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Comment: #metoo

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Danielle Blanch, Reporter

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Here are some stats which should concern you:

Over 12 million people on Facebook have taken part in the #metoo campaign in the past week.

Research by the Australia Institute in 2015 found nine out of 10 women have been harassed in public.

In 2016 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the number of sexual assault victims nationally rose to the highest point in 7 years.

These statistics are overwhelming. How can anyone stand by and say we don’t have a problem of epidemic proportions?

How has it taken us so long to really talk about the issue?

The ‘me too’ hashtag was originally started by activist Tarana Burke in 2006. It was her way of helping young women who had experienced sexual violence to gain empowerment through empathy.

With the ever-growing allegations of rape and the recent ones of sexual assault by Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein, Alyssa Milano re-booted the #metoo campaign by posting on Twitter, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

It might be frustrating for some that it has taken issues in Hollywood (which were swept under the rug for decades) for everyone to get talking about such a widespread issue.

Hollywood is upheld and adored as the ultimate goal of fame and fortune, but what happens when we hear that women we idolise have experienced sexual harassment too, and are opening up about it?

That’s the thing about role models. They are given a platform and when they are speaking up about an injustice, like it or not, it makes it a more normal thing to talk about.

Libby Jane Charleston, from the Huffington Post, said that the me-too hashtag has too broad a scope and that comparing one person’s “I was catcalled,” #metoo is discounting another’s “I was raped,” #metoo.

An absolutely fair argument. It’s like apples and oranges, I know. But let people talk about it! It’s allowing people to share their pain and bring huge social injustice to the surface.

I do feel unequipped to take part in the hashtag because my #metoo is the ‘run of the mill’ catcalling and nightclub groping type. My normalcy about this topic is what is so damn wrong with society.

As young as I was when I got my first catcall, probably around 13 or 14 years old, I did really feel like it was normal. Normal to know that me being on the cusp of womanhood, my body didn’t actually belong to me. It belonged to the people I needed to impress, the people I needed attention from because what was I worth otherwise?

Having had a part of my life existing within and training for the entertainment industry I was always terrified with knowing full well one day I may be faced with the ‘Harvey Weinstein’ type situation. A certain acting teacher I once had once told a class of very impressionable young aspiring actors, ‘If you have to give a blowjob to get that role, do it!’

And it was a pretty big theme throughout most of the time I spent with this particular teacher: that our bodies no longer belonged to us, and you had to work through anything you might feel uncomfortable about, for character’s sake and in the way you represent yourself as an actor. He was essentially grooming us, or perpetuating the norm of the ‘casting couch’.

I knew my limits and never stepped further than my boundaries would take me but I was also never faced with such a situation. I would like to think I would decline such an offering, but in most of the alleged experiences with Mr Weinstein, there was little to no choice in the matter.

I don’t think that anyone should be criticising the #metoo campaign. The more we talk about it, the more people can learn how much it affects people at such a deep physical and mental level, and the more people can understand how wrong it is to use sexual violence to gain power over someone.

If it helps someone speak out or encourages people to talk about their oppressed pain and shame, let them. We need an open dialogue about things like this. Otherwise, it continues to be swept under the rug and nothing will change. I know it’s bigger than what we ever imagined. I know it’s uncomfortable to read, and painful beyond imagination to share. But keep talking about it, keep posting about it and change will happen. Even if it just stops one person being sexually assaulted, it’s created change.

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Quality journalism by ECU students
Comment: #metoo