— Trigger and Content Warning —
Like with the “Friendship Breakup” series, over the next few weeks, I’ll be answering commonly asked questions surrounding, specifically, Dr Ford and the entire fiasco that we just watched.
As this topic is of a sensitive nature, and many of you may have questions or stories you’d like to share or have answered, please feel free to drop a message in my Facebook inbox or DM me on my Instagram, @thingscarlaloves. You do not have to share your story in the comment section (or anywhere else) if you do not feel comfortable.
As always, there will be a list of helpline services added, if you need help. I strongly urge that you confide in someone you trust in order to help you heal.
I’ve heard more than one person talk about how feminists and social justice warriors blew Matt Damon’s comments about the #metoo movement out of proportion.
The problem isn’t that Matt Damon is wrong – there really is a ‘sliding scale’ and rape is not comparable to sexual assault – because he isn’t. He’s right.
The problem is a) Matt Damon thinking he has any right to say anything, when several of his best friends have been caught in sexual abuse/harassment cases (Affleck brothers – whatever you might think of Casey, Ben grabbing a teenage actress’ breast is literally on film. Hilarie Burton, the actress in question, has spoken out about how devastating that moment was for) and b) Matt Damon doesn’t understand what we’re talking about “The Sliding Scale” in relation to rape culture.
Chances are, most of you don’t. The ones that do don’t need it explained, because they truly get what we mean about the sliding scale, and how quickly one can become conditioned to certain behaviour.
For example, let’s take something that is frequently dismissed as low-level harassment, if it’s construed as harassment by the men determining it at all: Catcalling and unwanted ‘compliments’.
Imagine, as a man, every day, someone comments on the size of your dick in your pants.
‘Oh, Jane, did you see Jim’s shoes? They’re only a size seven. Obviously he isn’t well-equipped.’
Typical comments, so typical you’re used to them.
Just the way some women are so used to people commenting on the size of their boobs or their beauty or whatever else they think they have the right to.
But those attacks don’t just come from the opposite gender, they can often come from everyone. Men will laugh just as much and talk about how ‘real men have’ and you’ll be reminded of what you don’t have, and how you’re not a real man.
It’s important to understand this first part, because you have to understand the conditioning before you can understand the sliding scale.
It’s important that you understand that, when I was tiny, I was watching a news report with my parents about how a young child had been sexually assaulted in a public bathroom, but no one had heard.
I don’t remember much, I just know I was young. Too young to understand what happened in that bathroom, and too young to remember anything more than what I was told next:
“If this happens to you, yell fire. Everyone will come running if you yell fire. No one will care if you’re screaming for help.”
I don’t know what my response was, but I know that most women reading this will have heard similar advice in their lifetime.
Think about the fact that one of my earliest memories is of my parents telling me no one would care if I was being hurt by an adult.
But a fire?
They’d come running because that, at least, would be entertaining.
Just contemplate that for a moment. Contemplate that entire message, and what it’s really sending to young women everywhere: No one cares if you’re being violently raped in the bathroom. That’s not their business. But the idea of the bathroom stall burning down around her as she’s been violently raped?
Well, now, that’s just entertainment. You wouldn’t want to miss that destruction.
Then you have to deal with the fact that half your own gender will hate you because you’re too something. It could be that you’re too pretty, so it’s competition; it could be that you’re too ugly, so you can’t be their friend; it could be that they’re just not like other girls and having you around ruins that.
At any given time, you never know who is really on your side.
For example, I remember the harassment I was subjected by two female colleagues at one of my schools when I was first teaching.
I remember dropping a bunch of papers, and bending down to pick them up. I was wearing a tight, office skirt and blouse, and she found it loudly to exclaim that me bending over to pick up the papers would be very distracting and attractive for my male colleagues.
I couldn’t answer I was so humiliated.
On top of which, I’d recently brought an incredibly professional outfit (which I’d been wearing that day) after she had openly and publicly shamed me for a dress I was wearing to work one day.
It was in this moment that it became clear that I was the target of her discrimination, because I wore the dress after two other women in the exact same faculty had worn it to school.
Both those women were senior to me, and one had been working at the school for at least several years.
One of the women in question had paired her dress with white Go-Go boots, which I wish desperately was an exaggeration.
It was made even clearer that I, specifically, was the target of her unrelenting hate (for reasons I don’t know, I guess I have a face people hate), after I’d been told off for my ‘inappropriate attire’ and I was sitting next to the same teacher who’d worn the exact same dress with her white Go-Go boots and my boss who hated me, I’d be faced with another horrifying situation.
The woman was wearing a black corset (yes, you did not misread that) and her boobs were a solid DD at least.
And that corset did not hold them as efficiently as a more appropriate size could have.
Paired with glitter all over her chest, and her infamous white Go-Go boots.
Now, I have no problem with what anyone wears, even if I think what they’re wearing is ridiculous or ugly as fuck.
However, we’re teachers. There’s meant to be some semblance of professionalism in our attire, and most schools have a ‘code’ as a uniform that does not allow things like Go-Go boots and corsets. Don’t get me wrong – some schools are more casual than others, but there’s limits.
What the real problem was wasn’t what the other teacher was wearing; it was that my boss was making it clear that I was never going to be wearing anything appropriate in front of her.
It was the fact that three other teachers in the same staffroom wore the exact same dress, but I was the only one singled out.
It was the fact that there were clearly other female teachers wearing outfits that were inappropriate for teaching, but instead of addressing this, she’d praise them and their ‘unique style’, while always making it clear that the more professional I looked somehow the more attention I wanted.
Think about that. Think about the previous story I told, where I mentioned how a male staff member had used his position of power over me.
Think about the knowledge some of us are given over and over and over again: Don’t cause problems. Smile, be pretty, be amicable, but don’t cause problems.
And that’s how the sliding scale works.
It starts when your parents force you to huge and kiss someone – especially as a woman – because it’s what they want and you need to be ‘a good girl’.
It gets incredibly confusing when you’re constantly told you’re meant to be agreeable and kiss XYZ on the cheek or lips and give them a big hug and then they slide into bed next to you and start stroking your hair and kissing your forehead and running their hand along your back, asking you if This is okay? And your only answer is to laugh nervously because, well, it feels wrong, but it’s this person you’ve known forever and they love you so they’re just a bit friendly, you know?
The sliding scale is when your male colleague uses his power to get your contact information, whether you want him to or not.
It’s when everyone goes on about how cute it is, even if you don’t think it’s cute at all.
If the guy is single, you can guarantee they’ll tell you how sweet and perfect he is.
The sliding scale is knowing that some women in positions of power won’t have your back. That if you try and report it, they’ll hide it, protecting the men you’re reporting against.
The sliding scale is knowing that powerful men keep other powerful men in power (look at Harvey Weinstein).
The sliding scale is being the perfect victim but still not being perfect enough because the guy is just too much better than you.
The sliding scale is being told ‘don’t be afraid of men, you silly feminazi bitch’ while also being simultaneously blamed if anything ever happens to you because don’t you know you can’t do XYZ without the presence of an armed escort?
The sliding scale is all the ‘bad sex’ stories are more often than not sexual assault and rape cases.
It’s not just one thing.
We become conditioned to certain treatment, and as a result, are more likely to accept bad treatment.
And this is what we mean about Matt Damon not understanding what (most) people are talking about in regards to the “sliding scale” or “slippery slope”.
We know catcalling isn’t the same as rape.
It’s not, and anyone who would be ignorant enough to pretend as such has never been raped.
What Matt Damon, and others like him, fail to understand is that behaviour leads both women and men towards the inevitable: A society where men who assault women are protected, and women who speak out are shunned.
A society where feminists have actively been repeatedly saying this, and men like Matt Damon, who might never have done anything himself, but has had his career launched and supported by predators, who has admitted to knowing about Weinstein’s behaviour, who ignored and defended the predatory behaviour of his best friends, then lectures us about the ‘difference’.
We understand the difference. The problem isn’t that we don’t, nor do we think Matt Damon and others of his ilk are wrong.
The problem is that it shouldn’t come from someone whose entire career is supported, upheld and succeeded because of the things feminists, and many prominent people within Hollywood are trying to dismantle, while he’s still supporting and defending his friends.
Because that isn’t just insulting – it spits in the face of every person who’s ever been sexually abused, molested or raped.
In Emergencies: 000
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
— Sources —
Bachelor of Education: English and History
Diploma in Criminology and Profiling
Diploma in Forensic Science
Background in law and psychology
Teacher 7+ years
Background in special needs, learning support – other specific teaching fields that required hands-on development.
NB: This is a declaration of the background of my personal knowledge, collected over the years via a professional form of education and development. Some of these take the form of actual degrees and others come in the form of necessary professional development. When doing your own, you should always try and verify the person’s credibility. My credibility, nor anyone else’s, is not with their education. Everyone has biases and no one is infallible. I am deliberately including some of my background education to highlight this, because you should be questioning information you are receiving.