(This is to be paired with the Of Monsters and Men episode of Hard Kaur Persepectives. I don’t want to repeat what I said on the show so if you haven’t already heard it, go listen to that first. -Gia)
Do you remember when in Greek and Roman mythology, Apollo is chasing Daphne and she turned into a tree rather than have to deal with Apollo’s lusty obsession with her? I felt that. (Talk about barking up the wrong tree.)
From antiquity to Beauty and the Beast to Little Red Riding Hood – women have been prey while men are the predator. From the moment they can sit up and take in instruction, girls are warned against the male libido. Don’t dress like that, don’t say that, don’t do that; it could be interpreted as an invitation . . . like to a vampire or something. Why aren’t men told to control their libido? Why does the burden of warding off unwanted desire rest with the woman? It’s as if our culture wants us to give men some understanding for having this monster inside, the monster that flares up around puberty and never seems to leave. Perhaps biology is partially to blame. However, being blessed with a pre-frontal cortex means humans suppress unpleasant or socially un-acceptable impulses all the time. Our animal nature can be worked with. So my thought is that we live in a society that has left this beast off a chain on purpose.
I think women are done hardening themselves to put up with predatory nonsense masquerading as harmless masculine fun. We are done being patient and wooden on the subject of our own dehumanization. We got some things to say. Please, take a seat.
I have this montage of images that flow through my mind when I think of what’s been exposed on the media of late.
I remember being seven or eight, about 55lbs of girl, watching her father get drunker and meaner with his friends as the night wore on. I remember the vague shouting and hyena like laughter. I remember my mom gathering me and my five year old sister in her room and moving the bed in front of the door so no one could pry it open to get to us. I remember her cleaning the vomit out of the carpets the next day.
I remember hearing my parents slut shame girls for wearing dresses in the fall.
I remember being 22 and in London going out for my first date ever. I remember slipping pepper spray into my pocket along with my lipstick.
I remember when my friends and I activated the location trackers on our phones so we would be able to follow each other when the other went out alone or on a date. Just in case.
I remember being cat called and being called a bitch on the street for having the audacity to be walking while female.
I remember getting unsavory messages on dating apps.
I remember guys on dates tickling me or jabbing me in jest. Not the worst offence, but I remember telling them to stop. Telling them that it was annoying, that it made me uncomfortable. Telling them that an unfamiliar man tickling me wasn’t cute, especially when they had 60 lbs on me. I remember them not listening.
I remember them not taking “No.” for an answer.
I remember the shame and frustration. The hotness of the tears.
There was no one defining moment of abuse for me that made me feel victimized. It was a slow subtle wearing away of my sense of security and sense of self-worth over time.
The first few things we learn in kindergarten are: don’t say hurtful things, keep your hands to yourself and keep them out of your pants. Why don’t we hold men to this elementary standard?
Perhaps because we deify certain people. We attribute God like status to celebrity. We want to believe that they are a chosen few to lead us, to teach us, to model ourselves after. We forget that the Gods could be monstrous too.
There is a pretty hefty list of cultural heavy weights who have met with a reckoning in the past few months. It feels good to see powerful people finally being held accountable. There is no job or aspect of society that isn’t tainted with this sort of behavior. It happens everywhere and to everyone and way too often. And for those men saying #notallmen. Well duh, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We are talking about the toxic culture that promotes this kind of behavior and we are talking about holding perpetrators responsible. We are talking about consequences for actions. We are talking about justice. Also, I don’t think men are authorities on the character of other men. Women see a side of men that they don’t show to their buddies. You don’t get to see your buddies sending drunk sexts and unsolicited dick pics. You don’t see them demanding nudes. You don’t see them when they are being predatory. And if you do and you haven’t confronted them about it, then what does that say about your character? Sometimes inaction is the true violence. Being deaf to the truth with two perfectly good ears is just straight up bullshit.
So what do we do?
I don’t have a single solution. I don’t think one exists. I think it’s going to take individual reflection and honesty, education (proper sex education in schools!) and social responsibility to each other to be better. When we change, our institutions will too. And it starts with listening and understanding. It takes really trying to see other people’s side, especially if you are someone with power or privilege. It’s going to take being uncomfortable for a while and having the important discussions. The most disturbing part of these revelations hasn’t been that sexual harassment happens or that it happens this often, it’s that so many people knew about it and helped cover it up. So many people kept these women quiet. So many people helped cover up the reputations of these men through quiet money settlements and by threatening careers and reputations of the victims. That is much more troubling. Be like Drake. Be like John Oliver. Have those uncomfortable confrontations with other men. Stand up for the humanity of everyone. Love your brothers, but call them out when they are in the wrong. Get them help when they need it. And women, keep telling your truths.
I personally have been struggling with Louis CK in particular because as a stand-up fan, he was one of my idols. I also thought he was a feminist. It felt like I was tricked. Betrayed by someone I admired. I’ve been thinking a lot about separating the art and the artist.
Art doesn’t exist if the audience doesn’t. A book is just words on a paper until someone reads it. Then it’s art. I don’t think it’s possible to separate the art from the artist because art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is always a continually evolving process between the growth and change of the observer and the piece of work. (1+1=3). It’s more than the sum of its parts. And it requires a certain authenticity. If there’s a lie in the work, it doesn’t work. You will never be able to forget what the artist did when you interact with their work again. You will always have that artist’s list of fuck ups in the back of your mind. This isn’t to say that you will no longer be able to enjoy the work, you just won’t be able to view it the same again. The extra knowledge will always be a part of how you interact with the work. It’s going to be up to each individual to decide whose work they can still support and who they are done with. But I don’t think we can’t ignore everything these people put out because it’s been made part of the social consciousness. Their influence is already out there, and not all of it was bad. We can examine the types of work that came out and see what it says about our nature, because it still says something. Monsters can still have something important to say about men, because they are part of the men too. Ignoring that part of us is no good. We must hold it accountable, though for sure.
The philosophers of antiquity were always obsessed with the idea of virtue and the distinctions between men of virtue and monsters. Granted they didn’t have everything figured out because they had slaves and treated women like non-persons but they were on to something when it came to virtue. The Greeks and Romans even went as far as to suggest these virtues showed in physical ways – the human body was often a display of virtue – there’s a reason the Olympic athletes were worshiped, they could “control their chariots,” “hold their horses” – control their animal impulses. They were prime human specimens. The statues of Greek and Roman men had small dicks because large dicks were signs of moral and mental inferiority – the animal was in charge of the man. But they always acknowledged this divide of monsters and men. Monsters in men. We are all monsters because nature is red in tooth and claw and we will always be a product of nature. From fighting past and leaving behind the billions of sister sperm to the simultaneous finish line and genesis of the ovum, to the corporate climb, to the eventual abandonment of the life we build when we die, we are at the core, selfish.
However, we can also derive joy from bettering ourselves and helping others to better themselves.
Aristotle felt that moral virtue was something one could practice. Something one could get better at through moderation. It was a human beings purpose to spend life getting closer and closer to moral balance. To keep the monster in check.
But first, one must admit that the monster is there.