When one woman raises her voice to push forward the boundary on women’s rights, other women stand ready to play whack-a-mole with her head. (Blogs 2/3/27, 11/7/17) Most recently, two former French sex goddesses of the 1950-60s, Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot, (Click) have charged that when today’s actresses complain about sexual harassment, they are being too puritanical, ridiculous and hypocritical. Actresses all tease, Deneuve insists. (Click) What’s more, both women warn of a backlash.
Of course, we don’t have to wait. When women attack their sisters, they are the backlash. I understand what prompts Deneuve and Bardot to speak as they do. They’re my contemporaries. Society taught us to accept a man’s aggression was natural. (Blog 12/19/17) Some, Bardot among them, considered the “attention” a compliment. Allure was a woman’s power. But, of course, it isn’t. Allure hasn’t taken us a single step further in our quest to gain control of our bodies. Allure can lead to rape, a crime for which, since Biblical times, women have been seen as the perpetrators, rather than men.
Frankly, despite the women’s movement, the needle on that end of the guilt spectrum has little moved, as the two actresses’ comments prove. What’s changed is masculine audacity. Men have given rape and harassment a new twist. It’s called sexual liberation. They invite women to their bacchanals, encouraging them to think that being included means they are being treated as equals. But does a woman who her exercises her equality in the bedroom find a chair waiting for her in the board room? Statistics say no.
Little in this brave new world of sexual liberation differs from the dilemma women have faced for centuries. “Do I pay to play? And if I do, will I be respected in the morning?” For a detailed account of how this dilemma rears its head in the 21st Century read, “Bacchanalia 2.0” by Emily Chang. (Vanity Fair, 2/18, pgs. 66-69, 105-107.)
Deneuve and Bardot have minds frozen in time. They imagine allure brought them respect. It didn’t. I made them sought after and flattered. But allure fades, as both actresses must know. Women today want real power and true equality. They want an end to Biblical times. They want an end to patriarchy.