I’ve seen the MeToo flashes appearing and, to be honest, I’m astonished there aren’t more. But, that’s a telling thing. Even amidst this wave of confrontation, women are keeping quiet. Be it from privacy concerns, embarrassment, past trauma or fear of backlash, the participants are, I suspect, vastly outnumbered by the silent ones.
In a world where men have had a damn rude time for far too long, I’m expecting the trivialisation and normalisation to get in gear soon. Make no mistake, many men hide deep-seated beliefs about male superiority. It’s rather inevitable, as it’s what we’ve been presented with at every level from birth to now – unless we’ve had a wake-up call.
Now, let’s be clear. I’ve been part of the problem and made my excuses to myself over some egregious obsessive behaviour. (Yes, I’ve ‘come round’, apologised, and, quite rightly, lost friends.) This society is just starting to get over its infatuation with the creepy behaviours of rejected blokes trying to ‘prove’ their love. It can’t happen too soon. Maybe this will finally make it socially acceptable for that bloke’s real friends to slap him down and give him the telling off he so badly needs.
Sexual harassment is a subjective thing. Without common ground for behaviour norms, what can be banter on one side can be brutal on another. Those norms can come from within families, and many would argue they should. I would posit that basic manners and etiquette should also be taught at school. Nothing fancy, just a well-rounded balance to any malign influences that may be occurring in a child’s out-of-school environment.
Self-worth. Confidence. The most astonishing people I know of all sexes (don’t start, that’s a separate conversation) are those who know what they are, to a greater or lesser extent. They doubt themselves, they evidence consideration for others (if not compassion), they know that their selves, body and mind, are theirs and theirs alone, and their word is law regarding what you may and may not do with or to them on any level.
Respect every individual as just that. Pass no comment to another that you wouldn’t tolerate being given by a stranger to you or your loved ones. Male or female, makes no difference. This is the twenty-first century. Sexism is a hate crime that should be fought with the same rigour as all other forms of fanaticism.
You have nothing to prove to anyone except yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your body, faith, erotica and soul are inviolate and anyone who would take advantage should stop at the word ‘no’. If they don’t and there’s no-one about to intervene – which people should do! Stop treating anything uncomfortable as someone else’s problem. Step up. Step in. – then you should be absolutely sure that there will be recourse to justice and severe punishment to be meted out.
I suspect the changes needed to achieve a balance will be slow: generational more than anything. I also suspect there’s more grim reveals to come. MeToo is long overdue. Here’s hoping it effects changes where it needs to.
Finally, I think Helen Mirren’s advice should be taught to girls early and often: “At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words ‘fuck off’ much more frequently.”