Disclaimer: I am, in no way, condoning sexual harassment or assault. I am not making excuses for those who commit acts of sexual harassment or assault. I am not victim-blaming.
I realize that’s one hell of a disclaimer, and usually whenever an article is preceded by something like that, it usually means that it’s primarily about exactly what the disclaimer promises it’s not about.
More Disclaimer: Many of you will not agree with some of the things I have to say here, and that’s OK.
But seriously, this is worth talking about.
Yes, Harvey Weinstein is a creep, and while I don’t make a habit of condemning people, he deserves whatever’s coming to him.
Let’s talk for a moment, though, about this “Me, too” movement.
In the past, my friends have accused me of being an “anti-feminist” female, which to a certain extent, makes no sense. But some of the reasons why I’ve since been accused are thus: I don’t believe that Hilary Clinton deserved to be president just because we needed/wanted a female president. I don’t believe I can physically do everything a man can do because our bodies are built differently (and vice versa). I’m wary of the inherent power a female has in accusing a male of sexual misconduct – it’s a slippery slope, no pun intended.
The “Me, too” movement is well-intended, for sure. I get it. It’s hard to talk about this stuff, and there isn’t much of a safe place to do it. Victims are made to feel as though they did something wrong, either in being compliant in sexual misconduct, or in being dumb/naïve/weak enough to have let it happen in the first place. Then if they do come out about it, they’re often accused of being liars, opportunists, attention-seekers, or gold-diggers. Or, if they wait for someone else to come out about it first, then they’re just bandwagoners.
They’re up against a lot.
“Me, too” is a good way to speak up, show solidarity, and bring awareness to an issue without having to go into more detail than you’re willing to. But even those two words can be scary to post up on social media for all of your friends and family to see, who would naturally and understandably, be concerned if they saw them. Those two words take guts to type because in so doing, you’re not only declaring yourself a victim, but you’re aligning yourself with a cause.
However, there’s no set definition for what constitutes as sexual harassment. It’s pretty much defined as anything that makes someone feel sexually uncomfortable. By typing “Me, too,” your alliance could fall anywhere on the spectrum, ranging anywhere let’s say, from a unwelcome wink to rape.
Not that the distinction matters, in this particular case. But along those lines, I haven’t taken part in the movement. That doesn’t mean I’ve never been cat-called on the street, or that my boss never wanted to sleep with me. However, I thankfully haven’t really been involved in a situation where I had to compromise my own ethics, values, or free will for the sake of a man’s ego and/or sexual appetite.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt unsafe, though.
I’m petite, I’m single, and I’m not ugly. I’m not trying to sound conceited, but I learned a long time ago that it was in my best interest to understand how people – especially men – saw me. When I go out into the world, it doesn’t matter how good or bad I think I look. It matters how good I look to a potential predator.
This may sound like an unnecessary level of forethought and precaution to approach my everyday with, but really, it’s just an ongoing state of being. It’s not pessimism, either. It’s just a fact of life as a woman. We have to guard ourselves against whatever’s out there, but at least in my case, my defenses are pretty minimal. There’s very little I can realistically do to fight off someone’s unwelcome advances, so my best bet is avoiding menacing situations whenever and wherever possible.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy or foolproof, though.
But women learn tricks to minimize risk. We don’t park our cars too far from our destination. We don’t pump gas alone at night. We often travel in pairs or groups. And yes, we cover up more than we sometimes want to in an effort to avert the male gaze.
I know that last point isn’t super popular in the “I do what I want” era of millennials, but the way I see it is this. Men are not [all] evil or perverted. They’re driven, significantly, by their innate, biological drive for sex, to an extent that I imagine women cannot comprehend. They can’t help it. Yes, they can help how well they manage their urges, but as women, we need to understand that our modern-day ways of thinking do not trump or override masculinity.
Life is all about calculating and managing risk.
We’re the weaker sex, physically. No, men should not rape women, but in the case that they do – and they definitely do – they’re probably not going to listen to a lecture about morality and sexual equality.
When launching an ethical or moralistic campaign against something that should not happen in the first place, it’s important to remember that the people who are committing the crimes are not the ones who will suddenly be compliant in reducing its frequency just because you reminded them that what they’re doing is bad.
So, back to “Me, too.”
It’s raising awareness for the fact that sexual harassment and assault is a prevalent part of our society. Not only that, but it’s practically institutionalized within some (read: many) industries.
Good first step. Before an issue can be resolved, the gravity and pervasiveness of it needs to be understood and addressed.
And then what?
In most workplace environments, HR departments guard against sexual harassment in the office to a certain extent, at least to an extent that makes sense and is manageable.
However, those rules and regulations can be easily bypassed, especially the higher up the ladder you go. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, there was no one who could – or would – check his authority.
Calling out people like him is also good. Colleagues dissociating themselves from him, his business ventures, and his money helps, as it sets an example for others who may try to pull similar stunts. His personal life and career have been completely destroyed following the allegations against him.
But…all of this happened after he got what he wanted from countless women, after he made his money, and after he built his legacy in Hollywood.
Still, he didn’t get away with it.
Which is good.
Which is progress.
In all of this, I’d like to remind women to take their voice seriously. Don’t underestimate the power you possess in speaking up. But like Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Woody Allen made a statement, regarding the controversy surrounding Harvey Weinstein. He said:
“The whole Harvey Weinstein thing is very sad for everybody involved…You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.”
Caution all around, ladies and gents.