It’s not fair to lump Morgan Freeman in the same #MeToo pile up with Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly or Bill Cosby
Freeman may not understand boundaries, but it doesn't mean this should be the reason to ruin him.
Can I just say that no one, and I mean no one, was surprised by yesterday’s announcement that actor Morgan Freeman had been accused of sexual misconduct by eight women for his aggressive flirting, ogling and general ability to make women feel uncomfortable.
For his part, Freeman released a statement on Thursday afternoon stating the following:
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”
Lest we forget, this is the same man who allegedly had an inappropriate relationship with his step-granddaughter, E’dena Hines, who was tragically stabbed to death two years ago by her boyfriend. In a recent verdict, last month, 33-year old Lamar Davenport was found guilty of manslaughter. Freeman has denied the allegations of a romantic relationship for years, but given the texts and testimony that were revealed at the murder trail, the allegations do seem to be credible.
It is clear, at least to this journalist, that Morgan Freeman has a problem alright, and as a now 80-year-old man, he, like Bill Cosby is dealing with allegations that could ruin him professionally in his twilight years. However, in the wake of once powerful now disgraced men like Harvey Weinstein (who did the walk of shame as he turned himself into the NYPD this morning and is formally charged with rape and other forms of sexual misconduct), Steve Wynn, R Kelly and Bill Cosby, Freeman has to be put into a different category all together.
Lumping Freeman, and others like him, in with these seasoned predators, rapists, drug inducers, and men who ruined the reputations and careers of dozens of women sets a dangerous pattern. Say what you will, but being a “dirty old man” is different from being a man who preys on women they could never sleep with, hold these women as sex-slaves, or forced sex on these women in exchange of career advancement. This is different than a man who makes it his gloating pride to brag that he has “grabbed women by the p*ssy.” Oh, and by the way, that man is currently the President of the United States.
Freeman, like Cosby and Weinstein, is likely to lose some of his coveted acting accolades as a result of this mess. SAG-AFTRA has already said it is reviewing the lifetime achievement award the union bestowed upon the 80-year-old in January. Both Visa and TransLink, Vancouver’s public transit system, have dropped him from their marketing campaigns, which has to be a significant hit in his wallet.
This situation with Freeman presents us with an opportunity to have a much needed dialogue about the new boundaries men must now honor when it comes to looking at women in the workplace, complimenting them, having consensual (even if socially forbidden) sex with them, asking them on dates, or simply saying you look nice today.
It may be a function of my age, and being a member of the Gen X club, but I want to be able to support the “Me Too” movement, protect women in the workplace and still allow men the freedom to give women compliments, ask us on dates (but, be clear that if the answer is no, it means no) and harmlessly flirt.
Men of this time should take a lesson from the Weinsteins, Cosbys, Trumps of the world and understand that unwanted sexual harassment or aggressive behavior toward women in your employ or otherwise subject to your power, will not be tolerated in 2018. The end result will be the inevitable end of your career, no matter who you are, how powerful you are or how much money you possess. A new generation of brave women have emerged, and they are not going to take it anymore.
At the end of the day, we are going to have to start to clearly define what behavior is acceptable and where it is acceptable. In the Black community, Black men of all ages have always engaged in harmless cat calls to women. I distinctly remember laughing with tears in my eyes when I was in college and an older man said to my friends and myself, ‘Girl I would drink your bath water.’ We thought he was hilarious and harmless all at once. In the Black church, the Pastor has always been likened to “God” status. Many a Black Pastor has gotten himself into very public trouble by believing he could touch, flirt with or sleep with the sisters in his flock and that no-one would talk about it or dare confront him. The video with Freeman and the young lady sitting in chairs is indeed creepy, but all too familiar. He didn’t cross any lines, or did he? In my opinion, it all depends on the perception of the woman being subject to the behavior.
So, where do we go from here? We are living in a world where women have rightfully said, “enough” and good men are now genuinely confused about how to navigate through these new rules about boundaries are for them. How do we redefine the rules and come up with solutions that make us all feel safe and free to be human?
I don’t have the answers, but to men over 40, let me say you need to understand that we live in a different world with different rules and different expectations. You can either roll with the times or take the risk of getting caught up in marriage destroying, reputation wrecking and career limiting mess.
Sophia A. Nelson is an award winning journalist and author of the award winning book, “Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama.”