 20s, a decade ago, sex was something of a melee. “No means no” was the only rule, and it was still solidly acceptable in mainstream social circles to bother somebody until they agreed to have sex with you. (At the movies, this was called romantic comedy.)”

Still, as West explains, when discussing men’s relationship with this information, “What’s not true is the suggestion that complex conversations about consent are new territory, or that men weren’t given ample opportunity to catch up.”

“The notion of affirmative consent did not fall from space in October 2017 to confound well-meaning but bumbling men; it was built, loudly and painstakingly and in public, at great personal cost to its proponents, over decades. If you’re fretting about the perceived overreach of #MeToo, maybe start by examining the ways you’ve upheld the stigmatization of feminism. Nuanced conversations about consent and gendered socialization have been happening every single day that Aziz Ansari has spent as a living, sentient human on this earth. The reason they feel foreign to so many men is that so many men never felt like they needed to listen.”

For me as a recently single girl in her 20s who has gotten back into the dating pool, a lot of what “Grace” talks about in her article is relatable to so many women because it is a common experience. We already went through the whole discussion about “bad sex” and “non-verbal” cues when we were talking about the “Cat-Person” story. One of the reasons it went viral and resonated with so many women was because many of us experienced those things. No one was calling it sexual assault, but we recognized that it was part of a problem of communication between men and women.

Then the Babe article dropped. Suddenly it wasn’t a fictional gross guy, but someone we thought was “safe,” someone we respected, and someone we were rooting for: Aziz Ansari.

There is this idea that commenting and calling out the behavior that Ansari perpetuates means putting him on the same level as Harvey Weinstein or Louis C.K.

I don’t know who these people are that are comparing him to those other men, but I haven’t seen them. What I have seen are women who are asking men to be more aware of cues and hints, both verbal and non-verbal, when engaging in sexual relationships. As I’ve talked to women about this in my own friend group, it was brought up that most of the time men can’t even tell when a woman has an orgasm. They are often so wrapped up in their own sexual experience and it isn’t until it is over that they usually pause an ask “did you?” And if you lie and just say yes because you would just rather end things here, they just nod and say “I thought I felt it.”

If men can’t even (and more so aren’t expected to) tell when a woman they are consensually engaging in sex with is having an orgasm, how they are going to be taught to understand all of the other signs? And more so do they want to know? We can encourage women to be more assertive about their feelings and say no when they feel threatened, but men also need to know how to read women as well. When you put a woman’s hand on your pants and she moves it away—don’t move it back. When a woman says let’s slow things down don’t put your fingers in her mouth.

“Grace” may not have said “no” until later with her words, but she was giving plenty of hints before that.

As West says in her article, we have been talking about the issues of rape and consent for decades upon decades. What has changed, more than anything else, is the ability for women to be heard. We can argue about the “intent” behind Grace coming forward and calling out Aziz by name, but what does that actually prove? The fact that so many women can dismiss what happened to her as “dating in your 20s” terrifies me as a woman in my 20s.

Are we really supposed to walk through life expecting men to not listen to us when we freeze up or don’t respond enthusiastically to them? It seems as though people like Bari Wiess forget that you can like someone, not want to sleep with them in that moment, but also don’t want to push them away completely. That there are levels to things you are sexually comfortable with, some people are much more casual about oral sex than other kinds of sex. That women have been taught in many ways that one of the worst things you can be to a guy is “a tease” and therefore try their best to let men down gently instead of raging out.

What is more important than discussing what should happen to Aziz Ansari and his career, is understanding how we unlearn problematic lessons about dating and sex. How did we get to a place where women feel like they have to accept shitty sexual experiences like this? Where we are afraid to call something sexual assault because it is “too extreme” when sexual assault includes unwanted touching. And how did we get to a point where guys think it’s okay to act this way as long as she doesn’t say no?

The #MeToo movement is supposed to be about addressing the sexual inequalities and power dynamics between men and women within different aspects of their lives. “Grace’s” story does that and does it in a way that makes people uncomfortable and uncertain and that’s why it belongs as a part of this movement. Grey areas are a part of our sexual reality.

(via The New York Times, image: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com)

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