CN: Sexual assault/ harassment
Two words: Harvey. Weinstein. The media is awash right now with Hollywood types of all ilks rushing to distance themselves from the mogul turned sexual predator. Hillary Clinton has expressed her ‘shock’ at the behaviour of her former friend and James Corden has rightly received a good dressing down for making jokes about the serious allegations which have began to emerge.
Time and time again we watch these events play out. The same tropes of shock, surprise and disappointment are expunged alongside the desperate excuses of ‘sex addiction’ and it being a ‘different era’. As more survivors are empowered to come forward they are met with hostility and accusatory questions about why they didn’t speak out before… as if the answer is not so patently obvious and evidenced in the very question itself.
Facebook this morning is ablaze with a simple, viral campaign by where women are urged to post the status ‘me too’ to highlight the extent and reach of sexual harassment and assault, making it clear beyond doubt that every one of us has, at sometime, endured it. I have no qualms with the campaign itself and am not predisposed to cynicism as to the efficacy of social media politics; if awareness can be raised and that, in some small way, helps then I’m all for it.
I’m just sad. Sad that it takes a global scale admission of women speaking up before anyone will believe us. Sad that we are in a position by where the public declaration of our at times, intimate trauma is what we must endure in order to be taken seriously. I would like, for once, to see a ‘me too’ campaign for men to confess that they have harassed and assaulted women so that it is them who must run the gauntlet of shame, stigma and taboo for a change.
I also wonder what this means for those of us whose bodies and/or identities exist outside the scope of unwanted sexual attention? Those of us that are ‘too fat’, ‘too old’ or ‘too ugly’ and are consequently desexualised and othered. I can honestly say that in my nearly-thirty-one years on this earth I have never been catcalled. That is not to say that I have not experienced street harassment, far from it. Any fat girl will tell you that to have the audacity of walking down the street whilst eating a sandwich on route from A to B is to brace for impact, pray for invisibility and expect abuse. It is also not to say that I don’t believe the frequency and intensity of which it happens to other women – I do. I have seen it and heard the countless testimonies of friends and allies. It is also, most definitely not say that I only wish I was deemed attractive enough to harass – I absolutely don’t. I can think of few things more terrifying than having to rebuff or ignore such unwanted attention. My questioning here is about the relationship between sexual harassment and sexual erasure.
Is it my place to comment on something I have little experience of? Do I risk highjacking the important and valid discourse around harassment by even asking how my experiences relate? I am also all too aware that for some, their non-conformity enters them into a new arena, not harassment, not erasure, but fetishisation. A complex world where aspects of identity are sexualised in isolation and by where consent may or may not be present. I am keen to see if there might be a way to open up the ongoing discourse to create a space that examines the myriad of interconnected modes of sexuality policing without derailing or gaslighting the existing conversation.
At the moment, the truth is that I am not sure. I sit with a discomfort that I don’t fully understand. I want to throw my support behind the ‘me too’ campaign, but wonder if my experiences are simply too divergent or irrelevant. I feel, that at best, I can say ‘Me Too’* – where the * relates to the further introspection and musing contained herein.
I don’t seek to criticise the campaign – maybe just to wonder about the possibility and appropriateness of expanding it. If the movement can in any way reduce the cycle of stigma and shame and contribute to creating an environment where survivors feel more confident in speaking up, bystanders feel emboldened to step in, and entitled perpetrators think twice before they act then I am 100% behind it and happy to add my own voice (albeit accompanied by a * legend) and to say loudly and without hesitation, ‘ME TOO’*.