A prominent member of the Canadian media recently elicited harsh accusations of brutal sexual assault. The seemingly intelligent, articulate media personality has allegedly committed quite graphic and disturbing attacks against multiple women for over a decade or more. That this was hidden for so long demonstrates a power hierarchy, reflected in many different domains and public institutions. The main point of interest or me personally is the women’s silence- its external cause and its impressive ability to be overcome. One woman’s public expression opened the gateway for many more to come forward and unashamedly relay their experiences to the public and the media, despite the backlash.
There is an implicit shame and stigma in our society surrounding female expression of sexuality. On one hand, it is “celebrated” in the media- often in an exploitative manner. Some would argue porn is a medium for women’s sexual liberation and expression, but from my perspective it is simply a tool to exploit vulnerable women and create false imagery and representation of their bodies and desires.
Living in a new Middle Eastern culture has exposed me to a complex reality, where women on the one hand demand respect as incredibly accomplished and powerful, serve in combat units in the army and attain impressive status in the political and legal arena. Concurrently, women (specifically those regarded as foreign, or “American) are constantly sexually objectified. My personal experience includes a late night taxi driver who subtly came up with the absurd suggestion that I’d “make another arrangement” rather than pay my fair. I adamantly declined, and swiftly escaped the vehicle.
When a male friend of mine recently described unwanted sexual attention from men as “a nice problem to have”, I realized that women face an uphill battle in attaining equality in this area. Although we have made incredible strides in recent decades with the birth control pill and other mechanisms that give us control over our bodies, in Canada, Israel and all regions of the world there is much more progress to be made.