The problems of this nation and this world are not simple. Privilege is hard to define. I have heard women say that white men are privileged. I have heard men say that women act privileged and entitled. I bit my tongue when I heard the latter. But there is a fraction of truth to it. I think of myself. I think of how I look white even though I am half Mexican, and how I am easy on the eyes and how people tend to treat me nicer because of it. And I think, is this what privilege feels like? And then I think, yeah I don’t want it. Because there are always strings.
For the people who say that women have nothing to complain about anymore because we have the right to vote and supposedly equal pay and are no longer categorized as property that our fathers can legally sell to our future husbands, I say, ok, you have a partial point. There is a freedom in not being merchandise. And hello, stop and think for a minute about that. It was not until 1920, in the United States of America, that women got the right to vote, after fighting hard for it. It was not given lightly, easily, or gladly. Think about that timeframe in the context of history. Before 1920 women were considered children, too feeble minded to be able to rule themselves. That is like saying to a black person, you should be grateful that you are not being beaten and raped and forced to work in the fields for hours on end in the hot sun while everyone you love is sold off to the highest bidder.
ANTI-SUFFRAGETTE PROPAGANDA FROM THE TIME
I have never been treated badly for the color of my skin or for being a woman. In fact, I have been treated well. I have been treated very well. As soon as my body flowered I began to reap the rewards. I saw the way older men looked at me. I was socially conditioned to feel a thrill of power every time a man whistled at me. Especially in Mexico, catcalling is an everyday occurrence. I recall walking down a street as a child of 11 and getting catcalled by construction workers. I felt powerful. I felt flattered. I thought, it is coming. My power over men is starting to show. It is interesting how this sort of attention, in the minds of the men giving it, is thought of as homage.
Flash forward to 20 years later. I am 31. I have made friends with a man online who has no personal pictures on his profile. He tells me he is an ex-con and diagnosed psychopath, supposedly on meds. One day he tells me how he is printing out my pictures and jerking off on my face and how enjoyable it is.
And you know what’s funny? This paranoid lunatic was actually acting pretty average for a white male on the internet.
I get messages every day on my Facebook page. Men I have never accepted a friend request from and some whom I have and then instantly regret. I wonder every time a man messages me for no reason, what is he thinking? Most of the time, this faceless man asks me to sex cam or chat. As a woman, I am at his service. He is entitled to female attention and validation. He says hello over and over again even though I never answer. He showers me in flattery. He tells me I am a great poet. He tells me he just wants to talk.
I tell them I do not chat online. It is a lie. I chat a lot online, with my real friends, with my colleges, and I have many male friends, more than female, actually. My male friends are men who can do nonsexual intimacy. They know that just because we are connecting as people that does not mean they are entitled to my body. They know that I am my own person and that I am not a sex object.
So what has the Harvey Weinstein debacle done for America? It has made men think twice before they make an ass of themselves, or at least I hope it does. They see that the consequence of career ruin outweighs the momentary perk of fulfilling their desire with disregard to the consent of the recipient. My sincere hope is that this visibility will help everyone see women as people and not as an object of projected fantasies.
Women are second class citizens. Not because they do not have legal rights, but because they are seen as less than human by the men who chose to objectify them. So, thank you Harvey Weinstein, for your bad decisions. And here I was thinking Pulp Fiction was going to be your greatest cultural contribution.
Leza Cantoral is a Mexican-American artist living on the internet. She is the Editor in Chief of CLASH Books and CLASH Media, host of Get lit With Leza, and the author of Cartoons in the Suicide Forest. Her work has appeared in A Shadow Map: An Anthology of Survivors of Sexual Assault, Baum-Ass Stories: Twistered Tales of Oz, More Bizarro Than Bizarro, Luna Luna Magazine, Entropy, Dead End Follies, and CLASH Media. She spends way too much time on social media and she slays cyber trolls with her bare hands. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @lezacantoral