Dismantling a Culture of Shechem


I have been disturbed by the ongoing news that a famous Hollywood producer had advanced himself upon many women. Some of those women, for the sake of their careers, believed they had no choice but to give in to his advances. Others refused him and suffered because of it. All it took was for a handful of them to come forward about what has been described as Hollywood’s best-kept secret—that Harvey Weinstein was known for this sort of behavior. It’s one thing that a person has a reputation for this kind of thing, but another that it was well tolerated which only led to further perpetration of sexual abuse. The men who knew about it, especially, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Cowards!

Weinstein’s predatory actions, because of his power and elitism, sounds very Old Testament. Shechem, who was the prince of the Hivites, saw Dinah, lusted for her, took her, and “violated her” (Genesis 34:2). The Hebrew linguist, Robert Alter suggests that the syntax of this passage is suggestive of rape. Then a turn in the narrative appears: Shechem loves her, speaks kindly to her, and demands to have her as his wife. Some readers might say, “He’s not such a bad guy after all.” However, he did all this against Dinah’s consent. Shechem had the idea that he could treat women in such a way as this and it be acceptable.

Shechem would not be permitted to get away with his deed because the sons of Jacob were grieved that such had been done to their sister. As the story goes, the brothers of Dinah told Shechem and his consenting father that they must be circumcised to have her. However, it appears as if Shechem was holding her hostage since the brothers took Dinah from Shechem’s house (Genesis 34:26). Nevertheless, the men were circumcised, and on the third day after their circumcision which we may take as a day of particular pain, Dinah’s brothers rose up and slew Shechem and all the males of the city who’d also been circumcised (Genesis 34:25).

Some may read this as an endorsement of violence against Shechem and, by extension, Weinstein. It isn’t. However, it is a call to stand up for such violated persons. No one had stood up to Shechem, and he paid for it with his life when he did this to the wrong ones. No one had stood up against Weinstein for this systemic behavior of sexual abuse, but once someone stood up, others came out. Who knows how long this had gone on? Our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters deserve better.

To eliminate such environments, we must be willing to stand up. No career is worth the dignity of another’s sacred personhood. Many men and women sold out these victims for the sake of themselves. We essential devalue another’s personhood when we tolerate their abuse at the hands of another. We ought never to think that our own interests are worth so much, and another’s personhood so little.

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