Sometimes it’s hard to speak as a man. However, just because I am not “a part” of an affected group doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy.
A rally cry started by Alyssa Milano (Who’s The Boss? She da boss!) to encourage woman to speak up and speak out – a showing of solidarity for all those who have been sexual assaulted in their lives. As of this posting that hashtag has gone viral with an astounding 12M Facebook posts and counting.
The term “sexual assault” is not centralized to mean just rape, which one may think as its only true definition. It’s being a women and confronting men in daily life – men who cat call, men who are handsy, men who assert their power (physical or otherwise) and impose their will, men who marginalize women and treat bodies/sexuality as their only sense of currency/worth. Men who just don’t take “no” for an answer. Of course being whistled at or having an eye-roll worthy pick-up line tossed in one’s general direction like a fart, is stark compared to the demeaning and psychological damaging impact of an unwanted touch or physical interaction of inescapable duress…but it is harassment all the same and it all feeds into the same systematic problem – men behaving badly.
With the exception of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, the average guy will NEVER ever truly know what it is like to be a women, to be a target and have to evade of sexual advances on a daily basis. But if this social media activism, this hashtag of “MeToo” means anything, it’s to show a startling cold fact: almost EVERY women has been victim to assault in some shape or form. Almost everyone women has had to deal with some unwanted advance, some severe while others seemingly harmless.
In terms of pop/geek culture, it’s female cosplayers and conventions having to initiate a #CosplayIsNOTConsent movement/policy to keep creepers at bay. Or, it is famous online bloggers (like Harry Knowles of AintItCoolNews.com or Devin Faraci of Birth.Movies.Death and co-founder of Alamo Draft House Cinema chain) having to step down for accusations and documented cases of sexual misconduct.
Or, it’s outside geek/nerd culture. Take the true horror story like that poor girl who was raped in an alley by the now infamous and forever public pariah Brock Turner (who is now literally pictured in one book as the very definition of “rape”). Or, it’s just a girl in a small town bar laughing off an unwanted boob “honk” or butt slap from a drunk-ish and aloof frat boy. One is a clear and universally agreed form of intolerable behavior, whereas the other falls under the excuse of “guys just being guys”.
If the obliviously, purposefully ignorant, or judgmental person was called out on such sexism, well, it would be met with defensive and accusatory remarks – something along the lines of “You see how she is dressed,” or “I was only fooling around.” As if either argument makes that initial statement or act any less hurtful.<
It’s one thing to be astounded, and look upon gleefully at someone’s beauty/self in an admirable sense followed by a fair and genuine comment or gesture. It’s another thing to be lewd, crude and completely ignore the fact there this is a human being in front of you. A person who might not have the courage and brevity to vocalize their feelings in that moment and will cover up their unease with a giggle or may not have the social sense to realize what’s happening is wrong.
For men who only see boobs, butt, or whatever slightly exposed private part and for every women that rates a man in her life from zero to George Clooney, then you don’t see the person. Yes, at the rudimentary level there are primal Neanderthal urges at play. We all want to f**k and behave like whatever it was Blood Hound Gang was singing about in that 90’s song. It should, however, be NO ONES prerogative, intentional or not, to demoralize another person. Feeding into a subservient objectification of any of us is not a positive thing. We’re supposed to better than that.
This is not to say people now have to practice abstinence and refrain from interacting with each other in fear of immediate or later repercussion. Nor is consent something to document on camera and or have signed in a blood oath but consent is needed nonetheless, always consensual. Sexuality has its place, and while discussing/doing it can be a dangerous, slippery slope (no pun intended). We need to discuss it. We need to have a better barometer for what is and isn’t appropriate. These can be tricky waters to traverse as everyone’s boundaries are different and not always constant/consistent. Everyone should learn to refine their filters/behavior and actively listen to each other. Like listening right now to the vocality of women everywhere who are calling to arms their social injustices. Listen and reflect. Good judgement comes from experience. And experience? Well that often comes at the cost of poor judgement. But it doesn’t always have to.
Interaction with people is not always easy but it’s important to remember people in every gender (or non gender) shape and color are just that, people. They have a full time job, bills to pay, worries and hopes and feelings…etc. The take away lesson is: Don’t forget your humanity. If you were to say or do something that would make your church going grandmother or otherwise saintly person in your life slap you upside the head, then it’s probably a good idea to keep those words/urges to yourself or at the very least, proceed with caution. Let’s just make sure we love each and every one as well as each other the right way.
*NOTE: Long time readers of Nerd Bastards and those who seek to undermine positivity or those eager to cry out “hypocrisy” might be quick to call out Nerd Bastards darker past, citing the pages past columns such as ‘Sexy Cosplay Of The Week’ or similar sexual driven rampant posts. Yes, we contributed to the very culture that we’re now outspoken about. We haven’t always done things the right way here, but we’ve long since corrected those wrongs. We listened and we got better. And that’s the point of these types of posts, to challenge perspectives, to get people to reflect and ultimately change for the better.