I came across Aritry’s post yesterday and thought, fuck. Power to that woman. Not only is she brave enough to speak up against him, she’s brave enough to fight off the thousands of horrendous comments that will no doubt come her way, by the women who feel that Aritry’s words highlight something about their own actions that they don’t want threatened, or can’t come to terms with… and the men who feel that women should be silenced… Possibly by their cock. Or Manik’s.
My second thought was… but my experience of Manik’s was not horrid, like hers. He didn’t explicitly try and force sex on me. He didn’t physically force his body on me. But only after reading some of the blog posts did I realise that psychologically, he still had his hands and mouth bound around me.
Manik spent two years occasionally messaging me on Facebook. I didn’t know who he was, at all. He made sure he covered that through interspersing statements about my kissable lips and invitations to his home in the mountains [insert dreamy hipstamatic imagery of lush rolling hills and cloud-filled skies in perfectly matched shades of blue and green], with links about articles he’s written, grants he’s funded, panels he’s judged, and well renowned photographers he’s interviewed. Because, for a young, non-established photographer, there’s no better way of saying, do as I say, and play how I wanna play… than through the very strategic insertion of those links. (Aka. Look how big my photography-industry-penis is).
So, every time he made a “Yes I’m a massive flirt, but you’re just so stunning” comment that made me squirm and want to peel off my own skin, I never shut it down. I would laugh it off… and hope for the best. Because the difference between saying “BACK THE FUCK OFF, COWBOY.” and, “Haaaaha, but what! You barely know me!” is a matter of safety. Keeping this man’s erections unscathed meant keeping my career in photography intact. Because one knock to that very well-connected man’s ego could mean one giant blow to my… everything.
The worst part is, I’d like to say that after realising the very active presence of sexual harassment in my interactions with Manik, I’d make different choices, should this happen again. But, while there is still a giant imbalance of power in a very male gender preferred and dominated industry, and still questions around safety if no real structure exists to protect me… I can’t even say, for sure, that I would.