Happy New Year! I didn’t at all intend to start this year with a post like this, but I saw a meme, was swiftly irritated…. and, well, nothing inspires me like a little (or a lot) of irritation.
So the Golden Globes were this past weekend. I used to be a big fan of the award shows, but have mostly stopped watching them. We did have the Golden Globes on though, mainly because Stranger Things was nominated, and Tegan is still into all things Stranger Things, all the time. It didn’t win, but Lady Bird did, as did its protagonist, Saoirse Ronan. I was really excited to see that, as I’d just seen that movie a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved it. Very well deserved win.
People have incredibly strong feelings about the Golden Globes, and all the award shows, and Hollywood in general. This post is not about that. People get all worked up about how much money is spent on dresses and jewelry and hair and makeup, and it’s not about that. Other people stress out about the political climate, and celebrities getting on soapboxes, and how everyone has an agenda. It’s not about that either.
This is about sexual harassment, and about the fact that we are still – in 2018 – blaming the victim.
This is the meme that came across my newsfeed:
I’m feeling particularly generous, so I won’t start out by pointing out the fact that “harassment” is misspelled.
It’s not nice to tell people that they’re dressed like hookers. Let’s just start there. A person’s attire does not dictate their profession. And even if it did, it’s gross – and easy – to turn sweeping generalizations and stereotypes into insults. Seriously, calling people hookers? Wow. What a well thought-out and mature argument. (Side note here, because it has no bearing on my point: I think all three women look gorgeous. Also, Halle Berry is 51! I hope I have even half the confidence she has to so totally own and rock that dress when I’m 51. The masses like to tell people what they should and should not wear at certain ages. Malarkey. Wear what makes you feel good.)
Comparing them to hookers isn’t the biggest problem here, though.
The problem is that sexual harassment is caused by the people doing the harassing. Full stop.
A woman’s wearing a low-cut top? Still the fault of the harasser.
A woman’s wearing a short skirt? Still the fault of the harasser.
A woman dares go out into public with her hair done and her face made-up and lots of skin showing? Still the fault of the harasser.
Sexual harassment is an actual problem, and blaming the victim just perpetuates it. Writing or agreeing with or sharing memes like this makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution. If you think certain clothing gives men carte blanche to say whatever they want, you are part of the problem. If you think that woman should feel complimented or flattered when they’re cat-called, or receive unwanted advances, or are touched in a way that makes them uncomfortable, you are part of the problem.
And while it should go without saying (except that I’m having to say it), not only is it insulting and unfair and disgusting to make “suggestive” clothing the cause of men’s misbehavior, it’s also just categorically untrue. Lots of women are harassed. Wearing lots of different kinds of clothes. True story: A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to an appointment downtown. I’m a 44 year old mom, driving a mom-car, wearing my mom-uniform of jeans and Chucks. I glanced over at the car next to me at a red light because, well because that’s what you do at red lights. The driver looked over at me, made eye contact, and smiled. Not a friendly smile, but a decidedly creepy, leering smile. I forced myself to give him the benefit of the doubt, and decided that maybe it was innocent after all. Maybe he just had that sort of face. A few more sideways glances at future lights (he was beside me for what felt like 15 miles), told me my instincts had been correct. He was leering. And being gross. And making me incredibly uncomfortable. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. It wasn’t okay. And guess what? If I’d been wearing any of the dresses in the above photo, it wouldn’t have been okay either.
Sexual harassment is the fault of the one doing the harassing. Each time. Every time.
The great irony in this that the ones blaming the victims, the ones taking the onus off the men? They’re actually showing their distinct disregard for both genders, in one fell swoop. They’re turning women into objects, sexual non-humans that are merely present to attract attention. But they’re turning men into objects too: Walking penises incapable of controlling themselves, doing nothing more than looking for their next conquest.
Our women deserve better.
Our men deserve better too.
Most men manage to make it through the day without harassing a single person. Most men know how to respect women. Most men see women in low cut dresses as…. women in low cut dresses, not as a get-out-of-jail free card to treat them however they’d like.
As for the others? The ones who do use power and intimidation and ego to sexually harass women? That is their fault. 100% of the time.
And it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference what their victim happens to be wearing.