Gabrielle Union: talking about my rape is ‘basic human decency, it’s not very brave’

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Gabrielle Union is an ageless 45 years old, and she’s become one of the most educational voices in our current era of #MeToo and Time’s Up. To be fair, Gabrielle was talking about all of this – sexual abuse, harassment, equality, the way women of color are treated in Hollywood – long before Time’s Up was ever born. But Gabrielle has used this moment effectively to raise issues that, frankly, many white women would not have included in their discussions. Gabrielle covers the latest issue of Elle Canada and the full piece is worth a read, because she is excellent. Some highlights:

She still deals with post-traumatic stress from being raped at 19: “The way my dad looked at me after is still a nightmare. The look was: Damaged. Victim. Guilt. Fear. I was the kid you bragged about. I got great grades. Was the perfect athlete. Blah blah blah. And in that moment, I was damaged.” After the assault, Union stayed in her house for a year. Now, at restaurants she prefers to sit facing the doorway, and when she goes shopping she plans out how to exit the parking lot in the most efficient way possible—including how many left turns she needs to make. “It’s how my brain has been working for 25 years. Having a plan and a clear idea of what’s to come—that’s what brings me peace.”

Whether she ever thinks she should stop talking about her rape: “No. No. It’s a social responsibility, a duty, to say ‘I survived, and this is how you can too.’ That’s just basic human decency. So it’s not very brave.”

Women of color in the #MeToo era: “If you’re a woman of colour and you’re seeing how people are responding to these disclosures from all these famous women and to the one black woman—who’s an Oscar winner, Ivy-league-educated, on multiple magazine covers—he’s like ‘No!’ If she’s not believed, if her story came and went, what does that mean for you?”

The difficulty for women accusing coworkers of harassment or abuse: “I know many women—or knew, I should say—who complained about a co-worker, a producer, a director, who actually dared to have a production adhere to the nudity contract that everyone freaking signed…they were deemed difficult, bad eggs. When I say I literally never heard from them again, it’s like they just fell off the face of the earth. I never heard from them again. Ever. It’s what our industry, and the country, the world, does with women who dare to buck the system and ask for accountability. This is where real bravery comes in. Who’s willing to stand up when you have everything to lose?”

Thoughts on money, and her stepsons: She and Wade have differing perspectives when it comes to money. Her stepson Zaire just turned 16, and she thinks his first car should be something along the lines of a Honda Accord. “A used one!” she says, with a grin. “My husband says he had to drive a hooptie [growing up] and he doesn’t work this hard or sacrifice this much to put his kids in the same. But once we’re not paying for their lives, what happens?… I went to school, worked and had an internship. I shopped at the 99-cent store! I had one-ply. That’s right—I actually made contact with my butt. Because that’s what I could afford.”

She’s stopped using her “special” non-threatening voice in meetings:
“I was tired. My eye was twitching. They took too long to circle back to my opinion, and I lost it. I spoke my truth, but I was sure I really blew it and lost that deal.” Plot twist: By the time her plane landed in San Francisco, they’d agreed to her terms. “When I spoke in my most authentic voice, I got what I wanted—I got what I deserved. And I’m 45. I think I’ve been in this business 22 years using that dumb-ass voice that I thought was helping me, and I’m sure it did at certain times. But I wonder how my career could have been different if I had let that real voice out.”

[From Elle Canada]

“It’s a social responsibility, a duty, to say ‘I survived, and this is how you can too.’ That’s just basic human decency. So it’s not very brave.” Keep in mind that Rose McGowan’s book is called Brave, and before Rose canceled her press tour, the tour was mostly about how Rose was the most brave, the first, the highest priority, etc. Again, I think Rose is dealing with sh-t the way she needs to deal with it and everyone has a different process. But it’s just a reminder of how Gabrielle’s process is about informing, educating and staying inclusive, and she remembers every day that she’s not the only one.

As for the kid’s first car… of course it should be something used and cheap (but safe). No 16-year-old should have a new, expensive car!! Your starter car should always be used, a hand-me-down or pre-owned or whatever.

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Photos courtesy of Getty, cover courtesy of Elle Canada.

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11 Responses to “Gabrielle Union: talking about my rape is ‘basic human decency, it’s not very brave’”

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  1. HH says:

    I was gonna type something long and thoughtful, but all I’ve got is: YES. So much yes, to EVERY. LAST. WORD.

    ETA: Also thank you for the additional comments on Rose. I want to allow Rose her time to heal and her space. However, I don’t want to be silent on the fact that–at times–she has also been attempting to center herself in this movement.

  2. Umyeah says:

    I think it is brave, its brave of her to talk about a terrible incident publicly, to show other young women that this terrible moment didnt hold her back. She may not see it as brave but i do and i congratulate her on being so strong and inspiring.

  3. savu says:

    I’m listening to her book right now and just got through the part about her rape. Even in the moment I was thinking about how inclusive her point of view was. At one point she said something like “some people say their life flashes before their eyes… that didn’t happen for me.” How many people might say “your life doesn’t flash before your eyes”? Just the fact that she doesn’t conflate her experiences with that of others felt like such a broad inclusive worldview to me. I’ve been super impressed with her book and am so glad she’s a voice in our society. She recognizes the privilege she has and sees it as a responsibility to others. We need more people like her!

    • Kitty says:

      I will have to read her book. I remember reading an article where she talks about miscarriages. I had a miscarriage last October at 18 weeks, I was devastated and in shock, I wasn’t sure I would ever make it, and reading her story just made me feel so much better. If she could make it through everything she has, I knew I could too.

      • savu says:

        @Kitty yep, all those articles were excerpts from the book. You may find it comforting to read.

        I’m so sorry for what you went through. I miscarried early in college (I didn’t know I was pregnant, and didn’t want to be) and was still so devastated, like I did something wrong as a woman. I can’t imagine how it feels when you were pregnant on purpose and excited for motherhood. Sending you love.

      • Kitty says:

        Thank you for your kind words, I’ve had trouble talking out loud about it so it’s nice to have a place like this with people who can understand. I have a five year old daughter, and we tried for three years to have our boy. I woke up bleeding a week after we found out he was a boy, Doctor said their was nothing we could’ve done, fetus just wasn’t viable. It’s tough when everyone knows, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “oh your better off” or “you can try again.” My husband and I have decided not to try again and just move on. I dream a lot about my sweet Roland, who never got the chance to grow

      • Nikki says:

        Kitty, I’m so very sorry about your miscarriage; it’s an awful loss that many people don’t seem to understand. The pain eases with time; just try to keep one foot in front of the other on the tough days. Please be SO kind and loving to yourself. Love and hugs to you.

      • Kitty says:

        Thanks Nikki! It’s nice to hear someone tell me to think about myself.

  4. Kitty says:

    I love this woman!