Rachel Lily, multimedia officer for Restless Development, shares her thoughts on the #MeToo campaign which spread on social media following alleged sexual assaults perpetrated by the Hollywood elite.
Behind the Harvey Weinstein headlines and accusations of lengthy and extreme assaults has been a string of high-profile stories about men using their power to abuse women and girls.
These abuses of power seem to go undetected until it’s too late. Women and girls have to wait months, years even, for others to come forward before they feel strong enough to speak up about being exploited – and even then, there’s often a lack of convictions. The silence about abuse of power on girls has been deafening.
When I saw the #MeToo campaign circulating my newsfeed and twitter-sphere, I felt like my ear was pressed to a megaphone with a new record on. I was overwhelmed by the noise of people finally talking about this issue in a personal way. Every woman, and even more worryingly, every girl I knew across my social media had managed to squeeze so much experience and so much expression into a mere 140 characters and one simple hashtag that it seemed to be an epidemic, a crisis with no emergency response, a toxin with no antidote.
And that, to a large extent, was what these women felt too. Every tap on the keyboard was one tap further into that person’s shell – the shell that they’ve had to build up around them to deal emotionally with the constant bombardment of sexual harassment. This was, is, everyday for women.
But, whilst I remained staggered at the amount of females in my life pouring out confession after confession of being touched on public transport, being verbally abused in the street, being harassed by their male colleagues, having drinks spiked, clothes ripped off them in broad daylight – and in one scenario, even raped – I realised, that this campaign was about so much more than feminism, and so much more than just the immediate Harvey Weinstein case that sparked the hashtag trend.
These confessions – or as I prefer to call them, ‘moments of liberation’ – were coming from all over the world. This was not a Western or Middle Eastern or Antarctican problem. This moment was not defined by race or age or class. Despite our many cultural differences, despite being in different corners of the earth – many more dangerous for women than others -, despite being at different points in our career, the abuse of power inflicted on women across the globe was something being experienced daily – and it was not going away. What these women felt – myself included – was that we were not alone. This was about being free to share in a collective experience; this was about a global sisterhood; this was about solidarity. At last, a remedy.
It was a clear sign that today, whether you are male or female, you need to hear your sister and really listen.
One way is by creating safespaces, both online and offline. By hearing from other people who have experienced these often traumatising events, we can create empathy and continue to build relationships that span across borders and boundaries.
Another way is to continue to speak. Don’t let your voice be hushed when it comes to this issue. Use your unique voice – whether that’s through art or music or sport or tech – to highlight the problem and connect with others that want to speak, but are not yet sure how.
Most importantly, don’t stop educating others. Off the back of the #MeToo campaign another poignant hashtag emerged: “How many women will it take to say #MeToo before men talk about #HimThough?”. We need women and men to continue to educate other young people on consent and what it means to have power – and more importantly, what it means to abuse power. We can’t make progress without listening, learning and educating others on experience and responsibility.
At first, the words #MeToo seem too small, too restricted and too simple to really bring the magnitude of the issue to scale. But, in the words of Tarana Burke (the woman who started the campaign ten years ago): “It’s beyond a hashtag. It’s the start of a larger conversation and a movement for radical community healing.