Let Paul Mescal be angry
Why is it that the media is overwhelmingly critical of Paul Mescal’s discomfort? Lydia Carter comments on our treatment towards male sexual assault.
I used to find it surprising that a lot of my male friends disliked the concept of feminism. Feminism is promoting equal rights and opportunities for all genders – so why is there a problem with that? Now, however, after learning about the public’s reaction to Paul Mescal’s anger at being groped, I think I can see why some feel left out by feminism.
Feminism encourages the advocacy of women’s rights. Movements like #MeToo stand with feminism, encouraging more people to speak out about sexual abuse and harassment. However, when feminism focuses on women, MeToo starts to limit itself to women’s experiences of abuse whilst we ought to know that men can be victims just as much as women can.
Have we started to objectify and sexualise Mescal in a way that is not allowed with women?
Paul Mescal quickly rose to fame in his role as Connel in Normal People. He became a new celebrity crush, even called a sex symbol by some fans. Yet, have we started to objectify and sexualise Mescal in a way that is not allowed with women?
Recently, Mescal revealed that he was groped by a fan who was taking a selfie with him outside the Almeida theatre in London. He commented that “as we posed for [the photo], she put her hand on my arse”. At first, he thought it was an accident, but then described that the hand crept further along his body – this was a genuine and a fully conscious move.
Quite rightly, Mescal was outraged by this groping and spoke out about his “fury” after this incident. The media’s response was not the sort you would have thought. The Irish Mirror described it as an “overreaction”. Suddenly, I started to see the one-sided concept that people believe feminism to be.
In the past, women have been given the opportunity, and strongly encouraged, to speak out about groping, sexual harassment and abuse. The celebrity Ben Affleck was accused of groping a woman in a hug by grabbing her breast- in this case, the victim was given a platform to speak about her experience and there were resulting penalties for Affleck. It should amaze anyone if, in this situation, the woman was told that she was overreacting and should have just “laughed it off“.
The reaction to Mescal’s claim means that other male victims will feel that their incidents are better left unsaid.
Mescal’s incident is awful. It is hard enough to speak out about groping as the victim, but then to be shut down and emasculated for doing so is even worse. The media split into two sides – agreeing with his reaction or depicting Mescal as a pathetic complainer. Some have even said that he should be grateful for all the “good fortune” and popularity that his career has given him so far, even if that popularity comes with groping. The reaction to Mescal’s claim means that other male victims will feel that their incidents are better left unsaid. MeToo movements should jump at Menscal’s experience and use it to show other men that they too can speak out about these matters.
My friend told me about a time when he was working as a bartender and a woman from a hen party kept squeezing his behind every time he served them drinks. This treatment happens to women a lot, but there are often consequences for the culprit. The party could be asked to leave, or the individual is taken out for inappropriate behaviour. In this incident, my male friend knew that the likelihood is that he would be told to either enjoy it or laugh it off. Men are made to feel guilty for bringing incidents such as groping to light, to the extent that we are devaluing their self-worth by giving women a stronger voice with sexual assault than male victims. It quite simply is not viewed as seriously for men as it is for women.
I do view the concept of feminism in a very positive light. However, with the way that people believe feminism to be heading at the moment, some believe women should be put on a pedestal. Instead of equaling the sexes, there is a role reversal. Women’s voices are beginning to be heard when it comes to sexual assault whilst men are silenced, or even worse, ridiculed for speaking out about their own experiences with consent.
Paul Mescal’s incident has highlighted the change in attitude that we should adopt and develop. Groping is unacceptable for anyone. It should not be normalised for men in the way that it often is. Moreover, when incidents occur, there should be a safe space for men to speak out, with women and men who support their words and listen to them. It’s only from this that we can push for real equality between genders, something that feminism is about.