#MeToo, #TimesUp & why 2018 is off to a cracking start

#MeToo, #TimesUp & why 2018 is off to a cracking start

Wow. The year 2018 was barely underway before the big waves set in. I set off on a break over Christmas with one very clear objective: to spend less time with my phone. Less time reading the news and scrolling social media and more time with nothing in my hands, with my eyes focused outwards.

Initially I did quite well. I cut back my usage significantly and really enjoyed the space it left. I revelled in having very little idea about what was happening in the world and regularly found myself going for a whole day without even looking at it. I studiously avoided the newspapers and online sites I habitually peruse and read books instead.

But then the week beginning the 8th of January commenced and all bets were off. A high profile Australian entertainer, Craig McLachlan, was identified by Fairfax Media and ABC, as allegedly perpetrating a number of vile sexual assaults going back several years. Once again, we have discovered these incidents weren’t unreported – they were effectively ignored.

There was the publication of Michael Wolff’s explosive book about the White House, Fire & Fury, which led to Donald Trump assuring us he is a very stable genius.

With the exception of three guests, every female who attended the Golden Globe Awards wore black in a stunning display of solidarity in the name of #TimesUp, the movement that is succeeding #MeToo. The message was simple: the time for sexual harassment and assault is up.

It was, naturally, criticised by some as being a meaningless stunt, a superficial act that will change nothing. But it was clear, even just from watching, that’s not the case. Something has changed, and there is more than a whisper of hope that more change is underway.

Oprah gave a speech that crashed the internet, had the power to galvanise women and girls everywhere and has everyone asking if she will run for president.

Thanks to #MeToo we have seen the ugly machinations of sexual harassment up close. We have learned that power is – and has been – used in unspeakable ways. We have learned that the idea of workplace harassment being incredibly rare is baseless. We have learned that it has effected women of every age, in every industry, in every type of workplace.

And as the details that reveal the scale and severity of this issue, have emerged, so too has an appetite for change. So too, solidarity. Enough is enough. The time is up. There is power in numbers and women now have the numbers. The cloak of secrecy that has shielded perpetrators from facing any consequences, that has relegated victims to obscurity, is finally being lifted.

Of course effecting the type of change this demands, will not be easy. And before anyone could get too carried away and start believed this might be easy, 100 French women intervened and disavowed us of the hope that sanity and justice would prevail. They penned a letter to the French newspaper Le Monde denouncing #MeToo arguing it will prevent men from hitting on women, a central tenet of sexual freedom, and promote puritanism.

To my eye and mind, the letter is entirely illogical, maddening and sadly predictable. It is entirely distorted to argue that the liberty of these men is under threat, when the vile truth is they have flagrantly abused the liberty of too many women. Sexual liberty is not a unilateral concept. #MeToo has not conflated flirting with harassment: it is the polar opposite. Women have been enduring far far worse than a few unsolicited text messages or unwanted advances, for far too long. Sexual freedom does not extend to predators openly violating the rights of women in whatever way they choose.

#MeToo has not opened the floodgates on innocent men who dared to send a single suggestive text message or made a pass at a woman in a bar. It has started an urgent conversation about the fact that men – or women – acting with impunity and forcing themselves upon people where it is unwanted and unwelcome, is not acceptable.

The fact that even needs saying is devastating and telling. It is beyond me how any thinking man or woman could, even for a moment, believe that men like Harvey Weinstein facing consequences is a witch hunt. As I’ve said before, it is long overdue comeuppance.

I am under no illusions. The road towards a world where the sexual liberty of women is respected and recognised will be long but I also know that time’s up.

And I know that this time last year it was almost unthinkable to imagine every single female attendee at the Golden Globes wearing the same colour and singing from the same songsheet. Starting a legal fund to help women fight harassment and discrimination and assault in America is a small step that may well amount to a giant leap. Here’s hoping.

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