It seems to be that every time I turn on the news, or check my twitter feed that there has been another allegation of sexual harassment from another well-known face, and quite frankly I couldn’t be happier. There is a hell of a lot more work to be done in the fight to stop sexual harassment but shedding light on the cases that we have heard in the last few weeks is a huge step in the right direction.
Now don’t get me wrong I do have my criticisms of what has been happening which I will explain, but just the simple fact that men such as Harvey Weinstein are being called out for their actions can be nothing but a good thing.
For too long there has been a culture where certain men think they have the right to sexually harass women and men, and for too long their victims have been silenced. A lot of these men in powerful positions also have a lot of money which for some reason has given these men a sense of entitlement, they can have everything else they want so why not a person’s body?
It is very hard for me to not generalise writing this piece as I am a woman and most of the victims we have heard about have been women, however, we have heard allegations from men as well and it is very important to remember that men are also victims of sexual abuse. This post, however, will focus very heavily on the sense of entitlement from men towards women.
Men, Sexual Harassment, and Rape Culture
Throughout the years when people have spoken about rape and sexual harassment in many cases it has been focused on:
- Educating women on how not to get raped/harassed
- Somehow justifying certain cases of rape/harassment
So, I guess first I want to go through a few things that I believe to be common sense, these are not debatable they are just facts. Firstly, the only way a woman can prevent herself from being raped is to not be in close proximity to a rapist. This is obviously not plausible as there is no way of telling if someone is a rapist until they rape you, unfortunately. No item of clothing is going to prevent a rapist from being a rapist unless you want all women to walk around in chastity belts. The fact that in 2017 people can still pay attention to what a woman was wearing when she got raped is truly horrifying. So, what if a woman is wearing a low-cut top or a short skirt, I don’t even care if a woman is walking down the street naked that is not an invitation to her body.
When has a window display ever been used as justification for stealing? ‘oh yeah the jumper looked so good on that display I had to steal it’ Should t companies stop advertising to prevent theft??? I’ve never heard anyone suggest that before.
The reason why women are still having to deal with questions on their outfits is due to the complete lack of education that men have been receiving regarding these issues. Not only is it important for women’s safety for men to be educated in consent but is also for the man.
I’m sure there have been many occasions where a woman could have been prevented from being raped if men understood what proper consent is. If I was a man in this day and age I wouldn’t even think of going near a heavily drunk woman who I didn’t know, let alone taking her back home with me. Why would you even want to have sex with someone who is nearly unconscious? And I really do sympathise with men that have been prosecuted for just crossing that fine line because there is no real system in place to actually educate them on what that fine line really is.
Also, I am not being ignorant to the fact that if you are walking home late at night then yes you may be putting yourself in more danger not just danger of sexual assault but even just being robbed. Seeing a girl by herself a night when no one is about can make it easier for a rapist to target you but it’s not going to turn an innocent man into a rapist and I think that’s where a lot of people get it wrong.
There also needs to be a huge attitude change from men in regards to these issues, speaking solely from my own experiences, I have had many discussions with my male friends about these issues and there has just been such a negative connotation towards women who have come forward about rape/ harassment. On many occasions whilst discussing specific cases with male friends or colleagues, their first response has been ‘she’s probably lying’. I completely accept that there are definitely cases where woman lie about being abused or harassed and I also accept that young men who live in urbanised areas have probably been more exposed to these scenarios. However, this response is also due to a lack of education. Yes, there are some women that lie and there are also some men that wrongfully convicted of rape but in actual fact, most rapes are not even reported and even when they are most of them do not even reach court due to lack of evidence ( https://rapecrisis.org.uk/statistics.php ). There are thousands of women who get abused or harassed and stay silent, the cases we are hearing about now in the media are a prime example of that.
The cases we have heard about in the media, however, are not down to lack of education and not knowing boundaries but it comes from pure arrogance and abuse of power. The allegations that these Hollywood men are faced with are sadly similar to many women’s experiences in the workplace, especially in male-dominated environments. Gender equality in the workplace is not just about pay it is also about having both men and woman in powerful positions and I think that is very important if we want to start seeing an end to this behavior, along with victims speaking out and reporting their ordeals.
Women, Sexual Harassment, and Rape Culture
Now if you haven’t disagreed with any of my points yet I think some of you probably will with what I’m about to say next…
So for many women who come forward about sexual assault, it can be very traumatic for them, for many reasons such as embarrassment or having to relive the event or they may just feel ashamed and not want to talk about it which I totally understand. I would always say that women should try their hardest to come forward about such events just to try and prevent it from happening to another woman but I understand why that is hard. The system is designed so that a person must be proven guilty not proven innocent, that means a woman must prove she was raped which just sounds horrible really.
But I want to talk specifically about some of the actresses that spoke out about their horrible experiences with Harvey Weinstein. A lot of people have come out in support for these women exclaiming that they are very brave, which in many of the cases is true. Where I struggle is with particular cases such as Rose Mcgowan’s case and she’s not the only one but I will use her as an example as she has been very vocal and done a lot of finger pointing. I’m sorry but I don’t think it is ‘brave’ for her or anyone else to come out and say that they were raped or abused but then accepted money from their abuser to keep quiet.
I actually think is it is a really big problem that someone would accept hush money from rich men in order to not report them to the police. Firstly, what does that say about your body, $100,000 is how much her body was worth? Secondly, it just allows these rich powerful men to carry on doing the same thing to other women because they think that a bit of money will keep them quiet. Thirdly, how can you accept any sort of compensation for someone raping you and taking away control over your body and for many people taking away their dignity? Maybe I’m being harsh but for me, it seems like a cheque or their careers as actresses were more important to some of these women than the safety of other women because ultimately not reporting him allowed him to carry on doing it. I know there was a case where a woman did report Weinstein and the police didn’t follow up the case and I can’t imagine how difficult that must be but I definitely don’t think taking money off your rapist is the answer to it.
The second problem I have with Rose Mcgowan is that she had a lot to say to some of her male colleagues such as Matt Damon, she tweeted him saying ‘Hey @mattdamon what’s it like to be a spineless profiteer who stays silent?’ Well no actually because if he is a silent profiteer then so are you!! The picture of Harvey Weinstein and Rose Mcgowan above was taken in 2007, 10 years after she had accused him of rape and took a settlement. I don’t think it is right to point the finger at men for staying quiet when women also stayed quiet including the victims. If we want gender equality, then that also means taking responsibility and not expecting men to do things for us. You can’t in one breathe say we want to be equal to men and we can do all the same things but then in another breathe expect men to carry out their ‘manly duties’ such as protecting.
I am definitely a feminist and I believe in equality but I also accept that men and women have different roles in life and that is just down to basic human reproduction. Men will never be able to give birth (well I hope not) that in itself makes us different. We can still be equal and be equally respected and equally as smart whilst still accepting that we are different.
This is not even about gender roles or gender equality sorry I got off topic, my point was however that women can’t expect sexual harassment to just suddenly stop, it would be nice if it did but it won’t. Women can’t expect it to be a man’s job to fight for women’s rights, yes they can help but ultimately it is for women to speak out about these issues with men supporting them not doing it for them.
Like I said earlier I can fully sympathise with women who don’t want to speak up about their horrible ordeals but actually, that is probably one of the biggest ways to fight this behavior. Also, it is not the blame of these women but it just annoys me that some of the women that came out with stories about Harvey Weinstein are literally some of the most high profile well-respected people in Hollywood. Angelina Jolie has spoken for the UN and I know it is not solely her responsibility but she has a huge platform and a lot of power in Hollywood, I don’t understand why a person like that would stay quiet about Weinstein’s behavior for so long.
To be honest actually, I do think it is the responsibility of women to come forward about issues like this and actually it is probably one of the most effective ways to prevent rape and sexual abuse. There definitely needs to be a lot more done to make women feel more comfortable to come forward about their ordeals. However, I don’t think that this should be over social media or that it should be allowed to accuse a man of rape/ sexual harassment unless it is at a police station of under proper procedures. You can’t just have people on twitter with thousands or sometimes millions of followers accusing men of rape and there must be some protection for men in these scenarios.
So yes although I do think it is a huge step in the right direction that woman are exposing these horrible experiences there definitely needs to be a better system put in place.