“I remember being sexualized by gardeners – gardeners are the construction workers of Long Island, you know. I’d walk past a gardening truck and I remember feeling like wow, I’m way too young to be getting this kind of sexual energy from these guys. I only wanted that attention when I wanted it. I guess that’s what every woman wants. No one wants unwanted sexual attention.”
– Amy Schumer to Judd Apatow, Sick in the Head (Random House, 2015)
Because 2017 was the year we lifted the rock and found a maggoty nest of perverts, it’s gotten to the point where we wake up in the morning utterly unsurprised to find another famous, powerful man outed for being a creep. Nothing new, no big deal, just adding a little more grist to the #MeToo mill.
I am not discounting the stories of women who were and are victims of sexual assault, rape and harassment. These are situations many of us hope never to experience. #MeToo is about women (and men) who were abused by men in power, who can no longer stay silent or tamp down their rage at being made to feel helpless. #MeToo was born out of victims forced to do or accept things they found abhorrent because the perpetrators held all the cards.
But say I piped up and said #MeToo because a motorcab driver wolf-whistled at me as he drove past? #MeToo because I’m having fun on the dance floor and some rando comes over uninvited and starts dancing suggestively with me? Or #MeToo because a neighbour was peeping over the fence into our kitchen while I was washing dishes, happy being completely unsexy in ratty house clothes not even worth donating to the Salvation Army?
Do I cower? Do I say I’m never going to dance again, Careless Whisper? Do I say I’m scarred for life, am emotionally unable to function and that my dreams are dead? Or do I stealthily grab one of my Dad’s very legit looking air rifles, haul ass over the kitchen sink, crouch down, wait for the guy’s head to appear again, then pop up and point the barrel of it at him like a vengeful harpy bent on bloodshed?
(Incidentally, I never saw that neighbour again.)
Take the pigeons outside of my building. All day, every day, males waddle after a chosen female, flapping their wings, ruffling their feathers, trying to get the female to mate. They only stop when someone throws them stale bread. It’s a biological imperative – male birds are programmed to mate, thereby ensuring their DNA doesn’t go to pot, while female birds are programmed to ensure the DNA they get is worth the hassle of gestation and subsequent baby pigeon rearing. While humans operate on a higher level than pigeons, you can’t deny the similarities when it comes to finding a mate.
Flirtation is one thing, out and out harassment another. There’s really no grey area when it comes to sexual harassment. It’s wrong. You know what makes it worse? Harassing people if you’re not gifted in the looks department. It’s just too risky. Females do not want unwanted sexual attention. And no one wants unwanted sexual attention from a dud.
I think a bit of the subtext behind #MeToo that no one wants to admit is that harassment is offensive because it cheapens the receiver by undermining their view of themselves. If we’re going to be hit on, we should be hit on by Mr. Right, not a corpulent gasbag with a bald patch. In other words: maot man ka, (you’re ugly), how dare you.
Put it this way: if I show up to audition for Tom Hardy in his hotel room and he greets me in a bathrobe and asks me to join him in the hot tub, then… I’ll purify my black soul later. If I show up to audition for Harvey Weinstein in his hotel room and he greets me in a bathrobe and asks me to join him in the hot tub, then… maot man ka, how dare you.
Every red-blooded female has had her fair share of eager males looking for a little something something. It happens, and I’m not saying it should be ignored, but crying about it is a waste of time. Let’s not be the girl who went on a date with Aziz Ansari and blabbed to a media outlet about how crappy it went because she didn’t get to pick the wine of her choice and he kept trying to get her to have sexy times and somehow “didn’t read her nonverbal cues,” therefore #MeToo. Her career wasn’t on the line. She had nothing invested. He held no cards. He didn’t force her to get naked.
We’re in danger of shooting ourselves in the foot if we trivialize the #MeToo movement by raking over every perceived sexual slight we’ve ever experienced, however trivial. Let’s not turn the #MeToo movement into a witch hunt.
Women are not powerless. Neither are we weak. There are some things that don’t need the intervention of the local militia. We can stand up and walk away. We can say, directly and unequivocally, to the offending party, that we don’t like what we’re seeing, hearing, or experiencing, without resorting to the public spectacle that is the internet. I won’t say it’s easy being a woman. I will, however, say it’s not as hard as we’re making it out to be.