I don’t know what is wrong with the world anymore. It’s not that it is spinning too fast. It is not the lead-up to Christmas, although that impacts at this time of year. For me, I feel more as though everyone is angry; no one can voice their opinion without being verbally attacked through social media. We live in a culture of outrage.
Take Matt Damon, for example. I’ve always thought him to be a good bloke. He has always appeared, despite his fame and wealth, normal. I have imagined that if I was to meet him, he’d be down-to-earth, a decent chap and not egotistical. However, Matt Damon is currently under fire due to speaking out over the #metoo movement. If you are not aware of Damon’s opinion, allow me to give a precis: he has said that sexual harassment is on a spectrum. To paraphrase further, Damon reckons that some instances of sexual harassment are worse than others. His comments have brought vitriol and disgust from women, and I don’t understand why, as I think what he has said makes sense. And I am a woman.
When I was a young and naive woman in my late-teens, I worked for a small family-owned business. The majority of staff working there were men, with three females: the wife and co-owner of the business, the daughter of the owners, and me. This place seemed to thrive on sexual harassment. The warehouse manager exposed his pubic hair to me one day. I was cornered in the cold room by the driver. The sales representative once asked if I wanted to have sex with him while on a sales run to the outer suburbs of Adelaide. Every one of these occurrences were awful; I was left feeling dirty and, somehow, that it was all my fault. Each time something like this happened, I felt that I had no one to talk to, no one who would understand. I assumed it was the way life rolled, that I was the one who had to toughen up.
I don’t believe I can join the #metoo movement, though. Here’s why…
While I have clearly been a victim of sexual harassment, I have never believed that my experience was as horrific as a woman who has been raped, or stalked, or had a penis shoved into her mouth. I don’t believe that my experience was the same as a woman who was forced to have sex with someone for a role in a movie. I have felt icky, but never terrified, never overpowered, never hurt or bruised or shamed. As loathsome as this may sound to my fellow females, I find myself agreeing with Matt Damon; based on my own experience and feelings, I do think that harassment falls into a spectrum. Some behaviours are worse than others.
Maybe I am incredibly lucky. Maybe I have met the right men in my life. To those who have not been as lucky as me, my heart is broken for you. I can not imagine the pain and the fear that you live with every day. And I don’t know for certain, but I reckon if that is your unfortunate experience, it must make you hyper-sensitive to all other forms of predatory behaviour.
Any form of sexual harassment needs to be stamped out entirely. In the workplace, in the entertainment industry, in our every day lives. It is an abuse of power. It is simply not acceptable and not to be tolerated. Women have the right to feel safe, to feel human. Women have the right to be acknowledged for all our skills and talents, not merely the sexual pleasure they can provide.
Maybe I am still incredibly naive, but I thought the feminist movement was about creating equal rights between the sexes. Maybe I am foolish for thinking that, it seems these days more about contempt and impatience. Of course I understand that throughout history, women have been treated poorly. If we cried, we were hysterical. If we fought back, we were insane. If we spoke out, we were ungrateful. We couldn’t vote, we couldn’t own property, in fact, we were considered property of men. All that, and more, has changed. I would hope that our history has made us stronger, braver and astutely aware of behaviours that, similarly, alienate and hurt. By firing hatred at Matt Damon for speaking out so sensibly, we are only creating more hatred.
I wonder, as simplistic as it sounds, would it not be better to treat everyone in the way we wish to be treated? Is that enough? I don’t have the answer, but I think the world would be a much nicer place.