The hashtag #MeToo might draw attention to sexual violence, but will it make men stop?
#MeToo, of course. But more like; #metooandeveryoneIknowonadailybasis.
Last week, #MeToo posts blew up all over Twitter as actor Alyssa Milanoencouraged women to share their personal stories of sexual harassment and more women accused US producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment.
To witness a global community of female solidarity take place online was empowering and goosepimple-inducing, but it is important to continue this conversation in real life, with each and every man we know, in order to initiate the kind of change all women have been hoping for.
Women, after all, have been making a fuss about sexual assault for years. Activist Tarana Burke coined the “me too” phrase more than a decade ago to support women of colour surviving sexual abuse, and, in the UK, Reclaim the Night marches were started in 1977 by the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group, four years after Rape Crisis organisations were set up in England and Wales.
But if we had all been listened to and if there was no work left to do, the 2017 campaign would have fizzled out after a few celebrity-led tweets. Instead, Twitter reported that the hashtag was shared nearly a million times in 48 hours. On Facebook, the comments and reactions totalled more than 12m in 24 hours.
The campaign took off because it is real. It draws attention to sexual harassmentat every level. It is not just glamorous women and Hollywood stars, it is your sister’s teenage mate, your co-worker, your best friend. It is happening every day and now. And no, we are not always referring to incidents so horrendous that women are rendered incapable of ever leaving the house again (although sexual harassment is often dangerously perceived as existing within a hierarchy of seriousness), but we are pinpointing a culture in which to verbally or physically sexualise a woman – as she is going about her daily business, when she is with children or friends, or when she is alone – is entirely normal.
Because of this online campaign I will be asking my younger brother and my male friends and colleagues how they really behave on nights out, what they would do if they saw something inappropriate, and what they think constitutes sexual harassment. You should, too. Because women know that this kind of stuff has been going on for years, and it is time that the men closest to us understood the extent of it, so our collective anger can be used to force a shift in the gender paradigm.
I don’t have the space to rattle off the countless instances of sexual harassment that have involved me and the women I know, so I will limit myself to some of the most terrifying ones, in which I remember being fully terrified of the uneven power dynamics at play when we have been backed into a (literal or metaphorical) corner.
It’s the men who frown when we recount what has happened. Who try to shush us with talk of our provocative behaviour
The time in a bar in which I was shoved in the chest by a guy who was incensed I hadn’t told him my name after he’d come over to talk to me “in front of his friends” (he grew so aggressive I had to ask the manager to help me and my friend escape out the back exit). The friend who was recently touched up by a manager at work and is still too terrified to report it. Another, who was asked out repeatedly by a married colleague while she was training him at work. The food delivery man who, each time he comes to my house, manages to elevate his once tolerably sleazy compliments to those that are now just creepy.
And no, it is not “all men” – not the ones we know, who are kind and empathetic, and who listen to us. But the ones who frown and flinch with anger when we recount what has happened. Those who try to silence or shush us with comments about our overactive imaginations or so-called provocative behaviour.
Sexual harassment percolates like a poison into my life and into the lives of all the women I know; it is an insidious encroachment into our existence. It is the white noise we cannot drown out. And it won’t stop until men pledge to change a global culture of sexual entitlement, alongside us.
Source: The Guardian