On the blog, by Denise Mills
If you use any form of social media whatsoever, you’ve probably come across the #metoo hashtag, where women share their experiences of sexual harassment with the world to draw attention to the problem. You’d also have heard about what started it all – the numerous allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The movement was started by activist Tarana Burke and gained impetus on social media after a call to action by the actor Alyssa Milano, one of Weinstein’s most vocal critics, who wrote: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
But I do wonder: who are these “people” we’re trying to convince? It’s surely not women, since the vast majority of us already know about the problem. We normalise it, joke about it, roll our eyes at it, blame each other for it, and do what we can to take responsibility for it – even though we shouldn’t have to. We keep our mouths shut about it when in the company of men, for fears of being belittled by people who are pretty sure these problems don’t actually exist, since they haven’t personally experienced them.
The #metoo movement is important, but not to give men an idea of the magnitude of the problem. If they aren’t already aware of it, they are a part of it; they have a low level of awareness of what’s happening around them in the world, and don’t respect women enough to listen to them, or believe them.
Why #metoo matters is simply because it increases women’s courage. It helps us “buck the trend” of making ourselves small to keep other people comfortable, and to instead say, “You know what? I don’t feel like hiding anymore. I don’t give a toss if you feel uncomfortable.” It’s helping us come together in solidarity and truly find our voices, shifting a paradigm of normalised silence.
Andre Lord wrote: “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength.”