Try sitting through this flick without feeling uncomfortable…
Western society is making more noise than ever about the elimination of patriarchy. The pay gap is being combated, women have a variety of choices regarding work/family balance, and rape is no longer dismissed as part of a woman’s existence. Victim blaming (for the most part) is collectively shunned, and there are far fewer loopholes in the prosecution of rape.
However, although rape/invasive touching is dealt with harshly, there is a whole host of inappropriate behaviour over which a thin veil is drawn. It is usually perpetuated by men aged 35 plus (although many are younger), and stems from a sexual superiority complex born of another era. Women experience it a lot in the workplace, especially in male dominated industries with older employers. I am talking, of course, about the string of lewd remarks, derogatory comments, and patronising put-downs that follow the female species like toilet paper stuck to a stiletto heel.
Let me quickly say that I do not in any way blame the entirety of man-kind. I am very lucky that the vast majority of the men in my life, older and younger, are disgusted by this attitude and will step in whenever they get a whiff of it. However, there have been times in my life when I have come up against it, and had no idea how to deal with it.
The reason for this lack of coping strategy is that men infallibly dismiss it as “a joke”. That is, no matter how uncomfortable/offended women are, our feelings don’t matter because “that’s what men do”. They believe, perhaps subconsciously, that female sexuality is governed by men, and exploit they this. It’s a power play designed to strip women of any prowess, and thus quell the insecurity this kind of male feels lest he be outshone.
For example; an older male co-worker of mine used to greet me with comments such as: “Nice boots – shame you’re not wearing them and nothing else!” I once arrived at a party all dressed up and he whispered in my ear: “I’d pay for that!” He is married with children. Of course, rather than standing up for myself, I did what most of us do. I brushed it all off with an uncomfortable laugh and ran to the other side of the room. They interpret this reaction as “she enjoyed/encouraged it,”when in fact the opposite is true. When we sense a predator, we instinctively want to get out of danger quickly and without fuss. The last thing we want is conflict, particularly if our employment is on the line.
I’m not the only one. A friend of mine had an older employer (also married with children) who would “jokingly” proposition her, until one day he said to her, without a hint of humour: “Come to me when you get serious about it.” She was 19 at the time. Another friend was touched and disparaged by an older male co-worker (AGAIN, married with children). When she complained about it to the (male) powers that be, they asked her to keep quiet because he was “such a good contributor to the company.” Yet again, these women were expected to put up and shut up. Their feelings didn’t matter; the whims of men took priority.
Although this is increasingly condemned, the progress is slow. Patriarchy is so far entrenched in these generations of males that there is no teaching them otherwise. After contemplating my experiences, I regret staying silent. I regret not telling that co-worker and others like him to categorically f*** off. So ladies, make some noise. We may not teach them anything, but they will know that we won’t stand for it. Let’s eliminate sexual patriarchy; it needs to go.
Image via Wisegeek.org
‘80’s rock star and former singer of The Pretenders Chrissie Hynde is facing a backlash for suggesting that women are responsible if they are raped. Hynde recently revealed to The Sunday Times magazine that she believes women should take “full responsibility” for luring their attackers. She stated: “You know if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him… If you’re wearing something that says ‘Come and f*** me’, you’d better be good on your feet.”
Hynde continued in this vein: “If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault. But if I’m being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged…that’s just common sense… If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk… Who else’s fault can it be? I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial am I?”
Well, according to sexual assault rehabilitation groups, Hynde’s comments are very controversial indeed. Director of the charity Victim Support, Lucy Hastings, stated that “victims should not blame themselves. [They] should never feel or be made to feel that they were responsible for the appalling crime they suffered – regardless of circumstances or factors which may have made them particularly vulnerable.”
Hynde’s mentality of old-school victim blaming can be traced back to an incident she endured at the age of 21. She writes in her biography (entitled Reckless) that she was encouraged by a bikie gang in Ohio to attend a party with them, but who instead took her to an empty house and forced her to perform sexual acts. Hynde reveals she was on drugs at the time.
However, rather than condemning her perpetrators, she considers herself responsible. “Technically speaking, however you want to look at it, this was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t f*** about with people, especially people who wear ‘I Heart Rape’ and ‘On Your Knees’ badges…those motorcycle gangs, that’s what they do.”
She drove the final nail into the coffin when she called current pop stars who deem themselves feminists, but who choose to dress and behave provocatively, “prostitutes.” She stated: “Women who sell what their product is by using sex – that’s prostitution… A pop star who’s walking around, parading themselves as a porn star and saying they’re feminists. They’re prostitutes. I’m not making a value judgment on prostitutes, but just say what you are.”
Hearing a woman so callously and casually advocate this archaic attitude in 2015 boggles the mind. Understandably, the social media retaliation has been extreme, with users releasing tweets such as: “Chrissie Hynde has completely destroyed her feminist legacy in one ignorant, appalling statement,” (Andrew), and, “Thing about rapists is that they’re rapists. They don’t care what victims wear. Their impulse is to rape. They’re rapists” (Jill). There are also those who support Hynde, stating that people are overlooking the fact that she is, in fact, a victim, and that this is self-blame.
Hynde’s comments reveal values that are very generational. At the age of 63, Hynde is of another era, in which the feelings of women on issues of sexuality didn’t matter. As they saying goes, “that’s just what men do.” The perceived needs of men always took priority. Lewd, patronising comments in the workplace were expected. Unwelcome touching was justified if you were wearing the right clothes. As for sexual assault; questions such as: “Did you encourage him?” “Was it really that bad?” and “Are you sure it was rape?” were the immediate responses.
The statement, “that’s what men do” was coined thousands of years ago by men to excuse and justify their own bad behaviour. It is an attitude that has plagued womankind throughout history and continues to do so today, regardless of the noise we make about it. It has been firmly entrenched in generations of men. They then project it onto the women they associate with. Although younger generations are choosing to ignore and rally against this mentality, there is a chunk of the younger male population who are inheriting this mindset from older male colleagues/friends/relations. It is toxic, unproductive and needs to change.
In addition, this age old excuse actually doesn’t hold water. Not all men behave like that. Not all men treat women in a derogatory manner. And certainly, not all men rape. Nowadays, pushing this assertion as a continued excuse is not contributing to any sort of masculinity. Rather, these men are shooting themselves in the foot, as their actions are increasingly condemned. It is self-perpetuated misandry.
For Chrissie Hynde, who is the undisputed victim of a vile and brutal sexual assault, to vehemently blame herself for 42 years is a terrible reflection of the sorry state our society is in. As such, she should be pitied, not vilified. Yes, we are making progress. Yes, more and more men are taking a stand against their peers who perpetuate this filth. But until the seed of doubt that instinctively rises in the minds of many when a sexual assault is reported is permanently quashed, we still have an awful lot of work to do.