Spacey. Westwick. Hoffman. Seagal. Blaine. CK. Weinstein (Harvey and Bob). Affleck (Casey and Ben). The list goes on. In the past few months, seemingly half of Hollywood and half of government have stood accused. Since the New York Times and the New Yorker exposed Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour, the floodgates have opened as more and more women have felt that finally here was the chance they needed: to make accusations about the wolf without being told they were just crying.
In all the conversations that I’ve had with men about what I’m terming “man-fear”, I’ve heard the same comment time and again: “It can’t be that bad”. Womencan’t be scared all the time, can’t be constantly looking over their shoulders, looking out for the next could-be predator about to graze their behind and “accidentally” squeeze while reaching for his drink. Because not all men are like that you see. Well, thanks to this ongoing pile-up of scandals, all’s gone a bit quiet on the “it’s not all men” front.
Now, instead of expecting to see news of a terrorist attack when the ding-of-doom comes from our phones, we all expect it to be the dethroning of yet another man we once admired, a childhood crush, a filmic father figure. With most women, my friends included, the very reasonable response to this has been to become more afraid of men. This is what our mothers warned us of: men are predators, and we need to be on our guard.
I grew up with a mother whose customary warning was a happy “watch out for mad axe murderers!” – she felt darkly validated when an actual axe attack happened in our county last year, and, half-joking paranoia satisfied, she’s barely mentioned them since. As a child, I spent a lot of time looking around rooms trying to establish what in there could fall, collapse, and subsequently kill me. Cheery. With such a light-hearted, jovial temperament, a mother worried about axe murderers and an overactive imagination, I’ve been paranoid all my life. Nowhere has this been more palpable than with my fear of men.
To clarify, I’m not some weirdo who can’t have a conversation with a man. I’m good with men, can spot a creep, take a joke, and have a wonderful long-term boyfriend. I am very aware that not all men are despicable. But when I’m walking alone at night I, like almost every woman I know, will have wolverine claws of keys in my hand; will have established how to incapacitate with a heel and then leg it. Every strange man on the street is a potential attacker, and must be watched. It might sound insane to some, some men, but this is life for a lot of women.
Since all these allegations have surfaced however, I feel like my mum with her mad axe murderers. Now that the horror story turns out in some cases to be true, it’s like that movie moment when the monster from the shadows becomes real, and he’s just not as scary any more. If anything, he’s a little pathetic. Women have always known that we should be wary of men, particularly men in power. It’s just that now everyone else does too. Men will finally back a woman’s allegations, cross the street and smile to let a woman know she’s not being followed. Major artists such as Drake and Architects’ frontman Sam Carter will stop their gigs to call out perverts, because they know to look for this behaviour.
It feels as though not only will anything which does happen be taken far more seriously, but that with so many eyes trained to look out for the monsters lurking in the shadows, it’s going to be a lot harder for them to reach us. We’ve cried wolf, and finally the pitchforks are out and on our side. If that’s not at least a little reassuring, then I don’t know what is.
• Sarah Gosling is a freelance journalist