Well, I was not prepared for how real this video was going to get. This is a short french film from director Éléonore Pourriat entitled Oppressed Majority.
Trigger Warning: This video depicts sexual violence and harassment. Also features brief female nudity from the waist up.
Powerful. It is striking to me how disconcerting it feels to see men overpowered and disrespected by women, and so forcefully. And yet we are surrounded everyday by images of violence against women, images of disrespect and abuse, so that they are almost benign. From high fashion to Instagram, women’s bodies are violated and distorted.
These are the everyday images we all live with, part of our collective consciousness. The director uses that film to turn that consciousness on it’s head, which is particularly brilliant.
Let’s clarify the world view that results from this collective and damaging consciousness. These images are only possible in a culture where violence against women is seen as a given. Feminists use the term ‘rape culture’ to describe a culture where rape is normalized, and people are taught how not to get raped instead of how not to rape.
Rape culture means that women are responsible for rape. It means that we police women’s bodies and behaviors. It means we can’t conceive of ‘nice guys’ or ‘talented guys’ being predators.
This issue is particularly prevalent right now with the release of a letter written by Dylan Farrow, restating her allegations of a sexual assault committed by her then father, Woody Allen, when she was 7. Her statement has garnered plenty of support…
To be blunt: I think Woody Allen probably did it, though, of course, I could be wrong. But it’s okay if I’m wrong. For two reasons… The second reason it’s okay if I’m wrong is that I’m probably not wrong. It’s much more likely that I’m right. Because I am not on Woody Allen’s jury, I can be swayed by the fact that sexual violence is incredibly, horrifically common, much more common than it is for women to make up stories about sexual violence in pursuit of their own petty, vindictive need to destroy a great man’s reputation. We are in the midst of an ongoing, quiet epidemic of sexual violence, now as always. We are not in the midst of an epidemic of false rape charges, and that fact is important here.
But of course there are also plenty of haters and doubters. A lot of folks don’t want to outright call her a liar, but instead suggest that while she truly believes that it happened, that it did not. A lot of people can’t bring themselves to believe that this talented director has engaged in this criminal violent behavior (although the more ambiguous fascination with younger women seems palatable.) Even friends that I thought understood about these things cited the now imfamous Daily Beast article at me, which spends quite a lot of time excusing ‘creepy’ behavior and insinuating that Dylan was “disturbed” and thus isn’t telling the real truth. Plenty of name calling and mud slinging and accused-defending goes on when sexual assault accusations go public. We also tend to engage in a lot of cultural forgetfulness. But that first support quote is super important to remember: false accusations are incredibly rare, statically insignificant. The balance of power between individuals is not equal. If you start from a place of skepticism when listening to a victim’s story, then you truly don’t understand this issue.
This is something everyone should be outraged by, because this kind of thinking affects us all. If we are all confused on what sexual assault (and sexual assailants) look like, then we are probably also confused on exactly what it means to give consent. That has drastic implications for all sexual relationships. ‘No means no’ is actually not as accurate as ‘Yes means yes’, and our cultural ambivalence regarding consent trickles down and leads to street harassment and the idea of ‘friend zoning’. If women are made to be the gate keepers of their bodies, they are stripped of their humanity and exist only as a sex object to be won by any means necessary (including trickery, coercion, and force.)
All of this dehumanizing behavior also strips women of their ability to be sexually empowered humans, and then you have a whole population experiencing shame and guilt around their bodies and their desires, folks who cannot positively participate in their own sexuality. Which is terrible.
And when you make a person an object, you get the kind of culture that normalized the violent images shown above. Because an object doesn’t deserve compassion or empathy. And this overall lack of compassion for women’s bodies creates the imbalance we all feel everyday.
That is why Oppressed Majority is so jarring, because that power shift is so dramatic.
I’ll end with this epic snark from Lauren Conrad, responding to a sexist and gross question from a radio personality. Just another everyday moment of sexism. It’s not just about the loud moments of sexual assault and violence, it’s also about this kind of small moment that is still hurtful, disrespectful, and wrong.
These are the moments, large and small, that we must all work to prevent through education and healing for both men and women, if we are to have any chance of a truly respectful and fulfilling coexistence. Rape culture affects all of us negatively, and the future of women’s safety and our sexual health as a culture depends upon it’s dismantling. It will need to be a team effort the likes of which has never been seen, but I do believe (on optimistic days) that folks everywhere are waking up, and seeing collective effort and momentum gives me much hope. Speak up and speak out. You’ll be in good company.