The male chauvinist pig, the sexual predator, the sexist bully; the nubile, semi-clad groupie who lays on a couch pouting with her skirt so mini it is invisible, cleavage designed to make her breasts pop out of her blouse, who then fifty years later claims she was raped. There is no gender to the word "victim". Where to draw the line?
Sir Michael Fallon is perhaps the first of many casualties to come from the sexual fallout in Westminster, the seat of the UK government, because he allegedly touched a female journalist's knee, repeatedly, some fifteen years ago. She has said that the situation was solved there and then and that it was not an incident to resign over, yet the British Defense Secretary claimed that he cannot guarantee that more and fresh allegations will not arise, so he stepped aside to save the Government further embarrassment.
The point is, this is not a one-off and neither is politics the only feud of sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct. The Weinstein scandal brought the spotlight onto the casting couch culture in the film industry recently, as if this was necessary to spill the beans on a practice that everyone has known about for decades. Neither are the twentieth or twenty-first centuries the only bastion in time of gender interplay.
The Anglo-Saxonic "Best Man" at weddings is so called because the expression has its origin in Medieval times, when the groom had only to physically take a bride from her family home and basically rape her, after which she would become "his". The ceremony was just a formality. So, the groom would pick the strongest, or best, "man" in the village to go with him to literally fight off the bride's family while he snatched the girl - kidnapped her - and so she became his trophy.
Over time families protected their womenfolk in marriage through the institution of the dowry, which the wife brought with her into the marriage, and which would have to be paid back if the husband did not want to keep his wife, forcing him to think three times before he discarded her to a life of destitution.
In prehistoric matriarchal societies, the dominant position of the female, whose role was basically to ensure the survival of the tribe, keeping the homestead, looking after the children, tending the animals and taking care of the agriculture, was reinforced by symbols of power such as a snake coiled around a stick (the medicine woman had the keys to herbal remedies) and such as the worship of the (feminine) Moon. The role of the male was to hunt but more often than not they came back empty-handed with stupid expressions on their faces, probably to be scolded and humiliated by the Matriarch.
These useless good-for-nothings saw their roles change for the better as societies became more organized and took on the institution of Religion, which reserved the top positions in the hierarchy for males, as the Sun (masculine) replaced the Moon as God of Gods. God is referred to as "He", not "She" or "It" often sporting a beard, and let us count how many female Popes or Patriarchs there have been. Let us remember that Mary Magdalene, probably the first apostle and organizer of the entourage of Yoshua (Jesus) was for two thousand years erroneously referred to as a prostitute, when in fact she was no such thing.
And so throughout history from the Dark Ages to modern times, the role of the male has been heightened in societies around the globe and enshrined by religions, even in the law. Not one hundred years ago women were not allowed to vote because they were considered too hysterical to form a balanced opinion. In many Western countries, women went to a cinema armed with a sharp pin to stick into the wandering hands of the boys who thought it was their right to fondle thighs and squeeze breasts in the dark.
In those days, one pin-prick was enough and the girls did not wait three or four decades to come out with their story to the media. Nobody is defending here, and especially not this author, the right of men to do what they want, to have their way as their God-given right, to abuse and bully women, taking advantage of their position, intimidating, insinuating, threatening. They do not have this right, period.
But where to draw the line? If a young girl wishing to climb the social ladder, dressed scantily, made-up to the eyeballs, rolling her tongue around her lips and cheeks as she sucks a lollipop suggestively after the fifteenth drink at a party then voluntarily enters a hotel bedroom, how much sympathy can one have with her when twenty-five years later she claims she was abused? The civilized ones among us would argue that she has every right to dress as she pleases and to change her mind at the last minute because the sanctity and inviolability of the person is a birthright.
But do we live in truly civilized societies? Or in societies where things are stacked against the she and in favor of the he? Food for thought.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
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