The way for us to change society is through good men speaking up for the women around them who may feel unable
Ever since the start of the #metoo campaign I’ve felt uncomfortable with it, never quite knowing why. Something about it just left a bad taste in my mouth, but I felt similar about the women’s marches. As a woman who firmly believes in equality and justice I am also not a fan of anything that makes one person feel bad or less then if they don’t agree with it or take part.
It has given women a voice
I really value what the #metoo campaign is doing and how it has given women a voice and allowed them to band together and fight for their rights. Let’s face it; there is not a woman alive who at some point has not been subjected to a form of sexual abuse or unwanted attention. But it has also put some young women under pressure, feeling that they must speak out even when they want to keep what happened to them quiet. There is almost an unseen expectation on young women to report everything or else they are letting other women down, which on the surface seems true; if some of those now-famous actresses had spoken up early on perhaps more women would have been saved from HW’s clutches.
Fighting the patriarchal system can just feel like a step too far
But here is the thing; as women when something like this happens to us, be it unwanted attention or a full- on assault, we have to weigh up the pros and cons and see if speaking up is worth it for us at that time. We have been violated once and often speaking up has us violated again and again and the price is just too high. When most of these crimes are about power and not sex, when you feel you are in a powerless position, fighting the patriarchal system can just feel like a step too far and we shouldn’t make anyone feel wrong for that.
You’re an intern at a large company you want to work with, a volunteer or a political campaign, a young actress seeking a break, a drunken girl who finds herself in the frat house with the star basketball player; a young, naive girl who relished the attention of a celebrity sportsman. Speaking up in these situations is not only difficult, it’s almost impossible. The whole system is set against you, the burden of truth is on you, you are fought every step of the way by people with more power and money then you could ever have and every step feels like you are violated again and again. You are called every name under the sun, your clothing choice is discussed and your past is put under the microscope, the odds are against you. The damage done to you through this process, which can be far worse than what happened initially. Your future is tainted, you will always be the girl that accused the star footballer of assault and was made to look like a slut.
And that choice is hers
When we tell someone to speak up and say #metoo this might be and is often what we are asking. That is a lot; that is a huge amount for a young girl at the start of her career to say yes too. And that choice is hers; she shouldn’t be made to feel any less if she chooses to stay quiet because the price is too high.
I am by no means saying this is right and I would fight tooth and nail for this not to be so. I have dealt with enough sexual abuse/assault victims to know that when every choice has been taken away from them we must give them and respect their choice to stay quiet as much as speak up. Both are brave, both are strong and both are empowering choices to the women that make them. While things are better and women can take back their power, in some situations would have to find super-human strength to win against a male-dominated system that is set up to often fail us from the beginning.
And yet again I find the #metoo campaign putting the emphasis back onto women and making them feel bad if they choose not to participate.
And I know nothing changes if we don’t speak out, we have to fight for our rights and if we stay quiet nothing will change. And while that may be true partially, perhaps the real key here lies in the men.
Where are the men
For all these women being abused, attacked and given unwanted attention there is another male next to them, often egging on the perpetrator. The passenger in the car who jeers after his friend says something, the colleagues who agrees that the new intern is hot stuff, the best friend who knows exactly what his mate is doing at the party with his drunken girl, the gang of boys who laugh when a girl walks by to wolf whistles. Where are you men? Where are you telling your friends what they are doing is not right? Asking your boss not to make inappropriate remarks and insisting your friend takes the girl home rather than upstairs. Don’t you owe us your voice?
The way for us to change society is through good men speaking up for the women around them who may feel unable. The men calling their friends out when they say or do something inappropriate, the men realising that a drunken girl at the party is not fair game and that she needs looking after.
This isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a male issue and if we really want to break this pattern we need to not be mad at the women who kept quiet because they had too much to lose, but we cross at the men who turned a blind eye and didn’t speak up. If my husband, brother or father kept quiet when cat-calling or something worse was happening I would be appalled. We are not the weaker sex; we don’t need looking after but we do need good men to start to even the scales for us a bit. Maybe then the girls who keep quiet because the price is too high might speak up and men who abuse and assault women wouldn’t get away with it.