The news at the moment has been discussing some disturbing topics but also highlighting some interesting opinions. As a woman I can’t say that I am especially surprised at the actions of certain high profile men, as a woman, I have been experiencing various levels of objectification my entire life. The thing that is interesting me the most is the reaction that some people have to it.
I am in no way a PC activist I get frustrated sometimes with people taking offence for others whilst not truly understanding why, nor in fact even taking offence, but feeling like they should take offence. However, when you have high profile men, of many classes and varying levels of fame, making quips and sly asides about how being in certain situations is ‘like going into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom’ I must say I take offence. It is not the joke per say, I understand that it is a particularly British response to laugh, but how can these men make light of such actions? By making light of this kind of situation, it trivialises something that in my mind is a very serious social problem and makes light of a whole area of sexism and machoism that is deeply rooted within our society and culture.
We can at times look back at our parents and grandparents generations and think how pedestrian they all were and how naive they were, however how far have we really come if sexual assault towards another person is seen as a joke? What this whole Weinstein affair has highlighted is how normalised it is for certain people to trivialise and objectify women. I have heard many suggestions for change and how we must behave to better understand and prevent this kind of behaviour. Suggestions like ‘women should speak out more’, and that the #metoo social media storm is just what we all need to prevent this abhorrent behaviour. Is this actually a joke? Once again it falls at the feet of the wronged to instrument the change, I can not disagree with this sentiment more.
I have not met a woman who has not experienced some form of sexual assault or objectification in their lifetime - women from a young age are warned about the dangers of walking alone at night, of dressing too provocatively, of giving off the wrong impression, like this in some way justifies any form of unwelcome attention, that when we receive it, it must have been brought about by us ‘we must have been asking for it’. I remember distinctly as a 13 year old being told that I was ‘jail bait’ and that I would ‘get a man in to trouble’, I remember being propositioned in the street and when I spurned their advances being shouted at with such things as I was a slut or a dyke because I couldn't possibly have knocked them back for any other reason. I had a man once run at me at 11o’clock in the morning and try and grab my breasts, luckily I thought fast and threw him over a low lying fence. I was in my early 20’s by this point, if I had been younger then this would have really shaken me up. The reason I wasn’t as shocked by this behaviour is that I had actually had a lot worse happen quite frequently in the past and therefore was not surprised, merely exacerbated by it. This makes me saddest of all looking back at events like ‘mad groper’, I have actually lived my life expecting this sort of thing to happen to me, I have had events happen so frequently that I have normalised it. I know I am not alone in this and especially not alone in experiencing varying levels of objectification, the #metoo explosion that has been trending clearly demonstrates this.
I hope that us engaging in conversations about the kind of treatment many people have experienced will in some way bring about a change in attitudes to this sort of behaviour. I look at my daughter and hope that we are moving away from outdated schools of thought. I hope that we as a society stop victim blaming and teach the next generation that it is not ok to treat someone in this way. I hope that ignorant conservative MP’s and misguided comedians realise the effect that their words and ‘banter’ have in a very fragile situation. Sexual objectification and assault is not a joke, it is not trivial it ruins confidence and diminishes women everywhere. No one should be made to feel helpless, scared or inferior. No one should feel that receiving certain behaviour types is their lot in life, no one should feel like it is ok. Even what some might think is minor (I hate this terminology the most) banter can have devastating affects on impressionable young boys and girls. So please men and women of this world think of the jokes, think of the wider impact that trivialising certain actions has and what in turn that subtext could mean - by all means joke about Weinstein but not at the expense of his victims, and sadly many, many other victims who share in this experience. Lets teach our children about respect and the power of a positive role model.