Watching the number of #MeToo hashtags pop up on social media reminds me of the early Outlander criticism regarding the number of times Claire finds herself the victim of harassment, abuse or attempted rape. To that I must say (again) … puleaze. The only difference between the treatment of women in the 18th century and the treatment of women in the 21st century is nothing. Throughout history women have been the objects of unwanted attention and worse. The singular difference is the laws implemented to protect the vulnerable, which only works if the victim is brave enough to come forward and, in some cases, put up with being victimized all over again.
Back in the 18th century, women had little choice but to take it. Today, a woman takes it because 1) no one believes her, 2) she can’t believe it herself, 3) she thinks it’s normal, 4) she’s afraid, or 5) she thinks she was asking for it. There’s one more, and probably a very unpopular one, but here it goes … 6) she gets something in return.
I can’t speak to #6 because it’s not something I’ve ever experienced. In all my incidents of sexual harassment, unwelcome advances and worse, the sole something I ever got were feelings of disgust, annoyance and fear, respectively. The only question I have for the woman who exchanges her self-respect for what I sure as hell hope was the equivalent of a golden ticket is – was it worth it? Did it fulfill your dreams? Was it the only way to achieve your goals? Would you do it again? Okay. So I guess I have a few more questions.
With respect, I certainly do not mean to sound holier than thou. I can’t walk in anyone’s shoes but my own, but submitting to sexual harassment serves to undermine the efforts of victims and supporters fighting for a better future for everyone. With even higher respect, I am absolutely not criticizing those women who were forced to submit. Writing that last sentence makes me ask myself, why am I criticizing anyone? If a woman feels the need to use everything at her disposal “to get ahead,” then why shouldn’t she? I’ll tell you why. Because she’s setting a precedent – a very dangerous precedent which even she may not want to honor next time.
On a positive note, there is another huge difference between the 18th century and the 21st century, and that is … the men. Men have actually evolved. Most men genuinely believe women deserve better treatment than their ancestors. Heck, a large number believe women deserve equal treatment (see Are You A Flower Girl Or Are You A Lady? – my post on equality).
We shouldn’t have to rely on a Jamie-type hero to save us. We should be able to say “What you are asking, saying or doing makes me uncomfortable” or “We need to keep this meeting professional” or “Please repeat what you just said into the camera.” I realize those are difficult words to say when you’re trying to get something out of the person who is making you feel uncomfortable – like a job or, say, respect.
I predict women may have to start recording every encounter to be believed. It’s already happening via social media. No consequences so far have come from any of the videos I’ve seen posted. Perhaps some girlfriend, wife or mother will see one of the videos and thunk the offender on the head when he gets home. We can only hope.
To women like Mayim Bialik who claim she has avoided mistreatment because of the way she dresses, looks or acts, I have this to say: You didn’t dodge anything because of your appearance or behavior; you escaped because you’re luckier than the rest of us. That’s it.
And to women like Donna Karan (who now regrets revealing how she truly feels on camera), I have this to say: Thanks for letting me know I was asking 7 and 8-year-old boys to stick their hands in my panties because I was wearing a skirt. Thanks for letting my 9-year-old self know by walking home alone in a pair of corduroys I was inviting a child rapist to my back door. Thanks for letting me know that as a 14-year-old girl in stinky gym clothes from my basketball tryout I was putting myself on sexual display for a gang of boys to assault. Thanks for letting me know as a 17-year-old girl propping my foot on the bottom of my seat, I was really positioning my knee in a provocative manner, thus inviting my teacher to squeeze himself around my knee. And thanks for letting me know I was asking for it during all the times as an adult woman I found myself confronted by a man only doing what I didn’t know I wanted. Got it.
Do I sound pissed? Well, maybe I am a little because I’ve had it with the disingenuous surprise at how women have been treated all these years. To that I say (again x2) … puleaze.
[To allay any concerns, like the gang of boys in high school I evaded, I also managed to escape from the man at my back door.]