The flow of allegations against men over the last several weeks is a very good thing. More and more women are speaking out about their traumatic and painful experiences involving powerful men, which makes it more difficult for the women to come forward. Many women are afraid to do so, because they fear they wont be believed or they will face retaliation.
My initial reaction to much of the accusations was why didn’t the women come forward at the time? Of course I should know better, but I had forgotten about what power can do. After all, no one wanted to believe that Bill Cosby would be capable of doing the horrible things he has been accused of. Still, after so many women have come forward, it’s hard to think of him as innocent based on a pattern of bad behavior.
Just imagine if you had been victimized by someone important, like your boss at work. He or she has a lot of credibility. That person runs the company or organization, so to accuse them of something means you may have an uphill battle. When it’s a public figure being accused, you have to we willing to be vulnerable in a very public way. Everyone will know what happened to you.
With sexual harassment, you have to add the fact that society tends to blame women for being harassed. “She was asking for it,” people sometimes say. Others even blame her style of dress, “she shouldn’t have been wearing that!” It’s remarkable how these people don’t seem to blame the man who obviously had no self-control or they try to excuse his behavior. Someone on television pointed out, don’t remember who, that we don’t don that for murders. I think it does happen, but usually the public accepts the victims statements when it comes to violent crimes like assault or murder.
Any time I hear comments about blaming women for being victims, it makes me think about my issues with bullying. We sometimes DO blame bully-victims for being bullied. It’s in the spirit of trying to protect them. The logic being that certain styles of dress invite bad behavior. It may be well intended, but it does give cover to men who behave inappropriately. A person shouldn’t have to change the way they are or how they want to express themselves. And besides, men should know better, it’s not that hard fellas.
Is there a way to balance the freedom of expression (looking sexy, for example) with choosing behaviors that keep us safe? Sure, you can look sexy without going too far and in some environments it may not be appropriate to dress sexy. However, when you are off the clock, there is no reason not to dress how you like. Sadly, a woman can dress as conservatively as possible and that won’t stop some men from harassing them. It’s really not about changing how people dress, it’s about changing how we look at sexual harassment.
“Boys will be boys” needs to be deleted from our brains.