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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
UPDATED: April 17, 2018 at 2:25 a.m.
Faculty, students, and activists gathered in Harvard Hall Friday afternoon to listen to a talk given by Asia Argento, an Italian filmmaker and one of the first women to publicly accuse film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.
This discussion, moderated by History postdoctoral fellow Alex M. More and Leena M. Akhtar, a lecturer in History of Science and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, spanned a variety of topics—including how Argento found the courage to go public with her accusations against Weinstein. Argento also spoke about how individuals who have experienced sexual assault in the United States are treated differently than those who have experienced sexual assault in Italy.
In an interview before the event, More said inviting Argento was “the right thing to do.”
“She said it better than anybody: ‘The betterment of all women is the betterment of all humankind.’ That's why we're doing this,” More said.
Since going public with her accusations against Weinstein, Argento said she has endured a number of attacks from the media and individuals in Italy.
“This is what we're trying to change, and it's not just one country—in various versions, you see these abuses of power at work everywhere and even in our own backyard,” More said. “It needs to stop.”
During the discussion, when asked about what steps Harvard students and faculty should take to combat this phenomenon, Argento emphasized the importance of dialogue between individuals who have experienced sexual assault. She said hearing another woman’s story is ultimately what gave her the courage to speak out about her own experiences.
“I spoke about it for the first time to somebody when I was 38,” she said. “It was because somebody, a friend of mine, a woman, told me her story of rape and it was a ‘Me too,’ it was similar to mine.”
“This was the awakening for me to being able to talk about it,” Argento added.
Attendee Grace T. Western ’21 pointed to this comment as something that particularly resonated with her.
“I mostly just wanted to hear her speak,” Western said.
Western said she herself has experienced sexual assault and noted it was “really helpful” to hear “another survivor” speak about her experiences.
“Her solace was really helpful,” Western said. “Just to hear the way that she has come back from all this.”
Argento said at the event she is hopeful women will be treated better in the future.
“I believe in the evolution of the species. I think evolution in this case means equality,” she said. “I don't know how long it's going to take, I have no idea, but… I will fight for it.”
“I'm no clairvoyant, but I know that I would like to see it in my lifetime. My daughter, she's 16. I want to believe it will,” she said. “It seems impossible now because it just started so fresh, it's six months since it became a topic and hasn't stopped.
“I do have hope,” she added.
—Staff writer Paula M. Barberi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @paulambarberi.
—Staff writer Ruth A. Hailu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter @ruth_hailu_
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