First of all, let me begin by saying no, I am not someone who needs to say that it has happened to #MeToo. It hasn’t. Part of what I am about to write will naturally cover the hashtag, the current noise around sexual assault and the all too negative perception and lack of respect of, and for women.
With the noise currently surrounding the media about the Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement and the ever-present conversation on women’s rights and feminism, naturally I had to get involved. Of course, I have my opinions, but I also was curious to see what other people of influence had to say, so I did a little research.
I’m a feminist. Unsurprising to those who know me, and to those of you who have read my blogs. I agree with equality. He pays, I pay. We both work, we both share household chores, we do the same job, we deserve the same pay, we both make a baby, we both deserve the same time off to look after said tiny human (which I believe there are even some companies now toying with this idea too, although for a family, whether this is financially viable is an entirely different discussion for another time). You get my point. Feminism is equality. In every aspect. Now I hear you say, but you’d complain if a man didn’t hold the door open for you, well I would, but I’d complain if I woman didn’t do it either. Holding a door or offering a seat is entirely to do with manners, not equality. The only problem is, is that the world doesn’t see this in the same way.
So naturally I was somewhat distressed when the Harvey Weinstein scandal came to light. Harvey Weinstein. A man whose actions were entirely inexcusable, yet was able to get away with a continual abuse of power for years. Power. Whether it be financial, physical or even emotional, the emission of a woman’s power, leading to vulnerability appears to be the ever consistent and underlying constant of every story on sexual assault of a woman that you read. Submit and succeed or fight and fail. An oh, so constant truth repeatedly spoken by those involved and left victim to the lewd acts of Weinstein, and most recently Roy Price – Amazon Studios boss – to name a few. How often do we see an admission of poor behaviour from a man? To do so would be to relinquish his own power and concede.
On the 17th October, the editor of Buzfeed India, Rega Jha, tweeted:
“I’d love to see a counter trend of men posting ‘I’m sorry and I’ll do better’ if they feel they’ve ever made a woman uncomfortable, unheard or unsafe. This one’s on you, dudes, and yet I still see all the mobilisation and conversational labour being held by woman.”
According to a BBC article I read just yesterday, using the hashtag #IDidThat Devang Pathak, a comedian, presented the following:
‘She was vulnerable, and I had some kind of power’. In even the crassest sense, the male nurture and protection argument could be thrown into play here, but the idea that it implies something sexual or amorous, is – in my opinion – insane. Yet we see it all the time, and we have done for years. If a woman struggles to do something, she calls for a man to help her, highlighting inferiority and marginal vulnerability. She can’t change a tyre, she can’t change a light bulb, she can’t <enter something somewhat physical and exertive here> no problem, a man can be found in the wings, rushing to her rescue, feeling – in essence – powerful and in control.
Pornography increasingly glamorises female punishment, humiliation and pain, all of which is designed to strengthen a man’s dominance and power. A woman who submits, is timid or can be influenced is often coveted in an amorous sense, a woman who does quite the opposite and challenges, is brushed off as too masculine, difficult, aggressive and amongst other things, a bitch, and contrastingly shunned as a potential mate. (A parallel all too often seen in the working world – all too common in not only Hollywood, but the corporate world too).
A man I know is fundamentally attracted to the same sort of woman, looks entirely set aside, he’s attracted to women who emit a higher level of vulnerability shall we say. Often far more insecure and unsure of who they are or what they can dare to be. Contrastingly I also know a man, actually a few, who are attracted to women with character, confidence, and dare I say it, strength and a voice that’s unafraid to be timid or silenced. What may sound like a contradiction to my argument – it’s not – what I intend to do is highlight parallels and differences in these types of men the world over, and directly in my life too.
#IDidThat was a hashtag designed to bring to light inequality and a skewed view on personal boundaries and what qualifies as assault, yet the only story really being shared and spoken about is the one mentioned. Whereas social media is currently flooded with women and girls using the #MeToo.
However, we are all in some way responsible for this getting so out of control, stemming right down to our vernacular, that’s used by both men and women. We are always using the passive tense when referring to sexual assault and abuse. How often have you heard about how many women were raped within a given time-frame, location etc. rather than this many men raped women in a certain period, or place? That X many teenage girls got pregnant last year, not X many boys got X number of girls pregnant last year, because hey, it takes two to tango and all that…
Our focus is always on that of the woman. It happens to the woman, and so by default they must in some way be to blame – which is entirely untrue. No one who has been assaulted, sexually or otherwise, male or female is EVER to blame. But through our vernacular we assume and we judge either knowingly or otherwise (Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk talks about this in more detail, and I recommend checking it out). I had this conversation with Rocco – well, specifically about the Weinstein scandal actually – and while he agreed that it was awful, he couldn’t help but think that a few of the women involved may just be jumping on the bandwagon for fame or money. Rocco, let me tell you, is a feminist. He defends women’s rights and gender equality almost as much as I do.
So, we shed light on the abuse of power, on poor and unwarranted behaviour. We take to social media to highlight women having a voice. We create a #MeToo campaign as a measure of just how frequently this happens to women and girls, and what do to when it does. We have actors, and artists and columnists, and random bloggers writing articles on their experiences and their opinions, as another method of vocalisation in the hope that men (no the blame is not on all men, I’m not painting you all with the same brush) will pay attention and perhaps realise that a fight can only be won when men and women become a team. Don’t battle for power, share it.
As Mayim Bialik – Amy Farrah Fowler of the Big Bang Theory – wrote in the New York Times, ‘we live in a society that has treated women as disposable playmates for far longer than Mr Weinstein has been meeting ingénues in luxury hotel rooms’. It’s true, the Weinstein case has just shed more light onto it. We now as society just need to highlight that vocalising it straight away, no matter the implications to your career or otherwise shouldn’t be something to fear. What I have come to believe with this coming to light, is that no one is addressing that this behaviour towards women and the belief that it is okay, is an entirely and inherent lack of respect to the female population as a whole – something that in its entirety needs to change.