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You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
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:
Single people have been led to believe that Valentine’s Day is when they must confront their loneliness, feel sad, then reflect on all the ways they can improve as a dateable commodity, to avoid winding up in this sorry predicament the next time this day rolls around. It’s like a new year’s resolution, only tailored to your romantic inadequacies, as opposed to the weight/nicotine/alcohol issues that are typically targeted on January 1st.
Many single people (mostly women) fight the power by getting all dressed up and hittin’ the club with “their girls,” where they’ll inevitably hold court with the remnants of the male population, the single guys who troll such clubs on Valentine’s night, ready to feed off a single woman’s fear of dying alone (1. eww; and 2. been there, said NO to that).
But back to the people who accept their lot in life as feeling sad/punished on Valentine’s Day: stop that now, there’s no need! And I’m about to tell you why.
Few people know that Valentine’s Day is the one day a year to take pity on couples, as they only engage in romance on this day because of the biggest and loudest reminder ever known to man:
Worse than that, is how contrived all this romance is. I mean…a Pepto-Bismol-coloured card with a corporation’s impersonalized greeting? NOT romantic.
Or how about chocolates that are supposedly romantic because they’ve been stuffed into a heart-shaped box for this once-a-year occasion? Umm NO (and don’t be fooled by the box, it’s exactly the same as the regular Ferrero Rocher chocolate, only the heart-shaped box has eight measly pieces, whereas the year-round rectangle box contains SIXTEEN pieces for only a dollar more! There’s a sucker born every day…)
What about stuffed animals holding stuffed-hearts? Seriously, what’s a grown woman supposed to do with a stuffed animal? That’s the equivalent of getting Flintstones chewable vitamins for your wedding anniversary.
“But guess what Romi, ” the couples say (condescendingly), “we don’t do the shitty “greeting card and chocolate” stuff on V-day. We plan romantic getaways, and give each other mix tapes, and do scavenger hunts, and make crafts based on inside jokes, which means our love is REAL, so the single people can go back to envying our holiday.”
First of all, dear couples, you doth protest too much. Second of all, no matter what you do, no matter how quirky and “not mainstream” your hipster romance is, if it happened on Valentine’s Day, it’s immediately disqualified from the best romantic moment of all time, because any sweet gesture was jacked-up, amplified, and prompted by the manufactured romance that’s filling up the air on February 14th. It’s like when disgraced baseball star Mark McGwire tried to claim the home-run record when his butt-cheeks were pumped full of steroids. I DON’T THINK SO.
Of course, this won’t stop the couples from trying to show the single people who’s boss. You’ll know that feeling when the Facebook posts start trickling in: “My man is the best!” Or “I’m the luckiest girl in the world!” You know what the “luckiest girl in the world” posts are supposed to do, right? They’re supposed to remind you that you’re not (until February 15th of course, when everything goes back to being the same, ya know?). It’s cool though, ’cause calendar-prompted romance is the same as a tainted home-run record, so why feel bad about that? And let’s not forget the slashed prices on chocolate you’ll find on February 15th! (the heart-shaped boxes of Ferrero Rocher are always the first to go)
Despite this post being a streak-free spray-tan of self-esteem for the average single person, your couple friends definitely deserve a shout-out, for when they do romantic things on any old day of the year (and when asked why, they respond: “just because”). When these random acts of romance happen and you hear about it, you’re totally allowed to feel jealous. And sad. And maybe even jump off a cliff.
Okay so the “dying alone in a violent way, cliff-death wise” imagery was harsh, but back to my overall point: Valentine’s Day should never make you feel bad again, so take back the night!
PS: is it weird that I listened to “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt on repeat while writing this post?