“So you can see how the passive voice has a political effect. It shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women…it’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at the term ‘violence against women,’ nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them…men aren’t even a part of it!” Jackson Katz
I read this quote as part of a post shared on Facebook in the wake of the #MeToo campaign that has been so pervasive across social media this past couple of weeks. MeToo originated over a decade ago with black activist Tarana Burke and has seen its recent resurgence due to a Tweet sent out by actor Alyssa Milano following news coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
One of the original intentions communicated by Burke when she initiated MeToo 10+ years ago was “empowerment through empathy” – particularly to let women of colour know that they were not alone in these circumstances of sexual harassment and assault. In an interview with Ebony magazine, Burke said, “the power of using ‘me too’ has always been in the fact that it can be a conversation starter or the whole conversation ― but it was us talking to us”. Now “us” has become a much wider context with the passage of time and the advent of social media.
The sheer magnitude of #MeToo on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms has been overwhelming for many, myself included. I’ve heard from several people that they were not prepared for what such widespread disclosure would bring up for them emotionally, whether they had experienced sexual assault/harassment directly or it had happened to someone they knew and cared about.
In one regard it can be helpful to feel a sense of solidarity with others who’ve experienced these circumstances; as Tarana Burke intended, we feel less alone. So much so in fact, that there has been a cascade of allegations made post-Weinstein, notable examples include: Just for Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon, Amazon Boss Roy Price, even Kevin Spacey has come forward to acknowledge his wrongdoing in a same sex interaction with a younger actor when Spacey was 26 and his counterpart was a 14 year old male.
On the other hand, for me #MeToo begs the question, NOW WHAT? Obviously we see the inescapable fact that millions of women have endured sexual harassment and assault. I’ve seen plenty of other examples from men these past few weeks too. Even so, we are still only seeing a selection of those folk who have chosen to disclose and have means and access to media/social media to do so.
We see discourse has begun…yet where does it lead? Collectively as a society and individually as citizens, what do we DO with what has been learned?
Tarana Burke points out, “It’s beyond a hashtag. It’s the start of a larger conversation and a movement for radical community healing. Join us. #metoo”
We encourage you to ask yourself #NowWhat?
Here are two actions you might consider taking in response:
One is to attend the screening of A Better Man, co-hosted by SWOVA and the Salt Spring Film Festival on Wednesday, November 22nd from 7:00 – 9:30pm at Artspring. Tickets are $10 and are available at the box office or online.
The filmmaker describes the movie as a “fresh and nuanced look at the healing and revelation that can happen for everyone when men take responsibility for their abuse. It also empowers the audience members to play new roles in challenging domestic violence, whether it’s in their own relationships or as part of a broader movement for social change.”
A second action is to read and reflect on this well-written article by May Warren:
Photo credits: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen [#MeToo]; Dandelion Initiative [#NowWhat] Follow on Twitter: @dandelioninit