From The Change Maker, [#2]: #metoo was created for radical healing
Join in as the change happens.
Extract from issue #2 of The Change Maker.
If you're on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you simply can't have missed the hashtag metoo, which has been on fire the last few days. Me too was introduced by activist Tanya Burke some ten years ago as a voice for survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and to show that radical healing is possible. Two weeks ago actress Alyssa Milano who among a large number of other women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment used the hashtag telling her story. Since then the use of #metoo has exploded online and IRL with stories of disrespect, harassment and assault.
A few weeks ago I had dinner with friends, and somebody in the group asked if anyone of us had ever been victims of sexual harrasemnt. I quickly answered no, but I knew instantly that I wasn't telling the whole truth. The other day when the hashtag started appearing in all social media feeds I started to think back in what situations I'd felt cornered, uncomfortable (to put it mildly) or when my boundaries hand't been respected.
Throughout the corse of the day I came up with a whole list. When I was around 8-10 years old, a man exposed himself to me and my friends at the public pool sauna. I didn't tell anyone because I thought it was so embarrassing. Another time, in my early twenties my friends and I were stalked by a group of young men at a music festival. It didn't stop until I picked up the courage to say, "you're scaring me". Unwanted hand-holding with a complete stranger. After I moderated a whole-day conference the organiser came up to me and thanked me for my work and just had to tell me how beautiful I looked. An investor stopping to eye me from top to bottom infront of a whole group of other people before saying hello. A sex partner who repeatedly took off his condom without asking my consent. Nagging sex in intimate relationships.
And you know what, I consider myself very lucky. It could have been a hundred times, a million times worse. I've never been injured, dead-scared or had to fight off somebody. I've "only" felt worried, humiliated, and that my integrity was compromised. I didn't even know until some time ago that the two last examples on my list are included in the sexual assault definition. However, what I'd also like to add to the list above is the constant invisible threat which women, and non-binaries face every single day. The threat of force; avoiding walking home alone, walking home with keys in one hand and a cell phone in the other, quickly analysing a suspicious group of men before passing them on the street. The whole situation is sickening.
For me, the last few days of massive outcry on social media, media, talks among friends, demonstrations and much more signals that change is happening. I truly believe there's hope. This avalanche of stories and demands for betterment has a real shot at changing the landscape and reshaping the culture of toxic masculinity (most victims of sexual harassment are women, most perpetrators are men (#notallmen)), into a masculinity culture of decency and humility. To be perfectly clear, I believe this change of culture is up to you, men. We, women can tell you what is not working, where our boundaries are, and even make a few suggestions on how we see that things could be done differently. However, according to the principle of "you can never change anybody but yourself", the change still lies with you dear men.
What you can do now is to be quiet, listen and learn. Then perhaps talk to your friends and create strategies and actions on how to do better. Here's a handy list of 12 important actions for men who wish to be allies to women. Read, reflect and execute.
Lastly, a few words to my sisters and non-binary siblings. If you want, share your story, like I chose to do. Or be silent if you want. You never owe your perpetrator anything. You own your body, your words and your space. That is the power of equality.