Last November in Pakistan, the brother of a 19-year-old girl slipped into her bedroom while she was sleeping and hacked her nearly to death with an ax while the mother watched. Sarai succumbed to her injuries later that day in the hospital.
The family didn’t report it to the police; a neighbor had to alert the force instead, which intercepted the vehicle carrying Saira.
Her crime was sleeping with another man. She was one of more than 1,000 honor killings in Pakistan last year.
Meanwhile, in America.
Sports Illustrated is loudly proclaiming their support of 2017 by using their upcoming issue to explain that their models are real women as well as objects. No really, that was Vanity Fair’s hit piece tagline this week: “The team behind a media institution sets out to make a magazine where models were as much participants as objects.” To accomplish that, their models sharpied empowered words such as “Artist” and “Natural” and “Truth” on their size 2 naked bodies, thereby lending their voices to a movement attempting to crush the sexual objectification of women…all while posing as sexual objects (in the words of the quoted subtitle) for a magazine which will be purchased almost exclusively by teen boys and men looking to augment a stunted sex life. The editor is busy calling the pictures artful; the magazine is busy fostering the very culture the #MeToo movement is purportedly fighting.
And people wonder why everyone isn’t quite on board with Alyssa Milano.
Time to unreservedly reject a cult movement riddled with mixed messages and ignorance. I’m done with the standard that cries out against a man catcalling a woman, and then encourages the propagation of material designed to portray woman as the stimulus of desire for that same man. I’m throwing in the towel on an internet that will pour massive loads of shame on a woman for modesty, all while posing as the movement that un-shames women. I’m quitting a cultural phenomenon bent on screaming to the world that women must be seen for more than their body, yet only calls out sexual objectification when it suits their scribbled-out, fogged-up standards.
Since it’s the internet, I need to insert my caveat. I’m wholly and passionately behind the downfall of the Weinsteins and Nassars of our world who built their ill-gotten gains on a mountain of harassed and assaulted women and girls. I’m thoroughly behind the cultural tide that tells men they must shape up or ship out. I’m fully in support of every women with a story who finds her voice.
But as with nearly all the movements of recent years, #MeToo lacks a standard of objective truth–or any standard at all. Whatever the ultimate ideal being set up here, it has been hazed over and hidden by a refusal to apply universal standards. I’ll tell you what I’m talking about.
While women in Hollywood are sitting in their Beverly Hills homes making impassioned speeches about that time a crass dude masturbated in front of their plunging necklines and thigh-high slits, women in Afghanistan still walk the streets in their burqas with their male “protectors.”
While feminists are busy promoting their ill-researched wage gaps, Hindu women are still beaten to death by their families for falling in love with the wrong man.
While twitter activists are calling for the heads of every American man who has asked them out more than once, women in Saudi Arabia still can’t vote.
I don’t hear their voices.
While the movement did spread to some degree to Middle Eastern social media, I don’t hear their plights being shouted to the skies here in the west. I can barely hear whispers from the movement’s leadership about their harassment, assault, and oppression. What’s more, I don’t hear the #MeToo movement calling for a reexamination of the religion that oppresses them or encourages the men who rape them. The double standard is not that disparity in women’s equality exists between the western world and the middle east, but rather that the movement has forgotten the disparity altogether.
I’m sick to death of the entitlement of every American man and woman who drives to the job of their choice in a car of their own under a government they elected, ignoring the women who can do none of that. I’m sick to death of a culture demanding deferential rather than equivalent treatment for women; sick to death of our culture’s spokespeople touting a standard that puts rape and awkward flirting on the same shelf. Women are free, empowered, and influential across the west. I could list them here, but you have Wikipedia too. They hold the highest offices in government all over the world, and are swiftly and radically removing the last vestiges of restraint. And absolutely, women all over the world have had a crap deal for a good part of history. But it’s time to snap out of the shroud of victimhood.
We are not victims.
We are not oppressed.
We are not powerless.
If our cultural leaders backed their platitudes with any actual virtue, they would take the front lines of this battle into the heart of Pakistan and Iran and Afghanistan. We would fight this war where the flames of oppression are still raging. The work here is nearly finished; the work there has been hampered and clogged and backtracked. If the innate value of human worth and dignity meant more than a starbucks cup emblazoned in rainbows, the stories of girls being hacked and raped and beaten and subdued into submission wouldn’t leave the headlines of a self-obsessed media.
But that would actually call for a standard of truth, wouldn’t it?
A truth bigger than yours or mine.
A truth that prohibits the ideologues of oppression.
A truth of action. Of passion. Of brokenness.
A truth that calls for more than a standing ovation or an instagram following.