While eavesdropping on some casual lunchtime conversation I overheard a female colleague say “It’s all getting so out of control, soon men will be too scared to approach us” and this statement was enough to initiate the engine of my thought process, and drive through my first blog post of 2018…
One of the most interesting aspects of living in a post-apocalyptic Weinstein existence is the amount of content, discussion and media coverage regarding the abuses of men in positions of power or influence (although to be fair you don’t need power or influence to be abusive)
Is it possible that navigating social interactions is a minefield so dangerous that modern man doesn’t know where to stand? Are men genuinely too afraid to socially interact with women for fear of being perceived as predatory or inappropriate?
I looked into the meaning of sexual harassment and I found something that said…
The law says it’s sexual harassment if the behaviour is either meant to, or has the effect of: violating your dignity, or. creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
I can’t understand why anyone would want to engage with another human outside of consent, but if we move past the official jargon and read between the lines what is really being said is “if a person is not interested in your romantic or sexual intentions…stop”
The recent Golden Globe awards attempted to balance a sharper political edge with some of the most high-profile Hollywood celebrities wearing black in support of the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, to encourage more women to come forward with their experience of sexual harassment and abuse.
The measurable social impact of celebrity millionaires wearing black designer gowns and tuxedos is yet to be determined, but what is undeniable is the conversation would never have reached mainstream media consciousness, if it wasn’t for the appeal of celebrity culture…
So how do we attempt to solve a social problem that has been simmering under the lid of our culture since early man ignorantly assumed his sense of entitled could override mutual consent? This post will not be able to solve all the delicate, social intricacies at play. It’s not easy to navigate an ever-evolving social landscape in the eye of fast-paced digital storm…but…I feel I can offer five words that have the potential to rock this new era of social engagement to its core…ready?
Get to know the person.
My concept is not a difficult principle to live by because it happens to most of us, within our everyday lives. When I enter my local overpriced, overcrowded coffee house, the barista doesn’t make an assumption they know what is best for me to drink. I get asked what hot beverage I desire to purchase and that is then issued to me based on my request. The barista doesn’t then assume because I love a piping hot cappuccino, the next ten customers want to drink the exact same thing because each drink is served with the intention of meeting each unique requirement of the customer.
So then what happens?
Well…perhaps I want to spend more time in that coffee house, perhaps I become a regular, perhaps the barista remembers my face and memorises my order, but even then, I always have the option to change my mind and try something new…but I keep coming back because the retailer makes an attempt to get to know me a little better, without assuming they know what is best for me to drink.
Finding ways to get to know an individual, before any assumptions are made is a sure-fire way to develop an understanding that could turn a casual acquaintance into a significant someone and this principle can be applied no matter the social, digital or physical setting.
The hunger of our reactionary mass media is so desperate for attention, they will jump on the bones of any tiny morsel of information in order to claim it as news. The “trial by Twitter” approach is not something that sits well with me either and while I think it’s important to share experiences, I just don’t think “tweets” carry the same gravitas as directly holding perpetrators accountable.
Personally, I believe a woman can wear whatever she wants because provisional fashion choices do not give licence to unwarranted harassment…but…not everyone feels the same way I do and for real societal progress to happen it would mean that everyone has to be accountable (or at least take partial responsibility) for situations they may find themselves in…
Perhaps it isn’t the best idea to go to a Hollywood party that just so happens to be fuelled by alcohol and party goers inhaling the latest designer drug. It’s probably not the best idea to go up to the hotel room of someone you’ve met for an hour to talk about an issue that can be discussed in the lobby.
We know not all men turn into beasts when exposed to a woman’s beauty and the deep seated roots of sexual harassment run through all sexualities, genders, ethnicities, cultures, social environments and personal philosophies. So I guess the question is “Will some men find it difficult to approach women, in the dawn of a new era, which demands more mutual consent?”
Yeah maybe…but who cares? If it means a reduction in catcalling, manipulation, unwanted physical contact, offensive phone messages and/or inappropriate sexual gestures…
I’m all for it.
Until next time.
Getting to know someone before making a move doesn’t necessarily make anything better because a lot of abusive people think they do know someone when they really don’t. I had abuse (which I won’t go into here or on FB but can tell you about in an email if you want) from a man who thought he knew me very, very well – we’d known each other for more than a decade – and he was so, so wrong. I’ve met this sort of situation many times, not just for myself but for other women I’ve known.
Also, a lot of what women are complaining about currently is not extreme sexual abuse (ie, not rape), it’s men coming on to them whether there is relationship or even an affair in the offing or not. And sometimes it’s not even a come-on, it’s a slight thing that can add up to feeling like it’s more.
I took part in the #metoo thing on Facebook, to my cost. No actual comeback from anyone else, but the whole thing of having to read and read again, and re-read so many experiences of other womens’ abuse really took its toll on me. Eventually I removed mine because I just didn’t want to keep on seeing it and having that reminder.
I recently read a post on a magazine by a woman journalist who – unlike many others – stood up and said why the hell should we women have to be the ones to tell all, as usual? Why the hell should it be our responsibility? In other words she was saying what I was thinking, that the #metoo and similar outward protests and movements online by women (and all of them triggered by so-called ‘celebrities’ ) are actually NOT making things better, they are making it worse. Not just worse for those of us who don’t want to remember it all the time, but for the men who don’t know what the ‘rules’ are anymore because of all the fuss. (I was going to use another word, but I won’t. ‘Fuss’ will do for now.)
One thing I will say is that I think a lot of girls and women who are complaining about mild harrassment now wouldn’t have done so in the days when I was their age, because we learnt to deal with it at the time. A quick swipe away of the offending hand or mouth usually did the trick, even speaking out. But I think these days girls have been brought up to be much shyer.
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One of the lines from a paragraph I ended up cutting out said “it’s difficult enough to navigate a relationship when it’s consensual”
The #metoo was interesting because I do think it bought about awareness of just how deep rooted harassment is in our society, yet there is a spectrum in the range of the behaviours involved…
But I don’t believe that all the recent claims that are highlighted in the news means that men (particularly single men) will find it more difficult to know how to behave with a woman…it just takes time to know the individual concerned as catcalling to her across street, won’t quite cut it like it used to.
But this is a situation is very difficult to generalise…but thanks for your comments Val, as I will come back to this issue in future and take into account what you’ve just said.
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Vicarious trauma and re-living trauma is real and Val has a good point there. I liked your article though, and I agree with you that for real social change to progress there will be pain, discomfort, unhappiness and disagreement for some people.
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I hope so, I’m not into putting pressure on victims but hashtags aren’t enough…it will need perpetrators to change their behaviours and people to seek a better standard of mutual interaction.
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Since the beginning of mankind, unwanted sexual attention on both sides have been a reality. But now, in the age of no privacy, it’s exposed and in the open.
The #me too movement really bugs me. Not because women are finally holding predators accountable, but because it’s easier to use a hash tag behind a keyboard than to approach the perpetrator and discuss it face to face.
It seems incredibly weak to me. It doesn’t change anything. It’s just another name on a list that’s as long as the human population. Because let’s be honest, every single adult human is on that list of both perpetrator and victim. Men and women.
Of course we all want to live in a world where consent is law. And you’ve mapped out the simplest way to get there. The question is, are we an advanced enough species to accept our past faults and move forward?
I noticed that any kind of social change is slow, for every step foward there are a few steps that are taken backwards. I am a little concerned that “hashtags” get so much attention, based on little or no credible information.
Yet at the same time it is possible for some men to behave better especially in the workplace, as its not impossible to approach women without making them feel uncomfortable…but its something that needs to be approached from all sides. Thanks for your kind words!
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You’re welcome. ☺
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I think the guy that would worry about this, the rules, whether they can say hi to a girl etc are the guys that don’t need to worry.
The fact that that are aware enough of how they can make a female feel uncomfortable or nervous by being forward, standing too close, being too friendly are behaving how they should be. They’ll behave appropriately because they will be aware of these things in the back of their mind.
I think girls need to start being taught to say no as well, I don’t want anyone reading that in a way I don’t mean, but as women we have often just ‘put up’ with things.. a guy won’t leave you alone, we just shrug it off, a guy touches our body in a club and we laugh because making a fuss would make us seem uptight. Younger girls need to be taught that if someone is doing or behaving in a way you don’t want, tell them to knock it off, dont be embarrassed when it’s their wrong doing.
I was on a night out recently and a guy came over (probably around 28), danced near me for a bit and then reached out and planted his hand on my breast, and just stood there grinning. I slapped his hand away and warned him if he tried that again it would be more than his hand getting a slap. So him and his mate start snorting as if I’m the one behaving inappropriate.
Shortly later he grabs the thigh of a girlfriend and pulled her towards him, she having to hop here to avoid falling over and she just giggles.. when she’d detangled herself she asked if we could go somewhere else because they’d made her feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and nervous. But she laughed instead of giving him a stern word… a guy that does this is never in the right, ever, but if 80% of the time he gets away with it he’s going to continue doing it.
Boys need to be taught that they cannot touch, follow, flirt with anyone unless it’s with consent. And girls need to be taught that they can give a guy a verbal bollocking if he hasn’t gotten that lesson into his head, and not giggle it off.
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Sarah, you are so right! It’s crazy to me that any man would feel they have the right touch a you appropriately…and your assertiveness could stop him from behaving in such a way in future.
I agree it has to be a two way effort more women having the confidence to assert themselves and more men being accountable for their actions.
What frustrates me most are people who act like this is such a difficult principle to understand, when it really isn’t. Thanks for stopping by Sarah I’m a huge fan of your blog too!
I think the best change will occur from our generation making sure our kids know and follow these rules. That’s not to say older generations are a lost cause, but if we enforce these important lessons to our sons and daughters now, hopefully that’ll be the ripple change for the future.
And thank you 😊 I always enjoy reading your blog posts too!