Anna North, writing at Vox:
Meanwhile, girls learn from an early age that it is rude to reject boys. They learn to “let them down easily” and never humiliate them. They learn to give other people what they want, and to put their own desires second — especially when it comes to sex. And few girls get any sex education, either at school or from the culture they consume, that encourages them to think about sex in terms of what they actually desire, as opposed to how they will be perceived by others.
Recent abstinence-only curricula have included messages like, “Girls need to be aware they may be able to tell when a kiss is leading to something else. The girl may need to put the brakes on first in order to help the boy,” and, “girls need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex.”
Even when girls learn comprehensive sex ed, they frequently don’t learn how to ask for what they want, or even how to think about what that is. “We, as a nation, are uncomfortable with women having pleasure,” Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of the American Sexual Health Association, told Bustle in 2015.
I really like how Ms. North took the latest revelation during a transient phenomenon (the #MeToo movement) and took it back to the basic problem: unspoken, unexamined limitations and expectations placed only on women, starting shortly after birth. So I think men should keep getting called out, and here is why.
The bar for getting a man fired for sexual harassment is impossibly high. Men rarely go to prison for abuse. Therefore, to provide some ACTUAL PRESSURE on men to behave better, women publicly denouncing behavior of men must continue. Men should be recalling their previous actions and feel unsure. They should question assumptions about who deserves what in society. Guilt and shame aren’t enough. Men should feel fear. Once that happens, we might have a shot at inculcating TRUE EQUALITY in our next generations and making laws supporting equality of women and men.
I’m pessimistic to the point of dismissal that the United States will ever pull itself together enough to be a credible progressive voice on the world stage, but we can continue looking elsewhere for examples. Like Sweden:
[In Sweden] For a girl to own her sexuality meant she owned her body, she owned herself. Women could do anything men did, but they could also — when they chose to — bear children. And that made us more powerful than men. The word “feminist” felt antiquated; there was no longer a use for it.
In America, a woman’s body seemed to belong to everybody but herself. Her sexuality belonged to her husband, her opinion of herself belonged to her social circles, and her uterus belonged to the government. She was supposed to be a mother and a lover and a career woman (at a fraction of the pay) while remaining perpetually youthful and slim. In America, important men were desirable. Important women had to be desirable. That got to me.
But the American woman is told she can do anything and then is knocked down the moment she proves it. In adapting myself to my new country, my Swedish woman power began to wilt. I joined the women around me who were struggling to do it all and failing miserably. I now have no choice but to pull the word “feminist” out of the dusty drawer and polish it up.
I want Ess to have “Swedish woman power” and I fear that, here in the United States, we can only give her a shadow of that power.