Men are pigs and women are sheep

   “Men are pigs and women are sheep.” This was a favorite saying of a man I worked for for just under a decade. We worked for an industry that is a sort of subcategory of the entertainment biz, training exotic animals for appearances in movies and television and performing live shows with them in animal parks and the like.

He was a heavy handed sort of boss. His way was the only way, and he liked to make new employees suffer for a few years to “weed out the fluffy ones”. As a new employee, he used me like his personal doll. Using the adage “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” he made me into the honey, buying me clothes of his choosing, and having my hair dyed and cut. He even went so far as coercing me to have plastic surgery. It was the same for all of us, and once a modicum of power was gained we knew better than to rest on our laurels, for power was yanked away from people for trivial disobediences frequently.

It was hardest for the women who worked there, because of his pigs and sheep philosophy. In his view, men can’t help but say and do what they want, however rude it may be. It is simply in their nature to do so. Unless of course they have been “whipped” by women, in which case they are pitifully weak and miserably holding their natural manly nature in.

Women, however, crave someone to follow. Until they have that strong man to tell them what to do and how to do it, they are liable to wander off and get hurt or lost. Sure, they think they want to be in control of themselves, but on a fundamental level they want someone to come in and impose order on their lives. In his view, it’s simple biology with few exceptions.

By my third year, I had proved that I wasn’t “fluffy”. But was I destined to be a sheep? I didn’t want to be. So I decided to make a concerted effort to be a pig.

Most of the women there had come to a similar decision. When new men who didn’t know any better turned up with their offers to carry heavy things and open doors, and their “Well, actually” diatribes, we would be sure to respond as pigs.

We would wolf whistle when they bent over. We would insist that they come shopping with us then have them try on clothes and model them for us while we decided what looked best. We would reward their obedience with compliments and flirting and their disobedience with distinctly sexual insults. Turns out that when power is used to manipulate, men can also be sheep.

Looking back at that time I feel ashamed. Instead of standing up for myself, I was responding to my own harassment with more harassment.   When I joined in on the recent “Me Too” social media movement, I was saying that I not only experienced it as a victim, but perpetrated it as well.

When it comes right down to it, it wasn’t really about sex at all. It was about reducing people, demeaning them. Placing their value as people on their physical appearance alone. It’s no way for a civilized society to behave. Men and women are neither pigs nor sheep, and power should not be used to manipulate.

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