After five and a half months of senior year and almost a month into a job in the film industry, I find Western culture rocking in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s imploding world, the outrage in the entertainment sector piling up, and females posting their harassment experiences all over social media with the #me too campaign.
I waited a couple days to say something because I don’t think only words and hashtags will change what is happening right now. At the same time, I am surprised that so many women waited so long to speak openly. I am surprised at myself, at my friends, at other women who have been discussing and shedding tears and raising voices among themselves over the regularity of inordinate cat calling, visual and physical groping, and the ensuing fear of any unknown male. Did we really think that not addressing it would cut short the baby steps towards normalizing sexual assault, rape, molestation, and abuse? Did we literally think that this had happened to so few of us, that keeping quiet would make it go away? I do not think so.
What I do know is that I watch so many girls justifying what has happened to them to stop the guilty thought that perhaps something in them is not enough to merit womanly dignity. We have discussed the fact, often proved by reactions from various pools of male friends, that disbelief or dismissiveness might be the result of sharing very personal experiences. Discretion, fear, resignation, discouragement, confusion, bewilderment, and savior complexities have helped keep so many quiet. And then, suddenly, with this disturbance in Hollywood, the stories are pouring out.
Being described as a conservative and Catholic aspiring filmmaker, I would say that I bridge a gap between the currently reeling Hollywood world and the families back home who do much to shield their children from sexual iniquities. My background is one where I grew up trusting that the males I knew tried to protect my dignity, but I am now part of a world where that trust is taunted around every corner.
As far as this upheaval in the film community goes, I myself am blessed fresh out of college to be working for a phenomenal production company. They treat me like family and are giving me every opportunity to rise as a film producer without forcing me to indict my womanhood in any way. I have friends who are not so lucky.
Even so, I was and still am preyed upon because I look so young and innocent—sixteen is the average I get from people. Let me tell you, I have somehow striven to maintain a pure character, but there is no naivety and less innocence in it anymore. College life without a car in a SoCal downtown taught me fast. Without the luxury of a boyfriend to be with me wherever I went (because I think use is the lowest form of human relationship and a definitive far cry from love), I walked alone. Friends would get mad at me for traipsing to events at night by myself because something would happen almost every time, but there is a humiliation about daily begging for someone to walk with me as if there was nothing I could do. My five foot three inch self preferred a taser, a pocket knife, and sometimes pepper spray coupled with a limited background in karate rather than continuously bothering guy friends or wrangling a group of girls. I don’t like wearing stilettos, so I didn’t have those as another sort of defense.
But the guys that I pass everyday don’t know I have those weapons in my backpack. It doesn’t matter what I wear. I’ve seen friends whistled and kissed at on the street corner for wearing sweat pants and t-shirts just as much as I’ve been yelled at or cajoled to get into a car while wearing a dress or a pair of bootleg jeans.
Yet despite being followed numerous times at night, I am almost ashamed to say that my most harrowing experiences happened in broad daylight. I don’t think its supposed to be normal for a guy to drop his pants in front of you and then tell you off with an “f*** you” because you won’t do goodness knows what on the street with him. Or for a six foot fellow to try to run you off the crosswalk into incoming traffic and then yell at you halfway up the street simply because you are wearing a modest, feminine dress. Or for two guys clearly in the prostitution business to haggle over what they think your looks would fetch as you walk by them at the corner of the drugstore. I don’t think it is considered natural for a girl to have guys honk, whistle, make sexual noises, or throw derogatory comments at her on a daily basis as she walks unassumingly through normal activities.
In my personal experience, it hasn’t solely been guys on the streets though. What of the numerous men who have gallantly thrown coats over my shoulders in a time of need only to turn around and force the gift of physical affection even when I clearly express my distaste? The thought has crossed my mind if I actually will meet a man I am attracted to who does not demand false intimacy that is devoid of simple honesty and selfless interest. Who thought that guy friends would think comments of “Your smile is pretty. So is your a**. Aren’t you going to give me more?” from bums at the bus stop would be a better compliment than a simple “You are beautiful,” from an honest friend?
To throw things in perspective, the last two times a male acquaintance told me I was beautiful (in those words) was at a winter formal dance two years ago and a couple weeks ago over Facebook by someone I haven’t met who keeps telling me I am a close friend and whose intentions I haven’t figured out yet. The other time I felt that a man thought I was beautifully worth it was when a trusted friend told me I was a precious flower he didn’t want to see crushed on the sidewalk as he warned me about a guy he was afraid would use me. On the other hand, numerous degrading, teasing comments have been thrown my way by guys for whom I want to make allowances about cultural desensitization because I have called them some of my closest friends.
This is not to point fingers. It is simply to say that there is something direly wrong with the presentation and permissive action of men’s sexual attraction toward women. Something that must change if we want to repair the relationship between men and women.
Believe me, I realize that at least two generations of women have done much to harm our own cases. However, there is a deadly truth stemming from the ancient power struggle between men and women that is bursting into outrage with the #me too campaign now trending.
We are woman, so fiercely independent because we are so easily manhandled.
Behind every woman’s note of bitterness and every quick jump to lash out is tucked a painful experience. Every single one of those incidents has been piling up distrust to reveal a grotesque cultural situation that can no longer be ignored by men or women.
I struggle with resenting guys who force me to do something that feeds their gentlemanly nature simply because I am a woman. I dislike them just as much as I gross out after a guy friend tells me the woman he will date needs to have a butt that measures from here to there as if who I am and the obvious attraction between us isn’t enough. However, mere resentment will not fix the problem.
Sometimes I am tempted to think that I come in contact mostly with men who are soaked in the permissiveness that has allowed Harvey Weinstein and the Hollywood elite to grope along their oily, gross journey. Sometimes after run-ins with especially immature men who would otherwise have been very lovable, I feel a certain despair. Why haven’t my hopes and dreams crashed there?
I also know a select few men who value the dignity of women the way my father has defended my dignity as his daughter and a woman and the way I hope my brothers will always uphold the women in their lives. For that reason, I trust and hope and pray that someday one of those men will step forward to guard and defend my womanhood in ways that I cannot from the everyday nightmares who have not yet learned what their manhood truly means.
Thousands of women posting “Me too” on their social media feeds will not fix the repugnant problems that are coming to light. They will, however, continue to open eyes to how widespread this grotesque feature of our porn infested society has become. The dialogue we need to have now is what we will do to execute concrete solutions. For starts, it will require girls to recognize the authentic dignity of their womanhood. It will require guys to grasp their manhood and take a firm stand in the breach so that girls don’t feel the need to cry, “Me too. Where are the men?”
PC: Sophie Flemings