Power Women Summit: “What we have to figure out is how to make this not feel like a mob,” Oyelowo says
Actor David Oyelowo said that many men want to be a part of the #MeToo movement, but they have a fear of saying the wrong thing and worry that their careers can be ended if they don’t.
Speaking on a panel during a lunch conversation about “Bringing Men Into the Conversation,” Oyelowo said men often use this fear as an excuse to not speak out at all. As a means of making the MeToo movement more inclusive, the “Selma” actor stressed the need for nuance and to step away from the black-and-white conversations that crop up on social media.
“There are a lot of men who are for this movement, but literally on the basis of knowing we are in an environment, things can be said, again, wrongly or rightly, that could end me,” Oyelowo said. “There is no latitude, there is no space, for the idea that… there is an element of, it feels like there’s a mob. And there are people who are using that as an excuse. And there are times where that is a genuine fear that is then validated time after time. What we have to figure out is how to make this not feel like a mob.”
The panel also featured Joanne Lipman, author of “That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them),” and Scott Budnick, producer of “The Hangover” and founder of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. Lipman mentioned that one of the primary reasons men do not engage with conversations about sexual harassment is fear of saying the wrong thing.
Oyelowo added that he’s spoken with many actresses and women who share that same fear.
“Is this going to be some kind of rejection of my sisterhood? This newfound camaraderie and closeness,” Oyelowo said. “I’ve talked to so many actresses, one of the things they appreciate the most about this movement, people who they have been in competition with all their careers, and that’s just the way it is, and suddenly there’s this camaraderie, there is something so edifying about that that they literally don’t want to break that up. That in and of itself is not a reason to have this atmosphere of no room for nuance and not entertaining and not talking about how this segues into redemption.”
Oyelowo said there are men who believe the MeToo movement has become “synonymous with the lack of entertainment of an idea of redemption.” He made a comparison to criminals on death row after the audience applauded the idea of making the death penalty illegal, saying that while it may not be pretty, considering the ideas of “redemption” and “exoneration” may be necessary to sustain the gains the MeToo movement has made.
“Those people who are on death row, some of them have done terrible things. It doesn’t mean that their entire lives should be literally snatched,” Oyelowo said at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit Friday. “I think if you ask my honest opinion, this movement needs to segue into being synonymous with at least entertaining the idea of redemption, of people being not sentenced to life sentences or exoneration on the basis of what they may or may not have done.”
Asked by Lipman if he fears a looming backlash to the movement, Oyelowo said he has “real concerns.”
“We are at, in my opinion, at the apex of a pendulum swing,” Oyelowo said. “And it will swing the other way. It’s a question of how many gains we can have in place when the pendulum begins to swing, and how much those new systems, those new mindsets, that shift in combat, is able to combat the inevitable pendulum swing.”
He described a conversation he had with two female executives over hiring a director for a project. Both women agreed that they did not want to hire a “white dude” to direct, that the director had to be a woman or person of color.
“I thought, is that pervasive? Because I can tell you for a fact, there are a lot of those white dudes who consider this a nuclear cloud that will pass. And they are in bunkers waiting for it to pass,” Oyelowo said. “If we do to them what basically we are saying they did to us, it will not go well for us. Two wrongs simply do not make a right.”
Watch a clip of Oyelowo’s chat above.