By Layla Maguire
An empowering short film was released by Girls. Girls. Girls Magazine where actress Cynthia Nixon boldly recited a blog, “Be a lady, they said,” which was written by Camille Rainville in 2017.
The blog captures the reality of the pressures of being a woman in today’s society as it lists the impossible and contradictory standards that are constantly thrown in women’s faces throughout their life, addressing topics like body image, personality traits and sexual harassment.
The video is constructed as a series of short explicit clips relating to the topics mentioned by Cynthia Nixon. It gives the viewer an overwhelming feeling as they struggle to keep up with all the different statements and clips, allowing them to relate to the overwhelming feeling and pressures women experience to keep up with every new unrealistic expectation every day.
“Be a lady, they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Don’t show so much skin. Cover up. Leave something to the imagination. Don’t be a temptress, men can’t control themselves. Men have needs. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. You’re asking for it.”
This is one of the most dangerous points raised in the video, showing that women get blamed for men’s behaviour in relation to how they dress and act. This is particularly significant in an age where more women are speaking out about sexual abuse through the help of movements like “Me Too” and many have to fight for people to believe them, especially if the abuser is in a position of power.
The “Me Too” movement was established in 2006 to provide survivors of sexual violence with a community to help them heal from their abuse. Despite the existence of this movement, it is still extremely difficult for women to speak out about their experiences as these standards of how to dress not only create an expectation for women to try to live up to, they create an excuse for men to use when they are accused of sexual harassment.
Founder of the “Me Too” movement, Tarana Burke, spoke to MSNBC about the recent conviction of former film producer, Harvey Weinstein, as she said: “He’s never had to answer for the ways in which he’s misused his power and privilege for the last 20 or 30 years.
“Most survivors never get to see inside of a court room. For every 1,000 sexual assault cases, 995 of those perpetrators walk away.”
Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged for rape and other offences on 25 May 2018 after he was accused of decades of sexual harassment towards female employees, including actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.
On 24 February 2020, he was found guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He faces sentencing on 11 March 2020 and could face up to 25 years in prison.
Although this shows a historic day for victims of sexual abuse, it also highlights that such a small number of abusers are held accountable and that the conviction of Weinstein came as a shock to many people due to his level of power and wealth.
This should not have come as a shock; we live in a society where we are not assured that abusers will receive the sentencing they deserve despite their wealth. We live in a society where the women are analysed for how they dressed and acted in the unwanted encounters. If they wore or did something that could be perceived as ‘asking for it’, the blame is immediately shifted to the victim and the case is swept under the carpet.
The creation of “Be a lady, they said” shows hope for the future as it adds more power and ammunition to the “Me Too” movement in raising awareness among women and men all over the world of the seriousness of this issue. It is another step forward in empowering and uniting females as a gender whilst bringing justice to victims of sexual abuse.