Thoughts on Western society’s mixed messages on sexual harassment

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

The more revelations emerge about the rape culture in Hollywood, the groping and abuse, the more one has to wonder about the mixed messages we’ve been receiving from the same cultural elites who make popular culture and then violate its tenets.

From Iraq to Hollywood

When I read about Hilarie Burton having her breast “tweaked” by Ben Affleck in 2003, it brought back memories of an afternoon with the Iraqi army. My colleague and I posed for a photo with the Iraqi soldiers and one of them decided to “tweak” as well. But there’s a long distance from Hollywood to Qayarrah in Iraq. That doesn’t make it excusable, but it makes us wonder, if Hollywood produces the patriarchy and mainstreams the sexual harassment of women the same way “conservative” societies like parts of Iraq do, then that means Hollywood’s supposed “liberal” views are a contradiction. “Some girls like a good tweakage here and there,” Burton said on the programme. “I’d rather have a high five.” She said she was  “a kid” at the time, “had to laugh back then so I wouldn’t cry”. We’ve heard this “I was a kid” story relating to other scandals of sexual harassment in Hollywood.

The patriarchy and toxic masculinity

We are constantly told about “white privilege,” and “the patriarchy” and “toxic masculinity” from the same people who live in a almost all white male privilege, masculine rape culture in the entertainment industry. So why does the same industry that preaches diversity actually have all-male and all-white boards of directors? They have these “empowered” movies about women, and cast women in Star Wars and new films like Wonder Woman to show “positive” and “strong” women role models. But then the same industry is groping and harassing those same actresses.

The racism behind the groping

When we look at the kind of women being groped and harassed, but then receiving a part in a movie in exchange for it, many of them are white and blond. To what degree are minorities harmed doubly by the rape culture and patriarchy of the entertainment elites. Not only do the elite men prefer white women, but one might ask if non-white women from minority communities who have less access to even make it as actresses, also reject the harassment and have their careers stunted or destroyed because of it. When the decision on which women to cast sits only with powerful white men who have a preference for harassing blond or white women, then those men are responsible for why we have so few women of color in film. Is Hollywood an example of institutionalized white supremacy.

Why are left wing spaces so often not safe spaces for women?

We hear a lot about micro-aggressions and safe spaces, but it turns out that abuse of women is par for the course in many elite industries. It also turns out that being “left” or “liberal” is not a barrier to having a patriarchy culture of abuse. In fact the level and frequency of abuse of women may be more among those who self-define as “left.” So why is it that in those circles where everyone ostensibly supports “feminism” and “empowered women” and “strong female leads” and challenges the “patriarchy”, are those the same circles where men feel most entitled to sexually harass. It may be because they use being “left” as a shield. They say “I’m a good leftist so I don’t do things like that.” They also feel entitled to do what they want and pretend that their relationships are “consensual.” They pretend that being “liberal” means “no boundaries” and no “oppressive morality” and as such they say that a 90 year old man harassing 20 year old women who are trying to start a career is acceptable because “we are consenting adults.” They feel a self-righteousness that guides them to do as they please and they claim any attempt to stifle their groping is “moralizing” and “conservative.” That is the excuses made for Polanski and others.

They provide us patriarch and then condemn it in order to remain on top

Part of the reason for the hypocrisy and contradictory messages is that the elites want to feed the masses “opium” in a sense. They want to convince people at one and the same time that the elites are “enlightened” and progressive” while feeding them movies that reinforce rape culture and patriarchy (think Westworld or Game of Thrones depiction of women), while then claiming that the poor are “racist” and “chauvinist” as a reason to exclude the masses. But how did the masses become “racist” and “chauvinist” when they are raised on popular culture created in places like Hollywood? It is because they receive a mixed message, at one and the same time they are told religion and being conservative is a pastiche of idiocy and racism, but they are also fed “liberal” values that tend towards sexual harassment.

Modesty and immodesty

We are also fed contradictory messages about modesty. The new fetish for “modesty” and especially Islamist forms of it in Saudi Arabia and Iran means that on the one hand western culture is told to be modest, and also immodest. The “feminist” website Adventure Divas instructed women traveling to Iran “the veil symbolizes not just women’s modesty, but men’s as well. Men are not tempted to act like jerks when they can’t see a woman’s body, face and hair.” The comment about men being “tempted” dovetails with Donna Karen’s critique of the women in the Weinstein scandal. “We have to look at ourselves’ and question how women are presenting themselves and their sexuality,” she said. So which is it, on the one hand we are told that we must not “slutshame” people, but on the other our own culture tells us that women must cover their hair to prevent men being “jerks” and men being “tempted.” Is this Tehran or is this Boston and San Francisco? Or is our culture simply constantly feeding us mixed messages. And if so, why?

 

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