By Heidi Stevens
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) To have an honest conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault, columnist Heidi Stevens believes we need to start “talking about all the ways we have taken women’s bodies and turned them into vessels.”
A man named Steve emails me every now and then to take issue with something I’ve written. He checked in a few weeks ago after I wrote about the #MeToo movement, which was inspired by sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
“The core question you should be asking, Heidi,” he wrote, “is: Why do women try to make themselves more attractive?”
I don’t think that’s the core question we should be asking, actually. But I know plenty of people are asking it, have been asking it for decades, in fact. Are asking it ad nauseam these last few weeks, as harassment and assault allegations mount against powerful men in entertainment, politics, journalism.
If these women are so opposed to being hit on, why are they going to all that trouble to look so enticing? Men are just supposed to pretend they don’t notice?
I emailed Steve something benign about how women make themselves attractive for the same reasons men do: to feel confident, to earn social capital in a culture that prizes physical beauty, to turn on their partners, to land dates with people they find mutually attractive, physically or otherwise.
It’s not a contradiction to want all those things and not want a superior to masturbate in front of you. That seems pretty simple.
But I wonder if it’s a little too simple.
I don’t think we can have an honest conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault right now without talking about all the ways we have taken women’s bodies and turned them into vessels.