Central Times

Women are not toys

Riddhi Andurkar, Managing Editor

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Imagine a wind-up robot. The kind of robot that kids play with. They take it out of its storage spot to use it, play with it until they are done with it, then they throw it back into their closet, never to be seen again.

Now let’s zoom out and observe. We see the exact same thing happening. This time, not with a child and a wind-up robot, but with a grown man and a defenseless woman. Powerful, influential men exploiting women and engaging in sexual misconduct. The men blackmailed the women, threatening them with their job positions or other unpleasant consequences if they reported these exploitations. If the women complied, they would keep moving forward in their careers. If not, then their career would begin to spiral downwards.

Men involved with such incidents were in powerful positions of authority to influence the careers of these women. The women helplessly agreed, terrified of losing their livelihood and career advancement if they refused.

These women kept their identities and stories hidden, afraid of social backlash and shame. Starting in 2004, a few women came forward, accusing stand-up comedian, musician and author Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct.

In the beginning of October 2017, multiple women accused Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Since then, many more women have come forward, accusing many more high profile men, including highly ranked government officers.

Since October, celebrities such as Kevin Spacey from the TV show “House of Cards,” Charlie Rose, “60 Minutes” correspondent and co-anchor of CBS’ “This Morning” and Matt Lauer, “The Today Show” host, have been accused of sexual misconduct.

Now, women are coming out to even accuse high profile politicians such as Sen. Al Franken, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and even President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct.

Trump has continued to deny these accusations claiming that the women were just “phony accusers” with the goal of ruining the “most important election of U.S. history.” It is highly encouraging and noteworthy that many such men are being fired by their employers, and many others are under investigation for their alleged sexual misconduct.

If these events occurred so long ago, why did it take these women and men so long to reveal their identities? Why did they hide? What kept them from speaking up?

According to NPR, Aristotle believed that women were an inferior version of men. He believed that they were more emotional and incapable of regulating their emotions. He also believed that women were more capable of lying,  manipulating and misinforming.

Perhaps some of Aristotle’s beliefs were present in today’s society, creating the image of the stereotypical woman.

When these incidents occurred, the men being accused were high profile, very highly ranked in their respective fields and were more powerful than the women accusing them. 

If the victims had revealed incidents of sexual misconduct to the public at that time, the men would have denied them, just like they are now. Women were powerless and had no voice in society.

As a woman, it angers me that society had such old-fashioned beliefs back then. It hurts to know that some of these women were forced to hide their identities due to unreasonable societal norms and pressures.

At the time these incidents occurred, women always had the fear of being “slut-shamed” by society. The term “slut shaming” is defined as the stigmatization of a woman for engaging in sexually provocative behavior. Girls who violate a dress code are slut-shamed, along with victims of sexual misconduct.Twenty years ago, society openly  criticized women who were sexually active, referring to them as “loose.” As a result, many women hid their identities.

Victims of sexual misconduct are being blamed for the actions perpetrated by high profile men. They are blamed for an event in their lives that they couldn’t control.

Twenty years ago, all women were perceived as emotional liars who were unable to control their emotions. If the women had stepped into the spotlight and shared their stories after the incidents, there were two things that would have happened. First, society would have told them to “calm down, sweetie” and take a few deep breaths to quiet down their emotions. Second, society would have thought that this was another lie that women were using in order to attract attention.

Have we turned a corner in women empowerment?

Perhaps.

In recent times, we see that women have become stronger and more confident. They no longer fall victim to the bribes of influential men in their field. In fact, the women themselves have become powerful and influential.

Because of this positive change, society has started to listen to the stories of these women. This newly found confidence inside women has brought them far. It has allowed their voices to be heard.

It took us over 50 years to understand and believe the incidents some of these women had to face. That is progress, but now we must probe deeper into the issue and investigate the root cause to forever eliminate the problem.

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Women are not toys