Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Allow women to exist

(Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

There are Harvey Weinsteins everywhere. No, they are not necessarily high-profile like the film producer, nor are they wealthy, nor famous, but they exist all around us. Women know what it’s like to deal with them. We know the exhaustion of men thinking they are entitled to touch us, even if they are not doing so in an outright sexual manner. Women’s bodies are not props. We are not here for you to grab, to feel reassured; no, you may not grip our shoulders to strengthen your argument.

Weinstein and others who have either been exposed or exposed themselves as sexual assaulters—including former President George H. W. Bush—have a lot in common, primarily significant power. Megyn Kelly discussed the problem with these men having this degree of power in an interview with Seth Meyers, mentioning that Roger Ailes, former CEO of Fox News, could never be penalized for harassment or assault because he controlled the human resources department.

These men feel entitled. That is the beginning and end of it. The reasons for these assaults cannot be explained by a generational gap despite  Weinstein’s allusion to the “free love” movement of the sixties. “Free love” and sexual assault should neither be conflated nor mistaken for each other.

We need to work hard to dissuade anyone from feeling entitled to touch other people without their consent. In terms of exposing rape culture as a problematic phenomenon, we may be moving forward, but when the current leader of the free world, admitted on tape to committing sexual assault, not much more progress can necessarily be made. Progress will be even more difficult, as the president has declared all accusers to be lying, despite the well-known fact that very few sexual assaults are reported (only about 40 percent); those that are reported are almost never made up (two percent).

However, not all sexual misconduct perpetrators can pay large settlements or rely on public support to get out of actual, legal punishment. I have spoken with employed women; they acknowledge that men get away with sexual harassment—even assault—all the time. These things should not be acceptable in the workplace, yet they are inexplicably permitted under the guise of women needing to “loosen up.” We are not too tight-laced—we want to do our jobs without passes being made at us.

Once at work, a man told me that he had a thing for blondes and wanted to see me outside my job sometime. I was fifteen; the man could not have been younger than forty. My manager told me to calm down. Men call us “sweetheart,” “honey,” “beautiful,” deliberately touch our hands when we hand them things. Many women have experienced the phenomenon of the non-consensual massage because we “look tense.” Women are told to smile more when we want to tell men to leave us the hell alone, even though all we want is for our bodies to be OURS.

A note to men reading this in outrage, thinking you’ve never done anything like this: no, I’m not talking about you, necessarily. I’m sure you’re a good person. But it is entirely possible that you once (or twice, or many times) touched someone when they didn’t want you to do so. Men, it isn’t enough for you to say you’re disgusted by the latest man outed as a rapist. It isn’t enough for you to say you love your wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters, that you want the world to be a safe place for them. It definitely isn’t enough for you to sit behind a keyboard, satisfied and comfortable in your assertion that you are not like Weinstein.

Women have the right to exist without being touched. We should be able to live our lives without being constantly objectified. I should not be constantly looking over my shoulder to see if anyone is following me, or keeping a certain coworker from getting too close to me from behind. The point I present should not have to be a radical one.

Sophie Allen is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    NITZAKHONNov 1, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Right up front, sexual (or other) harassment is a BAD THING. There are two important “BUTs” to consider:

    1. There is a difference between Weinstein etc, and what you experienced, and a genuinely innocent comment that is taken the wrong way. To scream “HARASSMENT!” the moment anyone looks at you is wrong; if something bothers you, it is incumbent upon you to push back first.

    2. Men can be harassed by women, too. I’ve been, and been told by an HR person that a couple of experiences from my own career rise to the definition. Is it mostly men? Probably. Is it exclusively men? Not at all.