As a feminist commentator it is very easy to get frustrated at the constant narrative around sexual harassment, gender inequality and violence against women being dominated by women when it is a problem that men have created.
When I sat down to today’s Adelaide Festival of Ideas #metoo #whatnext with Jane Caro and Nina Funnell, moderated by SA’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent I thought here we go again. A panel of women talking about an issue facing women and trying to come up with a solution.
But today I was reminded that #metoo is not about solving the problem but sharing the stories.
“Everytime a women opens her mouth and tells the truth she encourages another women to tell her truth.” – Jane Caro
Dr Vincent began this session by pointing out that during the Equal Opportunity Commission’s review at SAPOL many workers noted they had not experienced sexual harassment. But when probed about behaviours are akin to sexual harassment many had responded they had experienced those.
It was a poignant reminder that people don’t always respond to having experienced sexual harassment but they have experienced behaviours.
This feeds in to the heart of our shame and denial that we experience when we are violated.
What #metoo did was help us all to share our experiences and lose our shame. Because we are not alone.
As Caro put it, it is not about criminal behaviour or repercussions but about exposing the behaviours that humiliates and objectifies us. It is behaviour that is old as millennia.
For time eternal women’s objections to men’s unwanted advances has been a man’s challenge to overcome. As Caro reminded us, women are prey for men to chase and capture, we exist to be nailed, hit on or scored.
But as Funnell reminds us, often men are ignorant to the impact of this culture on women.
“1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted but the other 4 will live in fear of it.” – Nina Furnell
#metoo has give women permission to break our silence over this very fact. We are not necessarily naming men who have abused us, but we are naming their behaviour so we can prove this behaviour does have an impact and is destructive.
Men are oblivious to how we micro-manage our fear.
So rather than questioning why women are not making more reports from #metoo or suggesting it will destroy a man’s career, we need to stop and remind ourselves that what we have done is create a movement that has allowed us to have an honest conversation.
It is about what has happened to us, how it has impacted on us and we want the world to hear it – but most importantly, we want it taken seriously.