This has nothing to do with travel or writing, but everything to do with a bubbling rage, a widespread disgust felt by anyone who’s spent more than 5 minutes reading about “Hollywood mogul” Harvey Weinstein’s thirty years of sexual harassment and assault against women.
This afternoon and last night, a best friend and I stoked the fires of rage across countless furiously-typed text messages, exchanging our disgust at how women could be so mistreated, not just by a wretched man but by a system meant to silence them. Before long we were asking ourselves where Hollywood ends and society begins, and the line is unfortunately far too blurred to make any sort of clear distinction.
It comes down to that “chicken and egg” thing; which came first? Do we diminish and intimidate women because of their diminished roles on screen, powered by a Hollywood machine led by men who made it happen? A machine that gives the majority of significant speaking roles in films to men? Or demands that most films need a sexy girlfriend but not the other way around? Or dictates that Tom Cruise’s female lead in a movie will be 25 years his junior because that’s totally normal? Or creates countless movies about a male loser’s “coming of age,” where he “finds himself” and becomes a better man thanks to the “quirky magical girl with the cool personality,” who somehow had no needs of her own, but only existed to “show him the way?” (I am so sick of those movies I will stab my eyes out if I have to see another one)
Or…did the Hollywood machine create all of this because we wanted it? Are we being too hard on the (mostly) men who run Hollywood–excluding Harvey Weinstein who is clearly an evil asshole–because they’re simply responding to demand with an adequate supply?
I started thinking about this and I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, at least not one that I’d be able to fit onto Twitter. I’m not even sure if the unlimited character-count of a blog will help me formulate an answer, but I find myself asking: how did we get here?
When I break it all down and try my best to organize everything I’ve read, observed, and experienced first-hand, the one common thing at the root of it all seems to be that women are interpreted as objects for male pleasure. This may not be a “100% all the time” thing that overwhelms my sense of self all day long, but in some form or another, isn’t it here, there and everywhere? If you’re squinting your eyes and struggling to find this problem, let’s not forget that Hugh Hefner built an entire industry on this very concept. He LITERALLY had a mansion full of ADULT WOMEN called “bunnies,” whose ONLY role was to be fully available as pleasure objects. And let’s not pretend he was some rogue eccentric, like “oh Hef, that ONE crazy guy who views women this way…” Yeah right. In fact, mainstream celebrities and wannabes would trample over each other to get invites into those Playboy mansion pool parties, and all the while middle-class “normals” would happily envision the fantasy.
Beyond the universe of the late and gross Hugh Hefner, we live in a society where so much comes back to the orbit of male pleasure (see: Viagra and lack of surefire women’s equivalent). If you’re unconvinced, think about one of the first things anyone says when a women is harassed on the street, or assaulted, or faces unwanted advances on the subway, or in an elevator, or at a bar, or in the office, or in a cave (please insert any location in life). The first and most common question is “what was she wearing?”
Seriously, how many bajillion times is this stupid question asked?
The only way to explain this question is that society orbits around male pleasure, a.k.a the uncontrollable, inevitable, probability that a dude will get a boner.
“If you didn’t want to cause “street boners,” you shouldn’t have worn that.”
“If you’re showing cleavage at the office, don’t be surprised when you turn around and find a “corporate boner.””
Obviously the wording in dress code policies or rape case courtroom trials is different, but the thinly-veiled implication is always there. It’s never about a man somehow figuring out a way to NOT harass a woman, or to NOT have a boner, but instead it’s always about what a WOMAN can do to limit the number of boners she’s responsible for, like maybe if she didn’t go out so late at night, she would reduce the risk of triggering spontaneous boner syndrome. I mean…what?
I don’t have a direct solution to this problem, and I do acknowledge that a lot of men are respectful, cool, and trusted allies (and I’m happy to know a few of them!). There are however far too many men who live in a bubble of entitlement; entitled to the Victoria’s Secret models as seen on TV, despite having nothing to offer in return, entitled to hooking up with a girl just because he bought her one drink, or entitled to a conversation on the subway, just because he graced some unsuspecting woman with his leering smile.
To these wretched, wayward entitled fools, I offer you a check-list, because after the scandalizing demise of Harvey Weinstein, a (tiny) optimistic part of me believes that your horrible behaviour won’t fly anymore, so here is some advice to improve yourselves:
Checklist for treating women like human beings with the most basic level of respect:
- Don’t ever tell a woman you pass in the street to smile, i.e. “hey, why don’t you smile?” or “how about a smile?” or “you should smile more!” or any variant of that.
- If you’re dumb enough to tell the woman in point #1 to smile and her face remains the same, don’t loudly exclaim “bitch!” because she didn’t smile.
- Don’t ever gesture to a woman on the subway to take off her headphones as if you have some important information to share–i.e. something fell out of her bag, she dropped a mitten, etc–only to in reality say “Hey, how are you doing?” If there are headphones in her ears she doesn’t want to talk to you; you don’t need to understand why, you just need to respect that it’s her private time (like maybe she was listening to her favourite podcast, can’t you just allow her that pleasure?)
- Never strike up a conversation with a woman when she’s walking alone at night, because for safety purposes she can only assume you’re a rapist.
- If the woman you’re trying to talk at night in point #4 ignores you, don’t walk faster to catch up with her, because a strange man speed-walking towards a woman is terrifying.
- If you are one of those guys who thinks women are objects for your pleasure, take a long hard look in the mirror, and ask yourself if YOU are an object of a woman’s pleasure. If you are not at least equally beneficial to a woman’s pleasure as the pleasure you seek, stay in your house and watch Netflix forever (there’s a huge database of movies and shows and they update their content every month).
- APPENDIX: if you are one of the good guys, don’t make the mistake of saying the mistreatment of women is awful because you have sisters or daughters or nieces and it “really hits home.” The mistreatment of women is awful because women are human beings, and no further context is needed. The End.