Veteran Hollywood star Dame Angela Lansbury, now 92 and still active in the industry, has waded into the widening cesspool of claims and counter-claims arising in the wake of accusations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and other celebrities, and the #METOO Twitter campaign demonstrating just how widespread sexual harassment is in so-called developed society.
Lansbury bucked the opinions of most people—certainly of most women—by saying that, “There are two sides to this coin. We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive… We must sometimes take blame, women. I really do think that.”
A line in the sand
Here Lansbury finds herself on the wrong side of history. The Harvey Weinstein scandal and #METOO Twitterstorm have drawn an indelible line in the sand in terms of sexual relations. Powerlessness and silence in the face of sexual transgressions has ceased. Every woman now knows that she will be heard—on Twitter at least.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal and #METOO Twitterstorm have drawn an indelible line in the sand in terms of sexual relations. Powerlessness and silence in the face of sexual transgressions has ceased.
No doubt there will be bastions of misogyny where claims of sexual violations will for a time be rebuffed, belittled or ignored. But the tide has turned. Public accountability is now the norm. The pendulum of public support—apart from Lansbury, clearly—has swung irrevocably from the accused to the accuser.
Lansbury softened her stance by adding that, “I think it will stop now—it will have to.” Predictably, this failed to quell anger at Dame Angela’s comments. The Telegraph reported Rape Crisis England & Wales’ sternly worded rebuttal: “It is a deeply unhelpful myth that rape and other forms of sexual violence are caused or ‘provoked’ by women’s sexuality or ‘attractiveness’.”
Lansbury’s comment about women making themselves attractive “since time immemorial” fails to take into account the sordid mechanics of the patriarchal state systems that have predominated for the past few thousand years.
Historically, patriarchies economically disempowered women, making them dependent on securing the most economically advantageous husband to survive. Of course they resorted to one of the few assets the patriarchal system was unable to strip them of—their attractiveness. No one can be blamed for doing whatever was needed to survive and flourish in an oppressive situation.
We are in the dying days of patriarchy now. Not only are women enjoying increasing economic empowerment, but also the age-old omertá around sexual harassment has been decisively broken. #METOO is a major step towards emotional and sexual wellbeing for everyone, including men. With her comments, Angela Lansbury reveals herself to be an establishment figure clinging to the threadbare tailcoats of a fading and failing paradigm. The sooner it crumbles and dies, the better off we will all be.