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Monday, April 21, 2014

Everday Sexism Gets Turned on Its Head

This video (link above) by Guardian video producer Leah Green shows some reversed misogyny by giving men a taste of their own medicine when it comes to street harassment. Leah Green makes it clear that she is using scenarios women had given her from their own lives. In the video, Green tells random men to get their "arses out," asks if they want to go home with her and honks at men from a truck telling them how sexy they are while they walk past her, all to their shock and horror (and sometimes amusement).

If you're a woman, you know exactly what it feels like to walk down the street and have some random perv yell out what he wants to do to you in bed. You've probably also had men hit on you aggressively and ones that won't take no for an answer. You're probably used to the idea that your body is public property in the sense that it is free reign to be objectified and commented on. But turning the tables highlights to absurdity of these ingrained values and makes one wonder why it is so shocking to see a man being treated in this way.

As a rule, I don't like to read the comments section on websites. Usually, it represents the dregs of society and by some point in the conversation, someone is saying the Holocaust didn't happen or how much they hate black people. But for whatever reason, I found myself straying to the comment section from Green's article and saw that predictably, many people thought this video was unrealistic and unfair.

Firstly, they felt this video didn't really represent how men are portrayed. They thought that the fact that Green is attractive in the classic sense would mean that men would just say yes to her aggressive advances or simply  think that she is "just nuts." However, I'm not sure where in the world a biological rule is written that a man must be ugly and disgusting in order to street harass. Often times, even attractive young men are at fault (especially in groups to demonstrate their masculinity to one another). Green was also quick to point out in her rebuttal article that the men didn't run away screaming for a variety of complicated social reasons. In her words:

Answering the second area of criticism will help to illustrate this. "None of these men are even offended, they just think she's crazy! So, that disproves the point" was the gist of many a comment. I won't bother to address the responses implying that, because the men in the video didn't run away screaming, women shouldn't make a fuss about sexual harassment.

Another common thread addressed the issue of whether or not the men in the video deserve to be hit on aggressively. These commentators felt that that we aren't combating the issue by "simply" throwing it in men's faces. However,  there never seems to be a question on whether or not women deserve it. They just are harassed, as if it is part and parcel of being a woman (and frankly, it is, even if isn't write). Perhaps it is abrasive to try and give men "a taste of their own medicine" (whether or not the "targets" are individually sexist), but turning sexism on its head is one of the few ways to show how absurd all of the notions and actions in these scenarios really are. Green states:

Countless people have said: "So, you know these men are sexist, do you?" Or: "What have these poor men done to deserve this?" In short: no, and nothing. Nor am I saying that I believe the majority of men behave like this towards women. Most men I know wouldn't dream of cat-calling a woman, or asking a stranger about her pubic grooming habits. But I know that sexism is a problem, that the majority of women have been victims of it. Much like the men in the video, they haven't done a thing to deserve it.

The other argument I often see from people who don't want to face  sexism (and one all over the comments section on Green's video) is that men and women equally face such harassment or gender issues. Men I know have talked about how difficult it is to be a man and that they face oppression in their everyday lives, even though many don't realize their own privilege. To me, that's like saying you're an oppressed white person, but I guess if you're a Fox News pundit then that sentiment might actually be validated, but I digress. The point is that no matter how you slice it, gender issues are not the same, hence why this video is so disarming. If gender issues were the same, then this video would seem like normal everyday street harassment, not something the targets of Green were taken aback by nor anything that aroused (pardon the pun) any kind of surprise in the viewer. Sure there are issues in the world that solely affect men and are a few instances where sexism works in favor of women (for example in custody battles) but these often stem from stereotypes about females (females as carers in the custody battle scenario), forming a circular issue. Sexism against women is typically actually the root, but often times people are slow to acknowledge this.

Green says on the issue:

The experiment also proves that while, yes, women are sometimes sexually aggressive to men and, yes, men are sometimes objectified by women, it is simply false to say the issue is the same for both genders. When I asked men what sexual harassment they had encountered, the few that had something to offer spoke of "one time, with one woman, 10 years ago". My father, who is a rather handsome chap, only cited a drunk woman on the bus asking him to go home with her about 30 years ago. Women will often be able to give you an example from that week, that day even. If it were an equally pressing issue for men and women, why were the men I approached so taken aback? 

Overall, I found this to be an interesting and entertaining look at sexism that really got its point across. Whether or not people choose to listen to that point is up to them, but I sincerely hope they do. It is a message worth listening to and a question worth pondering. Besides, don't these men have mothers, sisters, cousins, grandmothers, daughters, aunts and friends they wouldn't want to see harassed in such a manner? And if so, why make other women uncomfortable? What is stopping us from confronting the issue head on and trying to make a grand change is society and why is there such a push back? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool. You should check out this short movie another woman made. This experiment reminded me of this one:

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