Patriarchy has conditioned generations of women to accept acts, images, and banter that were sexual assault. Now women are challenging it. And #MeToo is emboldening women to come forward to talk about their experiences. But some women do not accept that sexual harassment is a man’s responsibility. Like women commentators who suggest that they nipped such behaviour in the bud with a feisty, fierce, fiery response. Women like Ann Robinson who considers modern women ‘fragile.’ It seems that women can’t take the beatings men once gave either Ann. Contrary to popular belief, women are not a one size fit’s all model. Women are not all strong and strident, feisty, fierce and fiery. And implications that we can all be a ‘Man Whisperer’ does a grave disservice to women.
As a young lady, I was considered talawa. It’s the Caribbean way of saying strong and feisty. I still am for the most part, but there are times now and then when I don’t have the feisty, fierce, fiery response. So, what happens to women who are not that way at all? Are these lesser women?
The feisty, fierce, fiery rhetoric pours scorn on all those women who could not ‘manage’ sexual harassment as if it were their duty. And so, they left, got fired or not hired. Inequality effectively silenced them. Their talents and education were all reduced to the ability to manage sexual inappropriateness from a man.
Feisty Fierce Fiery
Nor does it always work out for women who are feisty, fierce and fiery. TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp told a Question Time audience that after telling a male colleague who was hip thrusting behind her to ‘F Off’ she got the warning. Not him!
But even if, having the smart mouth does stop a sexual assault, how is that changing the culture? What is there to prevent the man from moving onto a softer target? Nothing. So, women who have climbed the greasy pole should not feel disdain for women who speak up but personal shame. They left the predator loose and able to attack.
Therefore, women who are not speaking out after they have verbally repelled an assault are aiding and abetting misogyny. So, despite all these women commentators who ‘grin and bear it’ or give the smart response believing themselves to be fierce, I find them cowards.
Stopping Sexual Harassment
Our challenge is to shift the responsibilities of sexual harassment where it belongs: with men. And all women have a role to play. Even those women who are succeeding in a man’s world. It does not make her ‘one of the guys.’ As Ariel Levy accurately observes in Female Chauvinist Pigs ‘As long as womanhood is thought of as something less than manhood, you will be thought less of, too.’ So, we achieve the shift by encouraging and supporting all women who speak out, however uncomfortable their truth. We if don’t misogyny wins.
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