Perhaps what makes us most vulnerable are the parts of us that we cannot change, but affects the way people see us, treat us… talk to us.. talk about us.
A lengthy conversation started over the comments Matt Damon said about how there is a scale of severity when it comes to sexual assault. “Why is everyone jumping on Damon?” My male friend asked. “I mean, it’s true isn’t it, there is a difference between a slap on the ass and rape.”
While not wrong, this guy was still missing the point. Let’s have a master class about why Damon is missing all the marks.
First, Damon is a man, commenting on the scale of severity in regards to sexual abuse and assault on women. This has been the state of being for centuries. Men making decisions on whether a rape occured, whether the assault was serious enough, whether it was “asked for” by the victim in some way. The rates of conviction (with jail time) for men assaulters are somewhere close to 6/1000. This demonstrates the patriarchal structure we live in as women. That is to say, most of the time, men are making the choice about how assaulters will be punished. Yet another man in power (and even worse so, with a microphone that millions will hear his words from) spoke to trivialize the severity of sexual abuse and assault.
Minnie Driver is quoted saying “I honestly think that until we get on the same page, you can’t tell a woman about their abuse. A man cannot do that. No one can. It is so individual and so personal, it’s galling when a powerful man steps up and starts dictating the terms, whether he intends it or not.”
Second, Damon is speaking to the #metoo movement, where all women who have been assaulted/raped/harrassed are included. By stating guidelines of severity, he is also saying that some sexual assaults are “lesser.” A victim of a “lesser assault” may not feel like her experience and story “counts.” This goes against the very cause we are looking to bring awareness to. The #metoo movement is for all women who have experienced sexual violence. This club, however we don’t want to belong to it, includes all. It is a safe place for women to speak their truth boldly. By having a male break down categories, he was divisive.
Damon also is quoted as saying “We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is… the preponderance of men I’ve worked with who don’t do this kind of thing.”
*Blink* Well, let’s stand up and cheer for all the men who are NOT (and haven’t ever) sexually harrassed, abused or assaulted women. In fact, all of you who haven’t done that, please stand up. Nobody? Right. That’s the point. Even the most upstanding male friends have at one point made an unwanted sexually charged comment (action) towards a woman. This is the culture we are in. In addition, women are supposed to recognize all the men who haven’t committed sexual violence against them? Really?? Come on, now.
Third, Minnie Driver states Damon’s lack of ability to speak to this issue eloquently by saying men “simply cannot understand what abuse is like on a daily level” and should not, therefore, attempt to differentiate or explain sexual misconduct against women. Driver continues with this truth bomb: “Gosh it’s so interesting (profoundly unsurprising) how men with all these opinions about women’s differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem.” This is yet another case of “mansplaining” to women. As if we don’t know about the various ways we experience sexual violence.
She added: “There is no hierarchy of abuse – that if a woman is raped [it] is much worse than if a woman has a penis exposed to her that she didn’t want or ask for … you cannot tell those women that one is supposed to feel worse than the other.
“And it certainly can’t be prescribed by a man. The idea of tone-deafness is the idea there [is] no equivalency. How about it’s all fucking wrong and it’s all bad, and until you start seeing it under one umbrella it’s not your job to compartmentalize or judge what is worse and what is not. Let women do the speaking up right now. The time right now is for men just to listen and not have an opinion about it for once.”
Fourth, at this point, the only productive thing men can do is to be quiet OR unequivocally support the #metoo movement. The guy I was talking to stated that this was divisive and limiting of potential allies who wanted to be able to ask questions about the movement. The issue, though, is black and white. You are either against all sexual violence, or you aren’t. In addition, we really aren’t concerned about bringing men on board at this point. The effort is to get women’s voices out there, survivor’s voices. We are rallying behind a common story, the abuse of men against women. When we live in a world where men are doing most of the talking, most of the legislating, most of the powerful positions, it is TIME for us to speak and men to listen.
Driver says “In the same stereotypical way that we see women being supportive of men in their endeavors,” she said, “I feel that’s what women need of men in this moment. They need men to lean on and not question.
Fifth, Damon spoke to the idea that because Louis C.K. (who admitted copablity to sexual abuse due to a differential of power). “I don’t know Louis C.K.. I’ve never met him. I’m a fan of his, but I don’t imagine he’s going to do those things again. You know what I mean? I imagine the price that he’s paid at this point is so beyond anything that he…” And he trails off. What price has he paid? Public humilation for what he did? The inability to work in the public eye (which is yet to be seen)? Why is C.K.’s repercussion somehow the concern? With the majority of sexual abusers not getting any charges brought up against them, and a large majority of those who are charged not getting any consequences, the public’s view of C.K. (Cosby, Weinstein, Franken, et all.)
Driver goes on to say “Men can rally and they can support, but I don’t think its appropriate, per se, for men to have an opinion about how women should be metabolizing abuse. Ever.”
Sixth, Damon is not the reliable voice on this issue. In 2004, a reporter started to look into Weinstein’s sexual exploits, Damon allegedly called the reporter to vouch for Weinstein and try to kill the story. He also knew about Weinstein’s sexual harrasment of Gweneth Paltrow and continued to work with him. Thus, his reliablity is increbily suspect.
Now, it must be said, this guy I was speaking to IS supportive of the #metoo movement and stands on firm moral ground regarding sexual abuse. He was surprised to hear about the differential of power always leaning towards men. Women are taught to have their phones out when walking around at night, with their keys in their other hand. We are taught how to dress, even dress codes in most organizations are written BY men. Rape culture is everywhere.
Alyssa Milano says this: “I have been a victim of each component of the sexual assault spectrum of which you speak. They all hurt. And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted–even welcomed– misogyny… We are not outraged because someone grabbed our asses in a picture. We are outraged because we were made to feel this was normal. We are outraged because we have been gaslighted. We are outraged because we were silenced for so long.”
I get cat-called frequently, with men looking me up and down when I walk by. We notice these things, but at a certain point, we even gloss over them because they are so common. This is our daily framework we operate in. I am in the skin of a woman’s body. This culture is a given for us.
It’s time for men to get woke and hear what we experience every day.