Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Don’t sympathise with rapists
Happy birthday to me
That definitely deserves an explanation, so here it is… Yesterday I shared news of Harvey Weinstein’s guilty verdict:
I chose to share the news because much as I tend to focus on positivity, I equally focus on wellbeing – and that means not brushing difficult topics under the carpet. It means sometimes talking about feminism and sometimes thinking about things we’d rather didn’t happen.
Alas, rape does happen, every day. So in this instance I felt that it was important news to share, and though it’s not quite what I’d deem ‘happy’ news, it is a positive result.
It’s the right result; justice has been served.
Despite believing that, absolutely and categorically, I didn’t feel the need to tear the criminal apart. I didn’t feel the need to comment at all, other than with well wishes to the survivors of his despicable, predatory behaviour.
And then, disappointingly, a reader chose to give his opinion that Harvey Weinstein will likely die in prison, something he considers a harsh punishment.
You’ll note above that the comments I’m referring to have now been removed from the post. This is because I will never support trolling. I want the reader to remain anonymous, because he was respectful towards me despite our disagreement. And difficult though it was for me to read that, everybody is entitled to their opinions.
I hope that the man in question will take this post as intended, and understand that I bear no ill feeling or mean any harm. I simply saw this as an opportunity to talk about an important facet of the discussion around sexual assault.
This happened late last night, and after my initial response expressing my distaste, I wasn’t sure what I’d wake up to today, on my birthday. It was triggering for me, and I knew it would be triggering for others too.
I wrote that verse in irony to a friend. I nearly didn’t share that part with you guys; and then I thought, it kind of illustrates my point:
Survivors of rape and sexual assault live with the trauma and memories every day for the rest of their lives. Even on our birthdays. So the song stayed.
The final thing I said to the commenter was that, with respect, it’s sometimes better to accept that it’s not appropriate to comment at all, even if something doesn’t quite match your personal values. It’s one of the reasons I refrained from tearing Weinstein apart – it was unnecessary.
But, this is my blog, and when I’ve been triggered and it’s my birthday, I feel entitled to say my piece.
I originally wrote and published this post back in October 2017 following Harvey Weinstein’s arrest. His guilty verdict was confirmed yesterday, and it feels apt to reshare with the update. Here’s the original post:
With all the #MeToo stories coming out, I would love to find the courage to join those brave women by sharing my own – of which there are many. However that’s not what this post is – I’m off the hook because I know talking about my experience in detail would be difficult for my husband, in which case it would also likely be hard for my children to read in the future. So in the end, I’ve not even tried to find that courage. But I still want to talk about #MeToo, because – me too.
Disclaimer: I appreciate how very carefully I need to word this post due to its incredibly sensitive nature, and before I go further, I want to make clear from the start that I dearly hope I don’t cause offence to the survivors living with terrible memories.
Where There’s a Victim, Is There Always a Rapist?
In many situations when a woman – or indeed a girl – is abused by a man, he knows absolutely what he is doing. But there are numerous more cases where I’m certain they’re oblivious. There’s more than one ‘type’ of rapist, and in my opinion the most dangerous kind is perhaps not the one we’d assume. Danger is arguably subjective, but speaking as a mother of daughters, I *think* I’d be more fearful of the pervasive, insidious individual than I would of the cloak and dagger rapist snatching women off the street. Nothing to do with the end result, obviously, but because of the prevalence of the former.
The Sexual Predator
The deplorable Harvey Weinstein of violent acts against women, this bully knows precisely what he is doing; he knows – and he doesn’t care – so long as he gets his filthy way. He’s indiscriminate and he has no conscience at all. Only a despicable, shameful excuse of a human being is capable of this cruelty. While this monster is an undeniably despicable man, he’s not the norm. He’s probably more common than we’d like to think, but he’s still not common. Thank God.
Was it rape? No question.
The Weak Rapist
He would never set out to hurt a lady – he has never gone to bed at night thinking ‘tomorrow I will force myself on a woman because I want to and I can’. Instead, his (erroneous) excuse is that he got carried away. He is weak and misguided, though he is not excused. In the eyes of the law, he is no better than the sexual predator. I have zero sympathy or respect for this man, but I do recognise the difference between him and his predatory counterpart.
Was it rape? Yes.
But what of the victim who froze, and the perpetrator who had no idea? Arguably he should be questioning why she was not an active participant, but nonetheless I have no doubt that there are many, many cases of this taking place. Is this man – who has wined and dined and is genuinely fond of the victim – still a rapist? If he wakes the following morning believing he got lucky with a one night stand, while she goes home feeling violated and abused – what then?
This is what I want to talk about, because it’s of paramount importance. We need to be having the conversation not only about what technically constitutes rape, but critically the feelings which are evoked. Because sometimes – often – I believe a woman has those feelings and the man responsible is genuinely oblivious. Is that rape?
Was it rape?
I Feel Violated – But Was It Rape?
In the eyes of the law, if the man reasonably believed there was consent, then rape did not take place. But if the woman feels violated, then what do we call it? But I’m not raising this in order to argue over semantics. The point of this post is to demonstrate this undeniable problem between men and women. I don’t claim to have the answers, but it’s definitely a concern and warrants discussion.
Because I don’t believe that where there’s a victim there’s always a rapist, and as a moral society we need to find a way to deal with that.
The bottom line is that a label is not what defines a woman’s experience. Just because it does not constitute rape in the eyes of the law does not necessarily make it less traumatic or mean it has a less significant impact on her life.
Whether We Like It Or Not – Females Are Vulnerable
And in so many ways. It starts from the fact that we’re the physically weaker sex, and it permeates all aspects of our lives.
I should mention here that of course abuse can happen to men too, but the interesting thing is that where rape is concerned it’s very difficult for a woman to carry out that act.
Conversely, there’s a biological difference between the sexes making women inherently vulnerable to men.
I believe this fundamental truth is forgotten – or simply overlooked – too often. And it would be wonderful if men could be as mindful of the fact that we’re easily intimidated by them, as we are of the fact that they’re physically capable of overpowering us and biologically able to assault us in a way we are not able to do to them.
No matter how strong we are, no matter how confident in ourselves, it’s something we can’t get away from. It would be easy to dismiss this fact as oversimplifying a problem or creating an issue where one doesn’t exist – but that’s not right and actually does us a disservice.
It may be a fact we wish were not true, but nonetheless it is a fact. It’s one we live with every day and that should be acknowledged: women are on the back foot.
It’s most likely contributed to the pay gap. There’s legislation protecting our rights (to our wallets and our bodies), which is great – when it works – but from an ethical point of view it would be fantastic if men were more aware of their natural threat. Because it’s always there, something that’s become second nature to us to the point we rarely talk about it other than in terms of getting home after a night out. But when my manager stood over me shouting while I was heavily pregnant, I wasn’t merely pissed off, I was off-the-scale intimidated because he was a man.
What Can We Do?
My best suggestion is education. For our boys and our girls. But perhaps more so, it’s about empowerment.
We need to empower our girls by instilling enough confidence in them to speak up if they’re not comfortable, before things ‘get out of hand’ and our children freeze rather than fight. And we need to empower our boys to view respect and chivalry towards women as the norm.
There are plenty of guys who want to be a part of the solution, and that’s something we can build on. We’re more liberal than ever, and there’s never been a better time. I have high hopes for my children and their peers – with a little guidance I’m sure they can do better than us.