I HAD decided not to write about the #MeToo movement that spread virally this October, as it seemed that every female columnist around the world had already covered the topic, so figured there was little to say that hasn’t already been written.
But this week, as more women came forward with allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and I read account after account of ordeal after ordeal, it struck me that it wasn’t even an option to write it.
As a columnist — and as a woman — it was my duty to.
In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to tweet #MeToo and to share their stories of sexual harassment to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynistic behaviour. It was like striking a match – world wide web wildfire!
On Facebook alone, the hashtag was posted 12 million times during the first 24 hours, and since then, millions of people, including a vast number of celebrities, have used the hashtag to come forward with their experiences and to offer solidarity to the women who were brave enough to speak out against the most powerful man in Hollywood.
Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale… the list goes on… and on… and on. At last count he stands accused of sexually assaulting 57 women, but I’d bet this number will rise, as more women gain confidence in speaking out.
What troubles me more than the sheer volume of women who have been subject to his abuse, is the fact that apparently ‘everybody knew’. Cast, crew, directors and assistants were all aware of his reputation and behaviour, and yet his conduct was tolerated – if not celebrated – for decades. Young girls were told to stay hushed, stories swept under the carpet, “Don’t mention it. It will end your career, ruin your life.”
On my own Facebook timeline, my friends began disclosing their own painful experiences, sharing secrets, exposing their bosses, teachers or work colleagues. From elderly neighbours to my little sisters’ school friends, every woman had her story to tell. This wasn’t just about Weinstein and his victims, this was about all of us.
As women, we know that this kind of stuff has been going on for years, everywhere, all around us, but it is time that the men closest to us understood the extent of it, so that this collective anger can be used to force a shift in the gender paradigm.
When the president of America is recorded bragging about sexual assault, and dismisses crude comments like ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ as simply ‘locker room banter’ there is something deeply wrong with our culture.
I think back to instances in my childhood when my father would be chatting up the waitress as we all sat down to enjoy a family meal, and remembered the shame I felt for my mother who sat there and bore the humiliation, the laughter of my teenage brothers witnessing the spectacle and the banter exchanged between all the males at the table.
This is the kind of stuff that has to change and it involves all of us: speaking out, being brave, defending women, refusing to glorify or tolerate misogynistic jokes and behaviour, setting new boundaries and teaching our boys to treat women with respect.
From sleazy bosses to perverted publishers, I’ve encountered my fair share of ordeals over the years, (well, if I will insist on wearing skirts and heels to work!) and the one thing that they all have in common is this:
“Don’t tell anyone.”
Tell someone. Tell anyone. It is our silence that has allowed this culture to continue for so long – so shame it, call it, expose it!
Our job as parents is to teach our little boys how to treat women…
But let’s finally teach our girls not to accept anything else.