Fourth Wave – 3: Poor Pierre

Hannah Jewell 13 February 2014

A short French film from 2010 entitled “Oppressed Majority” is currently making the viral rounds of Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, and even that simpering, clickbaiting nightmare of a website, Upworthy.
The film, written and directed by Éléonore Pourriat, reveals the misery of everyday sexism by subjecting a man named Pierre to a boatload of it, in a make-believe world where patriarchy has been replaced by matriarchy. Or more accurately, women and men have swapped roles in the existing world, because who knows what an actual matriarchy built over thousands of years would even look like. I imagine my college’s hall being lined with 15 portraits of scowling, bewigged lady-judges from the 17th century, and the room being filled with loud conversation about ovulation. It’s only banter, guys.
Anyway, back to our film. In the course of a day, Pierre is catcalled in the streets and sexually assaulted by women, belittled by a policewoman when he reports the assault, and mistreated by his wife when she comes from her high-powered job to pick him up from the hospital.

Why is this film so effective? The cynical part of me (the part that writes this column) would say that it takes a male protagonist being continuously victimized by the kinds of experiences that women are normally subjected to in order for these things to be revealed as outrageous. The fact that Pierre’s wife demands to know why he wears Bermuda shorts if he doesn’t want to be attacked is so absurd that it’s funny. And yet women are constantly questioned for what they are wearing, under the guise of managing their “safety”. Women’s choice of clothing is especially scrutinized when they have been harassed, assaulted or raped — by family, friends, and in court.

I loved this short film, but I wish it didn’t require a man to suffer from everyday sexism for it to be clear just how ridiculous such casual, gender-based discrimination would be. I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “Wow, this really proves the absurdity of victim-blaming” while watching it.  I wish I hadn’t been so affected by the male protagonist’s terrified body language as he walked through a world in which he did not share the power of women. Would I have found such vulnerability so unusual in a female character? Or in a woman walking down the road by herself in Cambridge?

Or in myself?

These are sad questions for a sad society.

But I won’t leave you with that. There is, I promise, an optimistic part of me. It’s the part that watches badass female Olympians do crazy flips on snowboards. And I don’t even care about snowboarding. It’s also the part of me that watches Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host the Golden Globes, and reads about lady politicians sticking it to the man.

There are so many incredible women doing fabulous things in every field. They have accomplished what they have in the face of the plague of everyday sexism. In fact, that plague is only multiplied for women of power and women in the public eye, exposed as they are to the festering, misogynist catastrophe that is the mass media.

Whether you are literally Hillary Clinton, or the kinds of average women who record their experiences on the wonderful yet depressing website, no one deserves the experience of everyday sexism. This is key: a woman can be a lazy, mean, shallow and petty idiot, and she doesn’t deserve to suffer sexist remarks, behavior or assumptions.

I hope this can be thought of as a silver lining: If sexism happens everywhere and every day, it can also be fought everywhere and every day. It can be checked, challenged and stopped, if not by its victims, than by those with power. So if you are ever able (and safe) to stop everyday sexism in its tracks, just think of poor Pierre.