It has become increasingly common these past few weeks to find stories of public figures coming out with their experiences of sexual assault and/or harassment in the entertainment industry. What began with the Harvey Weinstein allegations has now unravelled into a beautiful unification of courage and strength in sharing stories of sexual misconduct and giving victims a voice and opportunity to share their experiences and messages. In a series of tweets posted on November 11, Rebel Wilson reveals her own experience with sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
Although she ended her recount of the experience on a note of empowerment, the sad reality of the story lingers. Rebel Wilson is the girl in movies who is able to effortlessly resonate with her audience with her charming humour and ability to fearlessly portray her true self in an industry so exclusive and narrow in its path of acceptance. Her story illustrates the realities and potential realities for many girls who see themselves in her. Wilson has taken her experience and turned it into an important message, necessary during this time of rejoicing for the care of victims. To her admiring audience she has told them that you are not obligated to be nice to someone who has so deeply harmed you or anyone you know- politeness is not the ultimate antidote; make a statement with your defiance to be nice to an offender.
Despite the empowerment she brought along with her retelling, there were people who felt that a woman’s experiences with sexual assault and harassment lie in accordance with her level of conventional beauty.
These responses to terrifying stories of harassment are telling of the heartlessness that continues to remain in our societies in regards to a victim’s experiences of sexual harassment.
Sexual assault and harassment do not rely on conventional beauty for motivation. Any woman can be prone to these experiences. And when a woman comes forth with her truth, then that is simply what it is. A truth. An experience. People who find the experience to be some form of fiction must not have read the experiences in their entireties. Rebel Wilson was harassed. Rebel Wilson went on Twitter on November 11, 2017 and told the world that she was harassed. Rebel Wilson is a plus-sized woman who was harassed. If the story itself is not proof enough that sexual harassment can exist in anyone’s life, nothing ever will be.
Being sexually harassed is not a compliment. Having someone force you into a sexual activity is not flattering nor is it telling of the quality and value you hold in your inner and outer beauty and as a person. To tell a woman that she must look a certain way to truly face harassment is implying that sexual harassment is a compliment, it is a sign of her beauty. It is to say that she has obtained the “ever-glorious” male validation, and defining said validation as a form of harassment.
Sexual harassment and assault are not about the way a woman looks. It is about the entitlement that men feel over a woman’s body. From a young age, we are groomed in our societies to see men as the embodiments of hyper-masculinity, in which a significant aspect of it is to find gratification from any form of sexual activity, be it forced or consented. A man’s identity as a man relies on his sexual gratification. A woman is the object he uses to confine to these rigid standards. While conventional beauty correlates strongly with a woman’s sexual validity under the male gaze, the need to confine to the standards of masculinity is so strong and ingrained into our societies that it is not about a woman’s looks, it is about the man. It is about how he can feel power.
Rather than doubting the validity of a woman’s story of harassment, question the society that makes it so that the value of a woman lies so strongly within her physical appearance that it has the power to affect the way her experiences of harassment and assault are perceived by the general public.