Speaking out about OWS sexual harassment

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, October 20, 2011 15:28 EDT
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Update: August Pollalk is the best, seriously. He remembered Greenstreet, and had this to say:

So, my fun little Inside Baseball story: when Campus Progress (the nonprofit I used to work for in DC) first launched in 2004, one of the first things we did was try to promote a campus tour of a small documentary film made by Steven Greenstreet. We sent him to college campuses across the country to do a Q&A with students and put him up in hotels and expensed him. The relationship went sour when we started getting expense invoices back from him with hotel bills that included charges for pornographic movies. Then he called one of my female co-workers a "F___ C___" during a phone call. And that's the last time anyone at a major progressive organization ever worked with Steven Greenstreet again.

Hey, we all should take advantage of the masturbation opportunities on the road. But making Campus Progress pay for your fucking porn is bullshit. And pathetic—what, you can't work the internet?  Needless to say, calling anyone a "fucking cunt" doesn't do much in terms of convincing us you're not a man-child who is easily threatened by the thought that women might be more than semen-draining machines.

It's hard to add to what Jill says here about the stupid "Hot Chicks of OWS" situation. She criticized it before, of course. It should be obvious that it's sexist, because the whole point of it is that men's opinions are interesting in and of themselves, but women's opinions are only interesting because it makes stuffing a cock in it that more sexually exciting. But some men, sadly, refuse to see that. I think a lot of men think you can't be sexist to a woman whose opinions you're agreeing with, but what's interesting about Steven Greensheet and this "Hot Chicks" nonsense is that he neatly demonstrates how not-true that is. If anything, some men are even more threatened by women who they agree with politically, because they can see that these women are intelligent and self-sufficient, and that scares them. Thus, putting them in their place by insisting that their opinions are irrelevant except as spank fodder. Greenstreet's project is about stubbornly insisting that women are defined through men, and not as individuals unto themselves. I've seen similar stuff in the music world my whole adult life. The two main stripes are insisting that a woman who displays intelligence must be parroting what a man has told her and ignoring a woman's intelligence by making it all about how you'd like to stuff a cock in her mouth and shut her up.  I've often been to shows where the men could only discuss how sexy they find the women on stage, as if they were at a beauty pageant instead of a rock concert. Eventually, I've been driven to ask if they noticed the instruments they were playing, which tends to create the very reaction we're seeing Greenstreet display: anger at having their easily threatened egos called out.  Greenstreet is so pissed that someone noticed that he's an easily threatened child that he resorted to rape jokes. 

It's frustrating, to say the least, to continue seeing men who claim to be liberal be so easily threatened by intelligent women, and so quick to use sex as a weapon against women. (Sex really deserves better, I think. Sex is far too awesome to be used as a crude weapon for easily threatened men to wield against women.) The comment thread that exploded below Jill's post demonstrates the extent of the problem: so-called "liberal" men screaming and yelling and invoking sexualized threats (both of the rape variety and the accusations of sexlessness) in a pathetic attempt to shut women up. And for what? It's strange to me how so many men need to believe they're superior to women in order to feel good about themselves. Why not get a hobby or do some yoga instead? 

The good news is that calling this stuff out works. I've seen a lot of men engage intelligently with this issue, and how it's a problem. I think men actually have a better relationship than women do to the idea of finding intelligence in women threatening, and if they're willing to engage on the issue—instead of kicking a fit and insisting that their "erection" means they get to treat women like shit—they can do a lot of good when it comes to improving the activist experience for women. We need more men to speak out against this crap, because they've been socialized to treat women poorly and have overcome it, and so can bring that experience and understanding to the situation. Because stuff like this "Hot Chicks" video sends a strong signal to women that we're not welcome at events like Occupy Wall St.—and that men are going to use sexual harassment as a weapon to humiliate us and keep us away—and we need a countermessage from both men and women that this kind of sexual harassment and humiliation is not acceptable. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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