Column: ‘Attractive’ has nothing to do with assault, harassment, rape

I get that she’s 92 and grew up in a different era. But that’s no excuse.

Like everyone else in the world, we here in the Citizen newsroom have been watching with interest the ever-developing story of high-profile men from around the world being named and shamed for sexual harassment and assault, starting, of course, with Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein.

So far, men in politics and the entertainment industry, including several well-known on the Canadian entertainment scene, have been accused by an array of women.

I’ve found it really interesting how these accusations have been received by the public and the individuals’ peers. I’ve never seen anything like it. For one, the number of men who have admitted to some or all of the behaviour in question is unprecedented, I would say. Often denials are instant, not mea culpas.

Second, the contingent that usually have the knee-jerk reaction of “she’s a liar” have seemed significantly muted in this deluge (though if you look at internet comments sections you’d often think they made up about 75 per cent of the population).

Having the first reaction of most being to believe the women who are coming forward is also a big milestone.

That’s likely part of the reason why when we read the comments this week by Angela Lansbury of Murder She Wrote fame there was a collective groan heard in the newsroom.

She didn’t just disbelieve a particular individual either. She had to trot out the notion that women have to take at least some of the blame for men’s bad and sometimes criminal behaviour because they’ve worked to make themselves too physically attractive.

Yikes.

I get that she’s 92 and grew up in a different era. But she hasn’t been living under a rock for the last 50 years, and should know full well that the “but she was wearing a short skirt” defence for sexual assault and rape hasn’t been allowed for several of those decades.

Aren’t we at the point yet when a woman can comb her hair, wear a nice outfit and do her makeup and not be seen as a target rather than a human being?

Further into her comments to Radio Times she backtracked a little, stating that women shouldn’t have to be prepared to fend off unwanted assaults just because they look attractive and that there’s no excuse for such behaviour.

But it was still disappointing to see such backwards notions again enter the public discourse.

Women aren’t raped or assaulted or harassed because of their physical appearance.

It’s past time everyone acknowledged that — 92-year-old actor from an iconic series or not.

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