The thing that disturbs me the most about what Bob Ellis wrote yesterday is his underlying belief that he has a right to look at a woman’s body, naked, without her consent. He defended his “right” to perve – sorry, he used the less creepy “peek” – at women in the shower and to watch them having sex.
He’s not the only one who believes he has the right to leer at and/or touch women’s bodies. Yesterday, a 30-something-year-old man sat and watched me hang out the washing. Watched me hang out my underwear. While looking me up and down. For a good part of it he just stared at my breasts. I felt completely creeped out and adjusted my behaviour, rather awkwardly shielding myself with clothes as I pegged them. I changed what I was doing yet he was the one with the shitty behaviour. Now is a good time to add that I wasn’t at the communal washing line, but inside my home. Hanging clothes on the airer because it looked like rain. He leered at me through the window, inside my home. There are no blinds yet so I couldn’t block him out. I glared at him, but big fucking woop.
A few days ago, a very old man grabbed my arse in the supermarket. My internal response was “well, he’s quite old, that’s probably the only jollies he gets these days”. I should have said something to him, but what would be the point? He would dismiss everything I said as me just being a humourless bitch and he’d continue to grope women without their permission in public spaces. I am not a spring chicken. I’ve been groped and mauled by men in public spaces for decades, and when I say something very loudly about it, the response is always the same: I am over-reacting. Bob Ellis is very clearly not the only person who thinks he has the right to touch and watch. And the rage, it builds and builds.
The belief that women’s bodies are public property is all around us. News websites and tabloid mags are filled with body policing – “evidence” of a baby bump, boob jobs, nose jobs, a hint of cellulite helpfully circled and ridiculed, weight gains, weight losses, muffin tops, what a “real” woman should look like, skin and muscles in motion decried as freakish, etc etc. (My personal belief is that if you’re going to enlarge a photo of a thigh in motion and hysterically scream “See! Cellulite! Here! Here! This woman’s body is disgusting!” then you need to include exactly the same photo of your own thighs. Fair’s fair. Sure, there are people who make a living from their bodies looking a certain way, but we all know the magazines insist the photos are digitally altered so frankly, they can fuck right off with their body policing.)
This culture believes it’s perfectly ok to grab my arse in the supermarket, but if I turn around and punch you in the cock, then I’m the one who has over-reacted and assaulted you. This culture believes it’s perfectly ok to stand behind women at their desks at work and “harmlessly” look down their tops (ooh, how I wish I could name that pathetic douchebag), but if we report it to HR then we’re the ones making a big deal out of nothing and being bitches who are trying to hurt his career. Sure, we have rules against this stuff, but we all know what actually happens in the real world.
And so people like Bob Ellis and Andrew Bolt (who also believes that being watched in the shower is a prerequisite for a combat role and that the female cadet “should have known better” so it’s her own fault that he broadcast the sex to his mates) and probably Miranda Devine (sorry, can’t bring myself to find out), get to bang on and on about political correctness gone mad because some women are saying “no, you don’t have the right to act like you own my body”. And no doubt millions of Australians agree with them because they are either too intellectually lazy to consider what it means to act as though they own other human beings, or they’re just complete arseholes who believe they have the right to violate other people’s bodies. And that bothers me a whole lot more than what some 69-year-old man writes in The Drum as he desperately tries to remain culturally relevant.