#Me, too? No, Sorry Count Me Out
Controversially, I must be the luckiest woman in the world, or incredibly repulsive because I have never been sexually harassed. And before you all go rushing off to various electronic devices to look up pictures of me on the internet to confirm my exact level of repulsiveness, I’ll also tell you that attractiveness is not a pre-requisite to being sexually harassed or abused. You do not need to be young; you do not need to be pretty; you do not need to be a woman. You just need to be in the wrong place, or in the wrong situation at the wrong time.
That said, this great outpouring of revelations of sexual harassment, of rape, of abuse currently being released among the media with anyone and everyone who’s ever lived (aside from me, of course!) screaming ‘#Me,too’ is enough to make anyone think that when we’re not reading blogs on social media (or my website www.itsjustjane.com), we’re all out sexually harassing or raping each other. Not true. Although we are perhaps, all guilty of jumping on a great big bandwagon.
In fact, some people having a ride on this particular bandwagon won’t even be aware that the current #Me,too movement is not the original movement. The phrase was hijacked by Alyssa Milano in 2017 in a tweet which encouraged women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted to highlight what she called ‘the magnitude of the problem’. She’d used the phrase not knowing of it’s original use back in 2006 by Tarana Burke, a ‘social activist’ and community organiser, when it was part of a grassroots campaign to ‘promote empowerment through empathy’ among women of colour who’d experienced sexual abuse. The use of the term now with a hashtag seems to have expanded the movement(s) into an ever growing mushroom cloud of stories and accusations spreading across the globe faster than any nuclear disaster fallout.
Of course, it’s commendable that the perpetrator of any form of sexual violence, be it verbal or physical, is brought to book and dealt with appropriately within the jurisprudence of the law. There are due processes within the legal system to do this. The danger, however, is that this type of mass outcry and celebrity endorsed catchphrase use is that as people sit in their armchairs staring into their Ipad or android is that it’s all too easy to mistake a commendable and worth cause highlighting the disenfranchisement of a minority group (sexually abused women of colour) for a mainstream glittering prize of being someone who shares something in common with a celebrity.
Take Harvey Weinstein, and a lot of people will want you to, preferably as far away as possible for a long time dressed in an orange jumpsuit. It was one sexual harassment claim made against the renowned Hollywood producer which really gave the Me, Too hashtag movement its legs. All of a sudden, a lot of celebrities and women who had worked with Weinstein were ‘opening up’ about sexual harassment by him. GOOD choice of words, ladies, but Weinstein says all sexual relations were consensual and his legal team has called other allegations false. Guess what, girls, exchanging a blow job or a quickie on the casting couch for a $10 million leading female role in the next blockbuster movie is not sexual harassment, it’s career advancement. You were not raped. You were not forced to taking his cock in your mouth whilst you had a quick read of Act 1. You made a choice. It’s a bit late in the day now to say that choice was a bad one.
Reese Witherspoon, for instance, says she was sexually assaulted by a director when she was 16. How old is she now? Why did she wait? Was it because her career meant more to her than her virginity and she was happy to brush it all under the red carpet she walked on as an adult when she attended the Oscars? And whilst celebrity after celebrity joins in this mass – dare I say it – witch hunt like pursuance of retribution against their assailants has #Me, Too helped, well, you too?
Has this high profile, well documented piece of sexual propaganda really helped Gemma, in Solihull, for instance, whose Uncle touches her inappropriately under the Sunday dinner table? Or Melissa, in Clapham, whose boyfriend raped her after a binge drinking session with his mates? Are their voices really being heard or is #Me, Too only a campaign that empowers people with money and celebrity status? Those women, those celebrities sitting tight and clutching hold of the sides of that bandwagon really do need to take a look in the dictionary at the definition of ‘unwanted’ and realise that it does not mean developing a conscience fifteen years later, when you are rich and famous and looking for the next meal ticket to getting your name in the papers, and on social media and being able to ‘empathise’ on Fox News or the BBC because you’ve been out of the limelight for a while and the bandwagon is a perfect vehicle to drive you back there.
Unwanted is being thirteen and in fear each night, cowering in your bed, clutching your duvet cover up to your chin with sweating palms and not being able to do a thing about it when the chink of light from the landing grows larger as your step father opens your bedroom door and covers your mouth and pulls your nightdress up above your budding breasts and breathes ‘don’t cry, baby or mum will find out and then she won’t love you any more’. Unwanted is when a man you’ve dated for months, and whom you are beginning to love and trust, suddenly has too much to drink one night, and decides that you really do want to have sex on his couch, despite you shouting NO as loud as you dare before he smacks your face and invades your body because your fear, and your rejection turn him on and send him over the edge and you become a victim and he becomes a rapist.
We should not be ‘empowering’ women through celebrity status and vacuous notions that somehow Reece Witherspoon’s experience at 16, when she kept quiet, is somehow going to make your choice at 16 of whether to report inappropriate touching by your Uncle any easier. It isn’t. The way to ‘empower’ everyone is through education and instilling of a moral code and standards. To hell with this liberalist, you’ve – got – to – be – able – to – express – yourself – freely – and – openly. Where sexual behaviour is concerned, parents, older relatives, teachers, anyone who is privy to the formation of a child to become a worthy and decent member of society has a responsibility to instil a set of rules and values as early as possible. Law enforcement officers, and members of the legal and medical professions need constant re-education into handling of sexual abuse and harassment allegations. Courts need to protect BOTH the victim and the accused and offer understanding and privacy during a trial. Society itself needs to move away from this progressively lax sexual standard it is setting. Short skirt and revealing top? She was asking for it. No, she wasn’t. She has a perfect right to be able to wear what she wants and remain unsullied – but perhaps she should have looked more closely at her choice of outfit before she went out. It ISN’T just the attacker that has to take a responsibility for his actions and the sooner we all take collective responsibility the better.
Let’s not be glamorising a sexually abused person’s right to be heard by trivialising it with the use of a hashtag. Let’s forget the hashtag and make our voices heard without celebrity endorsement. I’m all for that, me, too. But the current movement, and its hype fuelled bandwagon – count me out. I won’t be getting on it.
© Amy J Steinberg 2018