Last week, I was in a bar with two male colleagues chatting about the Harvey Weinstein case.
They were as disgusted and outraged as me by the mogul’s flagrant abuse of power, but when I ventured to tell them the number of times I myself, had been subjected to predatory behaviour, they were genuinely shocked– their faces conveying an uncomfortable and potent realisation: sexual crimes are not isolated and they’re certainly not uncommon.
Now, women the world over have joined together to expose the true prevalence of sexual crime, sharing their own harrowing stories with the hashtag #MeToo.
The campaign, started by actor Alyssa Milano saw thousands of women within a few short hours relay their experiences, flooding social media platforms with the hashtag.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Brave celebrities joined in, including Debra Messing, Anna Paquin, Lady Gaga and Evan Rachel Wood.
Because I was shamed and considered a “party girl” I felt I deserved it. I shouldnt have been there, I shouldn’t have been “bad” #metoo
— #EvanRachelWould (@evanrachelwood) October 16, 2017
Encouragingly, many men also took to Twitter to lend their support to the movement. Comedian and activist Nick Jack Pappas wrote: “Men, Don’t say you have a mother, a sister, a daughter… Say you have a father, a brother, a son who can do better. We all can.”
Australia’s Charlie Pickering, urged men not to stay silent.
Twitter itself, also backed the campaign, promoting it on ‘Moments’, its platform of curated stories. It also noted chief executive, Jack Dorsey’s, statement about the company’s efforts to tackle abuse on the site.
But while recognition of the issue is certainly critical, it’s important to note that the #MeToo campaign is not the first of its kind. In 2014, the #YesAllWomen campaign exploded on social media after a man cited his hatred of women as his reason for committing a heinous killing spree in Southern California. Likewise, activist Laura Bates started the #EverydaySexism campaign in 2012 to expose widespread sexism, harassment and assault.
Speaking up certainly moves us forward, but widespread cultural change is dependent on collective commitment.
For starters, we need boys and men to truly understand what constitutes sexual harassment and assault. And it doesn’t help when politicians like Malcolm Roberts claim things like “some girls like being wolf whistled.”
They don’t. I promise you.
Change is also dependent on the collective commitment not to turn a blind eye– not to dismiss predatory behaviour as funny, or cocky or cute.
It’s criminal. Plain and simple.
Weinstein evaded consequence for his actions for decades, because people close to him chose to conceal his evil. In some cases they enabled his abuse. We have to start calling out acts of assault and shaming the perpetrators. Men and women, together.
#MeToo proves how many women have suffered incidents of sexual harassment and assault. It proves how huge, how sickening, how pervasive the situation really is.
And now that it’s out there, we have to act on it.