I am an avid listener of the guilty feminist, a comedy podcast which manages to both make me laugh out loud and consider what it means to be a woman in the 21st century.
The most recent podcast was about Harvey Weinstein and it gave me a lot to think about.
Almost a week after listening to it, I’ve still been thinking about this episode. It’s made me reconsider what I accept as normal behaviour towards women and the conditions I am subject to due to the fact that I am female.
Up until listening to the podcast episode about Weinstein, I had been aware of #metoo – you’d have to be a social media recluse to not see the scores of women admitting that they have been a victim of sexual harassment or assault. But I had felt quite uneasy about it and had turned a blind eye to their accounts of suffering.
I’ve been thinking about why this is and want to share some of these thoughts with you, dear friend:
- It’s uncomfortable to witness the wide-scale reality that so many of us have been victims of assault or harassment. I’d rather close my eyes to it than face this truth.
- My taught belief is that women should be compliant and not speak out – women stepping forward to share their stories of suffering is uncomfortable to witness. I know it’s right for them to speak up, but it makes me uneasy nevertheless.
- There’s something about the testimony of women that I take less seriously than that of men. I don’t like this belief…but I’m noticing it’s there. I’m more likely to believe a man than a woman and so it makes me question the testimony of all these women who have said #metoo. Being aware of this belief has started to make me question how I view the experiences I’ve had of sexual harassment in the past. Experiences I’ve belittled or have passed off as unimportant. The man who exposed himself in front of me when I was a shop assistant. The boyfriend who didn’t listen to me when I said ‘no’. Perhaps I’ve felt uncomfortable with #metoo because it’s made me aware of my own experiences that I’ve hidden away and refused to acknowledge.
- There’s also something about how I view the gravity of what a sexual harassment charge can do to an individual externally (being fired, having a criminal record) and the gravity of what a sexual harassment victim experiences internally (shock, PTSD, feelings of being to blame, helplessness). I take the external damage as being more serious, which is ironic given my knowledge of what internal trauma can do to an individual. When I suffered from an eating disorder in my 20s, I became so thin that I could have died. I could have died. That’s how serious internal trauma can be. So why do I consider the external impact of a sexual harassment charge as being more important?! I’m left speechless and at a loss as to why this is.
I hope my thoughts are making sense to you, dear friend, and that you don’t judge me for the hidden assumptions and views I’ve shared with you.
The thoughts I’ve shared with you have made me aware that how we view sexual harassment and how women are treated in society is an incredibly complex issue. One that I won’t be able to solve with one blog post. But it feels good – it feels right – to uncover why I think what I think and to start to challenge some of these assumptions that I hold.
However uncomfortable it is to talk about sexual harassment and the power dynamic between men and women, these are the topics that we need to grapple with. These are the subjects that need to be brought to our collective consciousness.
Engaging in the debate and openly listening to the views and experiences of other people is the best way for us to move forward and build a more equal world. A world where no-one is victim of sexual harassment or assault.