The age of irreverence
Harvey Weinstein was just the tip of the iceberg.
When Hollywood was shaken by accusations of sexual harassment against Weinstein in early in October, netizens and celebrities alike steered conversations toward the realities of sexual assault and how it has been swept under the rug for decades.
Suddenly, the film producer’s illustrious career collapsed and the veil over sexual harassment was lifted. The Weinstein effect was coined, described as a “national reckoning” against offenders. The list of the man’s offenses lengthened, but so did the list of offenders themselves.
Throughout the past two months, we saw the Weinstein effect flutter like a phantom across various personalities, many—if not all—of whom are industry titans. After Weinstein, head of Amazon Studios Roy Price was also accused and penalized, as were John Besh of the Besh Restaurant Group, fashion photographer Terry Richardson, MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin, E! News correspondent Ken Baker,former New York Times editor Michael Oreskes, and “The Flash” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg. The list is being maintained and heads are being hunted.
Sexual offense knows no race or geographical borders, as movements such as the “Me Too” campaign have extended globally. But sexual offense knows no gender, too, as it can also be perpetuated against boys and men. Accusations have been made against Hollywood agent Adam Venit, actors Kevin Spacey and George Takei, and former US House of Representatives speaker John Dennis Hastert.
Last Nov. 19 was International Men’s Day, which was first celebrated in 1992. If there are advocacies for men today, it must include sexual harassment in the face of the gradual objectification of the male form. It is hard to draw a picture of male rape in society, as men are not supposed to be victims but are the dominant ones, in control of their body and proud of it. But this just goes to show that everyone is just as vulnerable.
This also means that everyone must join the conversation to draw the lines. As a crash course: Harassment pertains to unwanted behavior (catcalls, jokes, whistles), assault pertains to unwanted contact (rubbing and touching), and rape as unwanted intercourse.
For men, it would be like walking on eggshells. It shall be so, after growing up in a society that subconsciously sees men as hunters and, consequently, women as prey. Just binge on “Mad Men” on Netflix and one can realize how this is deeply inculcated even among the most educated and distinguished of men. The mainstream media have been catering to the male gaze for so long.
But it is also turning its head now, as what a Charli XCX music video and momentous underwear fashion shows can prove. We men have felt the pressure, as your nearest gym clubs can prove. But men can be just as vulnerable to adulterous attention, groping hands and sexual advancement. Still, male objectification is not as defiling as female objectification is.
For women, the challenge is to keep the conversation going. That indeed is a challenge in itself, as women who have spoken out can lose a job and be subject to vicious criticism and ostracism. It is also a challenge to shed the belief that sexual assault is a normal threat that can happen to anyone. Many of my female friends were raised in a culture that teaches them not to get raped over a culture that teaches boys not to rape.
In the age of irreverence, it is time for women to be brave, and to voice and share stories; it is also a time for men to speak out, too. Yes, men can call out other men. Yes, men can discipline themselves when being around women. Yes, men are also vulnerable. And yes, men should see sexual offense not only as a feminist issue but also everyone’s issue.
In the age of irreverence, no woman and no man shall be defiled. In the age of irreverence, the only irreverence left is reserved for the perpetrators and the offenders. The age of irreverence is an age delayed for far too long.
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