Try sitting through this flick without feeling uncomfortable…
The term ‘rape culture’ is thrown around a lot nowadays.
Although the phrase may sound a little extreme, it actually refers to a network of seemingly small actions, words, and attitudes that contribute to the ever present unease felt by all women in a patriarchal society.
I am not just referring to the sporadic flashes of fear and outrage when a man yells catcalls on the street. I mean the subtle, insidious bubbling in the pit of your stomach as you go about your daily life. You know not all men are rapists. You’re certain most men are nice, normal guys who would never do you harm. You tell yourself the fear is irrational; it’s broad daylight, for goodness’ sake! The likelihood of anything nasty happening is slim to nil.
French actress and director Éléonore Pourriat has sought to bring rape culture to the surface with her short film Oppressed Majority. And the way it highlights this issue is pure genius…
The film follows the daily routine of a man who takes his son to daycare, and encounters derogatory remarks from an older woman. He is catcalled, and eventually sexually assaulted in broad daylight by a group of aggressive, threatening women. When he reports the incident to a female police officer, she treats his claim with skepticism and casual disdain, while objectifying her younger male colleague.
When his wife picks him up at the police station, the man, broken, bruised, and distraught, laments the state of the matriarchal society. He is promptly slut shamed by his partner for wearing revealing flip flops and above the knee shorts. She yells, with condescending rage, ‘Don’t you dare complain!’
This sense of being constantly uncomfortable in the public realm so cleverly explored in the film, is generated by the everyday sexism all women are subjected to, whether they realize it or not.
Did your male boss keep interjecting when you spoke your mind in a meeting, yet allow the men in the room to speak freely? That’s everyday sexism. Did a stranger make an unwelcome yet seemingly harmless comment about your body as you walked past him on the street? Yep, there it is again. Pointedly stared at on public transport, thus undermining your confidence and poise? Boom! Everyday sexism.
And the unfortunate fact is, everyday sexism descends into rape culture. It just needs the right man and the right opportunity.
Of course, far too many people ignore the existence of rape culture. Assertions that women are too sensitive, imagining things, and that it can’t be as bad as we think are all part of the flippant denial. The most infuriating comment is always, “You should be flattered that random guys pay so much attention to you!”
Why is there an entrenched fear of admitting rape culture exists? If you pay attention, really listen to your gut, then it’s as obvious as a sledgehammer to the face. Yet still we stick our heads in the sand while humming “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke.
Unlike other short films that swap male and female gender roles, Oppressed Majority does not attempt to be funny or ironic. The result is a chilling depiction of gender inequality that is, by any standards, wrong. The viewer cannot help but be outraged and disturbed.
So why do we not feel the same outrage when we witness catcalls and demeaning comments directed at women on the street? Why do we not stand up for women in the workplace when they are patronized and disregarded? And most importantly, why the hell have we allowed it to become so normalized?
This fear of admitting to rape culture and everyday sexism is generated by the fear of admitting we’re wrong. The uncomfortable truth, whether society likes it or not, is that women’s existence continues to be policed by men. Our sexuality is defined by the whims of not only our male partners, but the male population in general.
Women have no choice but to feel constantly uneasy, because this rampant denial does not afford us the opportunity to rectify the situation. It is a reproachable cycle, and until both men and women own up to it, the pattern will continue to be viciously perpetuated.
Image via nytimes.com and youtube.com.