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Encouraging mens’ empathy, openness

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Amid the recent shakedown of prominent Hollywood figures accused of rape and other forms of sexual misconduct is Netflix’s “House of Cards” star and “L.A. Confidential” actor Kevin Spacey. These incidents highlight the disturbing stigmatization of men’s victimization, in and out of Hollywood. 

Several men have revealed their sexual run-ins with the 58-year-old actor, including an incident that occurred during a victim’s teenage years, a time when Mr. Spacey was only in his mid-twenties.

Netflix has ousted Spacey from any future “House of Cards” plans and is in the process of being replaced in the upcoming film “All the Money in the World,” which was more than two-thirds the way from film completion.

However, for the victims, it’s too little, too late. This is an issue Hollywood is far too familiar with.

Household names like Casey Affleck (2010, sexual misconduct), Bill Cosby (sexual assault accusations dating back to 1965), Louis C.K. (confessed to several accounts of sexual misconduct) and many more big names are in the hot seat for their actions and having kept quiet about these matters for so long.

What they don’t realize is how they’ve indirectly revealed an important issue concerning powerful men in Hollywood and the greater male community.

Hollywood is an industry known for its fraternity of A-List actors, high-profile film producers, and award-winning directors. Anyone who is received in good-graces with audiences – by popular demand – will be catapulted into stardom. Prominent actors will recruit promising actors to make appearances in feature films with hopes that it may prepare them for future roles;  prestigious directors and producers will co-pilot creations of aspiring and promising ones.

It should come as no surprise then that reputation and image become central components to a successful career in Hollywood. This superficial focus leads to a dangerous prioritization of clout and encourages a hush-hush, ‘don’t-ask, don’t-tell’ kind of suppression within the film community.

The absence of a safe space within the status quo intensifies the negative effects of a broader problem beyond the ranks of Hollywood and even beyond the issue of sexual misconduct: unvoiced male emotional vulnerability.

Men who are victims of abuse, struggling with their sexuality or simply going through an emotionally heavy time in their life are left without a constructive and rehabilitating outlet.

Standards of unemotional masculinity create a painfully pervasive stigma surrounding men’s emotional health. It is shameful and emasculating to admit that one needs help, meaning victims stay silent and abusers go unpunished, without reproach or rehabilitation. In an industry where image is everything, the status quo is upheld ferociously.

This is not to excuse the actions of  Spacey and others, but to bring awareness to a variable that seems present among the accusers and the accused.

As long-maintained facades continue to fall in Hollywood, we must not forget to acknowledge the underlying force affecting both the victims and predators themselves. Men’s vulnerability, empathy and openness must be actively supported and encouraged within the Hollywood community if we wish to see any kind of change.

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