Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sexual Harassment and Assault

(disclaimer - I know a lot of men have suffered sexual abuse, but the vast majority are women, so I generalize here)

Every day brings new announcements - of which men are accused of sexual abuse and harassment.  They range from a kiss in a rehearsal and a picture of almost groping to the very worst - a man accused of undressing and seducing a 14-year-old.  What horrible behaviour.  How can men act this way.  OUTRAGE!!!  And we should be outraged.  This IS horrible behaviour.

None of this is new.  This is old news.  These are things that happened 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.  And they happen every day.  I doubt there is a single woman who hasn't actually dealt with some form of sexual harassment or prejudice - whether she was aware of it or not.  Some cases far worse and far more traumatizing than others.  But this is normalized behaviour in our society.  Normalized by men and women alike.

I've been fired for "histrionics" - or was it the fact that I broke up with my boss?  I was told by a professor that the knee showing through the tear in my jeans was appealing (I don't remember the exact terminology - "sexy" maybe).  A fellow graduate student when he first met me thought I was too bubbly and vacuous to ever finish my degree.  I actually wondered why another professor in our department hadn't hit on me - he had hit on a lot of other female students.  Was I not appealing enough? (that crazy way of thinking comes along with all of this).

I remember having sex in tears with one boyfriend of mine because he was drunk and just wouldn't let up - is that rape?  I said no, he just didn't listen.  One night with a different boyfriend I woke up in the middle of sex that I never agreed to.  Is that rape?

Wake up, people.  The problem is not the individuals that are (finally) being called out.  The problem is our society.  Men were moulded to be in positions of power - women were moulded to raise children and be at home - or at least take 2nd place behind men.  World War II saw a lot of women enter the workforce, and when the men came home, a lot of women didn't want to give that up.  So the American ideal was created (you know, the car, the house, the white picket fence, the housewife) in the 1950s to try to get women back into the home.

The Women's Liberation Movement could be seen as a reaction to that post-war push to put women back into the house.  The Movement started in the 1960s and 1970s.  Do the math - that's 50-60 years ago.  Women started fighting for equality in the workplace FIFTY to SIXTY years ago.  That fight for equality led to a passive-agressive push from men trying to maintain their power and control.  And what is a really effective way to control other people?  Through sex.

Women have been trying to advance in the workplace for a long time.  But to do this, they had to put up with men, who were in control of their jobs, and they had to put up with their advances.  OR THEY WOULD GET FIRED.  It so pisses me off when people ask why women are only now coming forward - because there is a mass movement, because there is support.  An individual going against the system is likely to lose - likely enough that it isn't worth risking a job.  But when dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of women come together to share their stories, it is harder to shout them down.

We have all known this to be a problem for decades. "Radical Feminists" were discounted and shamed because of their "radical-ness" - or because they were an easy target for the controlling population.

Need proof that this has been going on forever?  Popular culture is a great place to look.  Just off the top of my head, remember "9 to 5"?  A great movie and song from 1980?  37 years ago.  We knew it was a problem then.  The movie grossed $103.9 million dollars and is noted as the 20th highest grossing comedy (according to Wikipedia).

The outrage that I see on TV from pundits and talk show hosts makes me even more outraged - you've all known about this crap forever!  But you are acting like you haven't done it yourself, or experienced it in some fashion.  This is not new.  You should have been outraged years ago.  But everyone accepted it and put up with it enough that it kept going.

I say this fully knowing that it is true because I wasn't aware of it when I was younger.  I once sat arguing with a young man (when I was in my 20s) that I hadn't experienced any sexism in my schooling or in my life to that point.  I was wrong.  Really, really wrong.

Hopefully the tide is turning and people are now realizing that there is true inequality and misogyny endemic in our society.  That would be nice.  It would be nice to be starting a career right now and knowing that you didn't have to put up with such crap.

So women, tell your stories.  Share.  Let the world know exactly how unfair our culture has been to us.  Let's get this worked out so that perhaps, one day, we will all just be equal.

Just a note - not all men are misogynistic - I married a great guy who believes in equality and I couldn't have asked for a better partner in life.  So for the good guys out there - I'm not ragging on you - I'm raging on our society as a whole.

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