Dressing up women’s rights: the problem with the #metoo movement

I have encountered sexism. I have seen it in recruitment. I have known men who give me the impression that, as a woman, nothing I say has validity. I have seen something akin to sexism in the world of dating.

But I also encounter loads of other annoying stuff. Like people showing off on the bus; pompous people at work; people failing to administer a basic level of discipline to their children.

Every behaviour sits within a complex web of influences, themes, tendencies, circumstances and subjectivity of the interpreter. It is not easy to pinpoint a single cause, or know with any certainty that we’ve seen the full picture. So I sometimes struggle to get whole-heartedly behind Feminism.

To large extent, I must just take other women’s word for it. And I agree that #metoo has been a good thing. It has put sexual harassment on the agenda so that a) men want to make sure they don’t get it wrong b) nasty men are less likely to play up, and c) women can feel more confident and supported about speak out. If it takes a celebrity to get this ball rolling then so be it.

Clearly, show business is a grubby business. It’s one of these industries where lines are very blurred between work and personal lives. The ‘work’ itself is you – your body, your voice, the way you present yourself. It’s easy to see how unpleasant people, sitting higher up the hierarchy, adopted a sense of ownership and entitlement over the bodies of those beneath them.

Wearing a designer gown is a privileged act of vanity

The instances of sexual harassment shared by people in film/modelling are shocking and extreme. But shouldn’t we acknowledge something: everybody knew about the blurred lines; they would certainly have been used to lots of women’s advantage, even if only on the most subtle level. That doesn’t make it okay but we should remember that the ‘lovey’ culture was protected because it benefitted the majority, to some degree.

But then came the black dresses…. Sorry, what? Yes, your experience of sexual harassment working in film or modelling is entirely valid and you can add power to an important message. But am I supposed to be impressed? Did it take great strength and resolve to choose a black super-expensive frock to wear to the posh elite awards ceremony?

Okay it’s a symbol, but the vehicle for the symbolism undermines it. Wearing a designer gown is a privileged act of vanity. One cannot help one’s beauty but to further adorn it, while not wicked in any sense, is surely something we do for the ego?

I’m sure that the celebrities who took part genuinely believed that they were doing a good thing, but it’s hardly altruism. In their dresses, they get the usual hedonistic buzz; the usual tentative self-satisfaction from public gaze and admiration. Personally, I was offended.

I’m happy for them to get on board but we mustn’t let them get too carried away. The experiences of ordinary women may not make shock headlines but they are complex in their subtlety. They often take place in a broader context of bad jobs, bad management, and prejudiced recruitment – all of which need addressing. Any celebrity who thinks wearing a black dresses was a bold move is seriously out of touch with real life and real people. They can make a difference but they should not be so ignorant as to think that their experiences of workplace harassment are the same as ours.