I recently showed a video to some people I worked for. It was to commemorate International Women’s day. Since we were celebrating the occasion with the theme #BeBoldForChange, I thought nothing could provoke a more lively discussion for the mixed gender audience like the movie by Eleonore Pourriate, “Oppressed Majority”.
After, an older man came to me with a tirade of indignation on how I could have possibly thought it would be okay to show such an obscene movie at a professional setting. It took me a while to understand what he meant by obscene. Granted, the language in the film was not ideal in a professional surrounding, I will gladly own that and after getting over the shock of his passionate complaint, I fully accepted responsibility for not taking that into account . What stuck with me was the word obscene.
He thought the profanity in the film was obscene yet, I thought it nothing out of the ordinary. Especially with what the film was trying to portray. I was asking myself, was there something wrong with me? How could all the profane insults in the movie have affected this man so much and yet made no impact on me? Have I become so desensitized? Is this man perhaps more refined than I am? There were so many questions. I then came to the conclusion that if I was desensitized to this “obscene language”, it is probably because I lived with it for so long.
My first stalker used to follow me home at the age of thirteen and I was first grabbed inappropriately on the street while walking with my grandmother and father in a crowded market place. When I complained to my grandmother, I was told to ignore it and that it will happen often, meaning I should accept being groped without my consent.
What this man found obscene from his comfy place of male privilege, is everyday life for so many women and girls, including me. Girls have their mobility policed, keeping them from so many opportunities including school because of this obscenity. All women, at one time or the other have faced the obscenity of harassment. Cat-calling, outright physical intimidation or rape, living this injustice, to me, is what is obscene. To deny it would be to validate misogyny.