Men go on a date hoping to get laid, women go on a date hoping to not get killed.
To some, that sentiment may seem excessive or exaggerated. And maybe it is. But what cannot be ignored is that women and men lead different lives when it comes to safety and expectations for everyday life and everyday conduct. I carry my keys between my knuckles when walking home, constantly check over my shoulder, avoid engagement in conversation with strangers. I brushed all these aside as personal paranoia, just habits I had gotten myself into.
These horrifying realities have been brought to the surface again after the allegations that have been made against Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, has alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school when during a party, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her, attempted to undress her and covered her mouth when she tried to scream.
I’ve heard stories from male friends about night-outs that would never happen to me. I would just never go on a bender on a night-out and wake up in the morning alone in a carpark. I would never decide to leave a party in the early hours of the morning and just decide to walk home alone. These experiences and choices are simply not in the scope of my reality. Women do not have the luxury of just floating through the world, unaware, unassuming and unsuspecting.
Of course, that is not dismissing the fear of men in terms of safety and security, or the instances of sexual assault and misconduct that take place towards men. But, by bringing to attention the hardships of one group, the hardships of another are not diminished. Responses like #NotAllMen fundamentally miss the point. Movements like #MeToo aren’t an attack on men but rather a buckling down on behaviours that have permeated through society and have gone unchecked for too long.
There is a strong parallel between Ford’s claim of sexual assault and the allegations made against then Supreme Court nominee, Judge Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill in 1991. Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment during her days as an employee of Thomas and ultimately testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in front of some of the same members that still sit there today.
Like Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford will testify in a Senate Hearing. She will go through intense questioning and character assassinations, but unlike Hill’s hearing, Ford’s will take place with the backdrop of #MeToo. How the allegations made by Christine Ford are received and dealt with will reveal much about what #MeToo and Time’s Up have realistically achieved so far.
The #MeToo movement continues to be barraged with criticism and mis-interpretation. Just the other day, Sean Penn labelled the movement as “salacious” and that the spirit of the movement has been to “divide men and women.” He stressed that many of the accusations have been unfounded and that the movement operates in “great stridency and rage and without nuance.”
We should feel lucky as young women to be living in this time. If something happens to us, it would be so much more likely that we would be embraced with understanding and a network of support. It’s not an attempt to generate division or destruction. It’s an attempt to unite all against a wrong for the betterment of all, and if that appears as salacious or divisive, that’s a pretty cynical and hopeless viewpoint to have.
We should all have the ability to feel safe and we should all have the ability to feel heard. That’s really not too much to ask.