“The Birth of A Nation” has been the talk of the film industry since its premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, leaving with a standing ovation, countless accolades and one of the highest distribution deals ever made for an independent film.
As the promotion for the film continued to go full speed ahead, a bomb was dropped about the lead actor and director of the film, Nate Parker as the news was revealed that Parker was accused in 1999 of raping a woman, years later went to trial and was acquitted in the process.
Gabrielle Union, one of the stars of this film took this news especially hard having been a survivor of rape herself. Instead of internalizing these allegations, Union did what she does best, use her star power as a platform. In the finely crafted LA Times op-ed, she continued the conversation of sexual violence against women and the importance of teaching our youth the definition of consent. She shared,
As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly. On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did. Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said ‘no,’ silence certainly does not equal ‘yes.’ Although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a ‘no’ as a ‘yes’ is problematic at least, criminal at worst.
Gabrielle has never been one to let her rape define her as she has built an A-list career, a marriage that many women envy and has an uncanny spirit that she shares with many followers on her Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
The 43-year-old actress who is still in promotion mode for “The Birth of A Nation” with its nationwide release just around the corner on October 7th, the Being Mary Jane star talk to XONecole.com to talk about her take on social injustices, sexual consent and what made her feel as though her op-ed was something that needed to be heard. Peep some excerpts below.
On the publishing of her op-ed and if she thought it could damage her brand:
Everyone on my team was in sync about me doing an op-ed, in fact, they wished it had come out sooner. It took me a long time to craft what I wanted to say and it still be helpful. My first few drafts were not as educational, so I consulted a group of my close friends who are active feminists. I also spoke with several male friends, as well as my husband, and everyone had very different opinions.
In talking to numerous people, most of whom are parents, I realized everyone had a different idea about what consent was. So if, as educated adults, we differ on what consent is, imagine what our young people are faced with. Through the op-ed, I wanted to make sure I was very clear that no matter where you stand on the issue of Nate Parker, moving forward, let us all come together and be affirmative what verbal consent truly means. I thought framing the piece like that was more helpful and more constructive.
And if I take myself out of the conversation because it’s uncomfortable and because I’m worried about my brand, then my brand ain’t sh*t if I don’t stand up for what I’ve always stood up for since I became a rape survivor.
On if she believes that her “The Birth of A Nation” co-stars are more in tune with White Privilege and has the conversation changed since the end of filming:
In terms of our cast specifically, the way my scenes were shot I didn’t have the same downtime in between filming to have those conversations with my co-stars. I didn’t get to really know them while we were shooting but from what I gathered they [Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley] are definitely aware of what white privilege is.
Now how aware they are of their own privilege, I don’t know because that comes with consistent behavior modification. We will see on their next film if they’re still talking about the necessity of addressing oppression and racial inequality.
On the double standard of black sexuality:
As a brown skin woman, within my own community, I was never seen as a sex object; I was always the funny friend. If I was in a crowded room with a bunch of women, I was definitely not anyone that anyone else would have described as “sexy.”
Instead, people would compliment me on my great personality. For about the first 15 years of my career, I wasn’t called upon for those types of roles. So I could give you a righteous answer about what I would and wouldn’t do but no one ever asked me to be naked or overtly sexual.
I choose to define sexuality differently and you have to figure out what you’re comfortable with. Not everyone is comfortable with multiple partners or casual sex and that’s okay; it doesn’t make you a saint or me a sinner. If other people try to tell you what’s acceptable when its comes to your sexuality, you have to call bull**it; last I checked, the only person my vagina was attached to was me, so anyone else’s opinions about that are unnecessary, uninvited and unwarranted. For most of us, that’s hard.
Read the rest of the interview here.