Millions have rallied behind the hashtag #MeToo campaign exposing the sheer magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women everywhere suffer, everyday. Breaking the silence is first step to transforming the culture of gender-based silence. I’m a #MeToo.
But why now? Why is the seemingly teflon ceiling of exposing sexual power over women crumbling?
The advancement of our rights in the United States began in the mid-19th century when individual states allowed women to own property. Around this same time women also began to be admitted into colleges and universities. 1920 saw advancements in Women’s Suffrage by the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving us the right to vote. But here in the 21st century, we women still don’t have the expectation of true equality.
When the Harvey Weinstein allegations of his decades of sexual harassment exploded with 57 women currently accusing him, at first I was angry. Angry at the women for keeping the Hollywood “secret” that everyone knew. Why would WOMEN protect a sexual predator for years? But then I realized I was participating in the societal norm of victim shaming. As I began looking into what type of culture that would foster such secrets, I began to see a pattern. Hollywood: predominantly white men directors, producers & studio owners (82.4% according to 2014 Film Directors by Gender & Ethnicity report). Corporate America: In 2015 Fortune 500 reported 91.2% of CEOs were white males. 115th Congress: around 80% white men represent the entire United States (Washington Post 01/12/2017). Whoa!
(Photo Credit: Twitter @cathymcmorris 11/17/16)
No wonder women have kept quiet. The silent message from powerful men, “To move up in our world, you play by our rules”. So, our bodies became a commodity.
UN Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says, “Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. There are many ways to prevent violence in the first place and to stop cycles of violence repeating.” With 1:3 women and girls experiencing violence in our lifetime-that is one too many. And ending violence against women and girls is possible by resisting, empowering and rising. We can transform the culture by enforcing laws that protect women’s rights and changing attitudes that condone violence against women. We saw Anita Hill begin to start the conversation during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nominations hearings in 1991 and we experienced the outcry of the laughable sentence the USC student athlete, Brock Turner, received for his sexual assault and rape convictions. And after the election of this current president (who himself admits to sexual assault) we’ve come full circle in the culmination of the worldwide Women’s March on January 21, 2017.