Since early October several famous names from the entertainment industry have been caught up in one of Hollywood’s biggest scandals. Household names such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Ben Affleck have all been accused of either sexual harassment, sexual abuse or molestation. It seems that with every day that passes a new name is added to the list.
The media has given the scandal a lot of attention and rightly so – men (most of those accused accused are male) who abuse their positions of power who need to be held to account. However, one disappointing aspect of the coverage has been the focus on the behaviour of the women involved – how they were dressed and why they waited so long to report the incidents.
Just because a woman enters a hotel room with a man by herself doesn’t mean “She’s asking for it,” which is unfortunately how some of these incidents have been portrayed – it’s not a woman’s duty to say no. These sorts of attitudes sadly go much deeper than the Hollywood scandal – they are widespread across our society and there needs to be a huge cultural shift if they are to change.
Women are not guardians of morality and they should be free to dress in whatever way they choose. If a woman wants to wear a mini-skirt she shouldn’t have to worry about being touched inappropriately on the tube – incidents that occur all too often, particularly here in London. Positioning women’s actions at the centre of the debate only serves to entrench and reinforce the view that somehow the women affected are to blame.
If society keeps asking questions like: “Why did you go? Why didn’t you stop him, why didn’t you say no?” this will only serve to recreate the mentality that somehow the woman is at fault.
I’ve found it shocking the number of times I’ve heard other women in the news saying things like “If you go in a hotel room with a man, you know that he will touch you,” or “If women dress in a provocative way they are a temptation to men.” With particular reference to Hollywood, the culture that says “if you say no, then your career is ruined” needs to change.
But what about all the other women out there who aren’t celebrities?
What about the mothers, the sisters and the daughters? What about female doctors, journalists, teachers, lawyers, sales assistants and waitresses who have had the same horrible experiences but don’t have a plethora of media platforms waiting to congratulate them when they speak up? These are the women who need to be given a voice.
This scandal doesn’t have to descend into a battle of the sexes – women aren’t exclusively the victims of sexual harassment, and so the battle against those who abuse men needs to continue too. To change our culture from one where talking about ‘groping women’ is acceptable pub chat will require the efforts of both men and women together.
As a society we need to tackle the mentality that has made it acceptable for men in positions of power to abuse that power.
It’s not a woman’s duty to say no.
Words, Giulia Radice