Like many women around the world, I have spent the last days in a dark cloud, both horrified and engrossed by the revelations that are coming to the surface about Harvey Weinstein. My emotions are conflicted as one part of me is repulsed by the harrowing accounts that are being told by his various victims and yet the other is rejoicing that not only is he being held accountable for his vile actions, but that the conversation once again is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The sexual mistreatment of women is unacceptable, immoral but also illegal.
With this being said, it continues. It continues, sometimes in the most subtle of ways, but it has become part of every day life and by some, dismissed as not such a big deal. Interestingly, that those words have been said to me time and time again by men.
There have been many high profile cases of exposed misogyny and sexual harassment in the past 12 months. Donald Trump declaring it his right to grab women by their private parts because of his fame exemplifies a mindset believing women are available for the sexual gratification of men. “When you’re a star they let you do it, you can do anything,” he proudly boasted off the record, which would suggest a true insight into the mans character. And what about the numerous accusations of sexual harassment against Fox news anchor Bill O’Reilly that resulted in the termination of his employment? Not surprisingly these two are good buddies. The New York Times reported President Trump describing Mr. O’Reilly as “a good person” and declared, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” days after it was reported that five women had received settlements after making harassment claims against him.
Speaking for most women, I wouldn’t let Donald Trump grab me by the hand let alone by “the pussy” so his self serving assertion that he can “do anything” because of his fame is just faulty piece of arsenal he carries to excuse his disgusting attitude towards women.
While these cases may seem far removed from us, they are actually closer to home than we understand because for some, these horrors live inside us. They live inside our memories, our cells and our soul as we relive the amount of times we have been sexualized, have been embarrassed and singled out for having body parts that are considered sex toys for men.
For most of my life, I have had large breasts. It’s the way I was born, it’s my body shape and there’s not much I can do about it. When I was 28 I had a breast reduction but after giving birth to two children they came back in size. These breasts have nourished children, they are part of my sacred body that is mine to decide who sees or touches it. Yet over the years, my breasts have been the topic for many jokes, innuendo and at times grabbing by men, without my consent. For this reason, I have developed a very unhealthy relationship with my breasts. I dress to draw attention away from them, I am constantly hiding them in photographs or I sit with my arms covering them.
When I meet a person and watch their gaze move from my eyes to my chest, I immediately feel vulnerable, devalued and exposed. Is it any wonder considering I live in a society that can justify grabbing women by their private parts as “locker room banter,” or the online sexual harassment of young girls as “boys being boys”? Has our society become so immune to the damaging repercussions of sexual objectification that it is now just our norm?
Harvey Weinstein is off to rehab as a way to pay his penance for the putrid violations he has committed, numbers that seem to be growing by the day, but what about his victims? What about the women whose lives he has ruined, the careers he has stalled and the reputations he has shattered? How do they get to rebuild themselves and claim back the innocence that was stolen from them by a sick and perverted man who was protected by the same kind of people that see women’s breasts before they see her?
Every time a woman is sexually objectified, abused or disrespected a slither of her soul dies. We immediately snap into self-protection mode, our disposition changes and we become hyper vigilant.
And what makes this even worse is that so many men still don’t get it. Or maybe they do but just don’t see need for change as it doesn’t affect them directly. I have raised this topic on many occasions to be met with the rolling eyes and mocking laughter of men. “You should be lucky they find you sexy,” was said to me only recently suggesting that my sexual appeal to men would somehow be my driving force in life? Do I not deserve more than that? What about my mind and the wisdom that I have collected over the 46 years I have been alive? What about the fact that I can make you laugh, that I am a good listener and a loyal friend? How did my worth ever get wrapped up in my body parts?
So whilst I rejoice in the disclosure and consequence of Harvey Weinstein, I am also so deeply disturbed by the fact it happened in the first place. We live in a sick culture that protects men from not acting ethically and respectfully. Women are afraid to call it out for fear of retribution and isolation but our silence makes us complicit. We build a shell around us, we forge ahead and try to balance our femininity with our need for self-protection. Our response is endemic to a culture that allows men to violate our bodies, our dignity and our basic human rights with very little consequence.
Emma Thompson recently referred to the “crisis in masculinity.” A society that reframes the word ‘predator’ into ‘sex addict’ and the system of “harassment, and belittling, and bullying” that we as women have been thrust into and forced to survive in. It’s not a myth, it’s not in our heads, it’s something we live with every day and it’s not good enough. Not for me and not for any woman.