CADY McCLAIN

Director, Producer, Artist

Handling Oppression

Posted on: October 3, 2016

Some of you have followed me for a long time, so you know my story and how I came out of a pretty wild childhood. For those of you who don’t, you can check out my book, or just give me the benefit of the doubt. But when I tell you I know what it’s like to be pushed down, oppressed, sat on (literally), and told to believe that I am less than I am -consistently  from many different people in many different walks of life, I am really not kidding.

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On day I realized: I am a magnet for people who like to make others feel bad. Why is this? Do I have a sign on my butt that says, “kick me?” Do I give off “walking wounded?” I don’t think so, and my friends don’t think so. So what’s the deal?

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I finally figured it out. I’m an artist, but not just as in the “I paint canvas” or in a “I’m a good actor” kind of way. I’m an artist in that I have a special gift, that I really love people. It gives me joy to help another human being. This is just a fact of who I am. I am also a communicator. I help people far and wide. This is also just a fact or who I am. I can’t be any different.

 It gives me joy to help another human being.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-10-55-45-amThere are some folks out there who are just the opposite: they like to smush people. The only way they feel good about themselves is when other people feel bad about themselves. I’m sure you’ve met some along your walk in life. Sure, there can be something appealing about the whole “gossipy/bitchy, I’m better than you are” thing, but deep down you know that’s One Unhappy Person, and that it makes you feel bad to participate in that kind of talk.

My documentary is taking the issue of oppression and bias head on, but men aren’t the only offenders. Women may be the one’s who are suffering from being oppressed but we are also contributors to our oppression and therefore an essential part of liberating ourselves from it.

Women may be the one’s who are suffering from being oppressed but we are also contributors to our oppression and therefore an essential part of liberating ourselves from it.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “WTF? Dude’s be like, frickin’ rude to me sometimes! I don’t deserve that!” And you are right. You don’t deserve it. But what are you doing to stop it?

I am not letting myself off the hook. Here’s an example of when I should have done something and didn’t.

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On a soap set, a few of us actors were gathered waiting for a scene to begin. I had recently cut bangs in my hair. One of the men (a pretty famous guy whose job was secured by his many years of work there) said to me, “I’d never f*#k a woman with bangs.”

Yes, he actually said that. And this was one of the “nice guys.”

What did I do? Did I say, “That’s totally inappropriate and an unacceptable way to speak to me.”? No. I did not. I was shocked, but I laughed it off. I didn’t even say, “Well, thank goodness because I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole.” I said NOTHING.

What did I do? I said NOTHING.

This is me participating in my own oppression. This is one of a thousand times I have heard this kind of talk on set.

I was worried I wouldn’t be seen as cool. I was worried I would lose my job. At that moment, my personal dignity and the respect I should have earned (I had two Emmy’s at the time) was less important than my need to “keep the peace.” But what peace? Who’s peace?

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It has taken me a long time to come around to this, but this is what I believe: I believe that because I did not RESIST the oppression, because I did not correct it, I allowed the oppression to continue.

 I believe  that because I did not RESIST the oppression, because I did not correct it, I allowed the oppression to continue.

I don’t think I am the only woman to whom this has ever happened. In fact, I’m damn sure this happens far more often than women like to talk about because it hurts to talk about it. What can make it harder is that (sometimes) we are shamed for talking about it, or blamed that it exists in the first place. Let’s just call the shaming and blaming for what it is, shall we? JUSTIFICATION by the person oppressing, for behavior that is beneath their own moral standards. AKA a shifty tap-dance of B.S.

So what can we do, as women, to stop getting trash talked? Or worse, hit? Shamed? Blamed? Attacked?

We have to speak up. We have to support one another. We have to take action. We must not give it power by silently allowing it to continue. Because when we do, we become complicit in the oppression. We not only let it fester within ourselves, we allow it to be passed down to our daughters, our sons. We allow it to become a habit. We allow it to become acceptable.

We have to speak up. We have to support one another. We have to take action.

Please know, I don’t blame you. I’ve jumped right into the game as an “equal opportunity offender.” In the vein of the old, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” routine, I thought, “Play the game they play. Be more rude, more wild, tougher than any dude.”

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-8-06-26-pmI got so tough in my years in New York City I was literally challenging men to fight me, on the spot. With a loud voice and shaking hands I was 100% ready to get the crap beaten out of me just for the opportunity to fight back and exhibit all the rage I felt from the constant, merciless disrespect. I’m not that person anymore, thank god. I had to let all the rage and hate go. It did not serve me. I had to find another way, a better way. A stronger way. I had to regain my self respect, my dignity, my sense of having something about myself that was worth fighting for. And it all came down to this: I HAD TO SPEAK UP IN THE MOMENT TO SAY NO.

I HAD TO SPEAK UP IN THE MOMENT TO SAY NO.

NO. What a  beautiful word. Total and complete in it’s meaning. Start a sentence with it and the rest of the words will come rolling out as they need to. “No, I don’t like being talked to that way. No, I will not let you speak to me like that. No, you cannot pay me less than my colleague.”

You can also stand up for other women. Letting people know that it’s not okay to talk badly about your friend or colleague is not only a show of your strength, but can change the dynamic of an entire group. “Hey, she’s my friend and I think it’s not cool to talk about her like that,” is a lovely thing to say.

However you choose to handle it: RESIST. RESIST. RESIST THE OPPRESSION. The person exhibiting it is like a balloon filled with hot air. They will not last. They will not succeed.  Join with like-minded women and good men who support this kind of resistance and the oppression will not last.

They might even realize how wrong they were and change their tune. It’s been known to happen. And you know what’s so awesome about that? It gives us the opportunity to forgive and allow that person to come back home to their true, good self.

It gives us the opportunity to forgive and allow that person to come back home to their true, good self.

Which is one of the most awesome feelings of all.

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