Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, March 15th, 2018 - 13 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, activism, International, Politics, us politics - Tags:

It’s been awesome to see feminist activists in New Zealand enable a new and fast liberation occur.  It’s worth reflecting on the success of #MeToo  and all its new forms.

Here’s Fiona McNamara from the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network on TV1 news last night.

Can we still remember the Women’s March of January 2017?

For New Zealand and so many other countries, there’s been a fair bit of good feminist politics occur since then.

At the Washington D.C. Women’s March, about half a million people rallied in Washington D.C. An estimated 4.5 million gathered elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad to stand together. Being treated with respect: a good thing. At the time it seemed an antidote to the decline of civility in so much elected politics, of so many democracies falling to coarse and cruel male leaders: a necessary symbol. This was one event among many that set that ground.

On October 15th 2017, actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet urging women to speak up and out about their experiences and sexual assault or harassment using the phrase “me too”. The stories attached to it took off right across the digitised globe; in Farsi, French, Arabic, Hindi, and Spanish. Today, women in 85 different countries are using the hashtag to bring attention to the violence and harassment they face in daily life and to demand change.

It won’t be the end of patriarchy. But it’s not over-claiming either.  This one really has momentum.

Also, activists have something of a mixed record when it comes to using the internet to instigate real-world change. As Hayley Tsukayama wrote, online-first movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring “weren’t outright failures”, but they did fall far “short of many people’s expectations”.

So can it last?

Black Lives Matter makes for interesting comparison. It’s a social-media born activist group that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people.  Deen Freelon, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has carried out research on the group and how it moved beyond the hashtag.

First, the group took a data-driven approach to the problem it was seeking to tackle. “Black Lives Matter has been proactive in collecting data to support its cause,” Freelon explains. “Activists have pulled together data on things like the content of police contracts and the laws and policies that are most effective in reducing police violence.”

If the women behind #MeToo want to bring the online movement into the real world, they should look at doing something similar, he says. “They need to figure out what data matters to them and how they can get it,” Freelon advises. Once they have that, “they should be very specific in terms of what they want to accomplish”, he says. “Whether it’s legislative change, institutional change, cultural change or all three, #MeToo needs to define its goals in measurable terms so that success can be measured effectively.”

Maybe. I now look at #MeToo as pretty successful in good old MSM impact. Hollywood remains one of the most powerful ideological engines in the world, and #MeToo feminism is in the process of turning that town on its head. Symbols can lead to real-world change. Stories get amplified, and there are a few billions stories about women which need to be told. Sure, such stories can get commodified as well, but they get amplified. Just telling your own story of personal damage and grief is a power regained. #MeToo also has more star power than any movement I have ever seen, to keep those stories being told and retold. As we have seen in New Zealand in recent days, no political party is protected from such stories being told.

A little over three months after women started using the hashtag en masse to share their stories, this online movement has led to real-world change. #MeToo is already a successful movement, since it has empowered victims of sexual harassment and misogynistic behaviour to speak up, sparked a public conversation on the issue,and forced a number of men to publicly address their wrongdoings and even step down. OMG even the Saudi government is now making tiny little steps in favour of women.

Twitter will only go so far. It’s not enough – it probably never will be – but it is already a successful accelerant  on its way to generating systemic and pervasive change  as great as many of the short-lived 1968 ‘revolutions’ of  50 years ago.

#MeToo  – and its sister outpourings  –  is a movement with a long, long way to run, and it’s a liberation.

13 comments on “#MeToo”

  1. patricia bremner 1

    I have previously on this site talked of being groped at work.
    On two other occasions I have been abused. For a long time I thought I had done something to cause it. The stories all have a thread of coming about unheralded attacked, but on examination of my own circumstance, it was about power.

    It has changed things for women who thought they were alone. The other change has to occur for the perpetrators.

  2. Lara 2

    Like Patricia above, I too have been abused. I was a child and the adults who should have cared for me allowed it to happen. It’s had a life long impact on my sexuality and life.

    From the most traumatic to garden variety every day sexual harassment, I’ve experienced it all.

    By the age of 20 I would hazard a guess that #yesallwomen have experienced at least one instance of sexual harassment. Most of us multiple, and for too many of us serious incidents.

    The #metoo movement is for me the most momentous thing for women in my lifetime. It feels like finally something might change.

    Firstly, in NZ because of RoastBusters and the Louise Nicholas case IMO a great many NZ women do not trust the NZ police. For me, it’s so bad that if I were ever abused or sexually assaulted again they would be the one organisation I would most actively avoid. I believe it is upon the NZ police to make significant cultural changes and to make that in a very public way to gain trust again before we can have any expectation of victims to engage with them. Victims of ALL genders.

    I think we need to see legal changes in how sexual crimes are conducted in the court system too. It does not look like justice if the sexual history of victims can be bought up in court, and yet the criminal history of accused cannot. When Louise Nicholas went through her trial one of the accused was in jail for a remarkably similar crime, yet that information could not be revealed to the jury. But her sexual history was revealed.

    I am hopeful too that this movement will bring in a cultural change. That the very many good men out there will stand up for victims of sexual harassment and abuse, and call out sexism and misogyny wherever they see it. That they’ll listen to women and to the other victims of sexual crimes of all genders, hear our pain and support us.

    I want society to stop demanding we fix it on our own, or go away and STFU, or claim we’re just lying or on a witch hunt. I also want this movement to remain in the hands of women and other victims of sexual crimes. Not to be taken over by the louder voices of men who have not experienced this kind of crime.

    Because it’s just not okay for half the population to live our lives feeling like prey.

    • Lara 2.1

      It was a revelation to me when I came across this book.

      And I’m sincerely hope that it can be a revelation to others too, particularly cis white males.

      Kristin Schist wrote “Just One Of The Guys?” Link here.

      There’s a small group of people in our society who have lived life as presenting male and as presenting female. And that gives them a unique insight into how sexism operates.

      Schist quantified some of the experiences of trans male to female and female to male by analysing job retention, pay rates, promotion, and other metrics that can be brought down to numbers. Unsurprisingly to me (and probably most women) she found a statistically significant difference. And it is female presenting people who get less, while male presenting people get more.

      The issues of sexual harassment are less quantifiable, can’t be reduced to numbers. The evidence points to female presenting people experiencing increased harassment.

      The problems for FtM were different. Apart from the higher levels of harassment and abuse trans people experience, once FtM people transition and pass reliably as male, the levels of harassment reduce.

      If anyone here is interested and can’t be bothered buying the whole book, here’s a short article in Time that covers a few points.

      I hope this all makes sense. To me it was a revelation, that the trans community has some unique and fascinating insight and their voices can illustrate the realities of sexism.

  3. ExcludeMeToo 3

    I was also sexually assaulted when I was 16 years old.

    I thought that I would be brave, and the right thing to do was to bring it to the attention of the people in charge.

    I was told that the best thing for me would be to keep the circle of people knowing as small as possible, and not tell anyone.

    I was told that my parents and the police do not need to know.

    I then heard and read that a big part of the population, including victim HELP groups agreed that the advise I was given was indeed correct, and that those who spoke up for me and wanted it blown open did not have my best interest at heart, and was just trying to political point score.

    I guess I am not #MeToo, but rather #ExcludeMeToo.

    • Carolyn_Nth 3.1

      I’m sorry to hear you wnet through such an experience.
      I was told that my parents and the police do not need to know.

      That’s interesting. I’ve seen a few people online saying it is against the law to notify the police or parents without the victim’s consent.

      Yet I am still seeing very righteous people (mostly representing the perspective of parents) emphatically claiming that, in the case of the Labour Summer Youth Camp, the parents and/or police should have been told.

      It’s here today in a blog post from Trotter, and his even more righteous first responder in the comments.

      Today Judith Collins said she’d “rip their throats out” if it were her children who were abused and she hadn’t been told.

      I do think parents and other members of the public feel they are asking for what seems to them to be the correct response to an awful crime. And I’m sure parents want to be able to protect and support their children.

      But surely the first concern should be to consider what is best for the victim/survivor.

      It must be hard for them to make the decision.

      ExcludeMeToo, do you now feel you made the right decision in not reporting the assault?

      And I would like to see that relevant law, because I cannot find any legislation where it says only the victim can decide whether to go to parents or police.

  4. CHCOff 4

    Not about patriarchy, or matriarchy.

    Those are very deep emotive issues for people.

    Having dynamism being the rule in medium to large organisational leadership bodies is better for economic value systems. And dynamism involves the ability to learn. Most things worth learning have components requiring the ability to be prepared to make and admit mistakes.

    The group male psych is not naturally geared towards that due to a number of factors. THAT is why it needs to be 50/50 for sustainable dynamism in modern large scale technological societal organisation.

    The naturally occurring old forms and rituals that use to serve such like purposes no longer work the same way in the modern societal technological constructs.

  5. gsays 5

    I wish to salute Patricia, Lara and exclude me too for their courage and honesty.
    Also to the other sisters in wekas recent post. (Got a little fraught, so I watched from the sidelines)
    Anyhow, Tracey asked a poignant question of the blokes about not speaking against ‘misoginistic’ behaviour from their peers.
    While not as serious as the context Tracey’s question was asked in, I have been wrestling with a similar situation at work.

    A colleague of mine at work, 30 years old, single.. has a habit of ‘chatting up/gentle hitting on’ some of the young women.
    I have used humour: asking if they were issued mace as they working with ‘X’..
    It occurs to me I have been a casual enabler of ‘X’s’ behaviour.
    I know this man’s heart, he is not a predator, nor would be want to cause harm.
    I have now summoned the courage to tackle him on his behaviour.
    It will be framed in the idea of providing a safe workplace and highlight the power imbalance ( he is a sous chef ).

    Thanks sisters for helping me in growth and courage.

  6. Michelle 6

    Yes my daughter came home one day from her racist , discriminative bank job and said a man was harassing her and I told her to stand up to the bastard or shall I come there and wait for him to leave work and run the bastard over

  7. rhinocrates 7

    This really needs to be pushed in The Standard. It is not a friendly place for women, people who are queer, or minorities. We have privileged individuals dismissing race and gender concerns as “identity politics” and casual sexism such as synonyms for “girl” being used as put-downs – and even a certain prolier-than-thou moderator thinks that concerns about sexism are “bullshit.”

    If the left’s aspirations for change boil down to “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,”* then I can’t give a shit over reading about them.

    Sure, I’m male, and white (or pale blue – it takes weeks of tanning to turn us Scots white as Billy Connelly says). However, I’m not neurotypical – I’m autistic – and I find the assumptions about ‘normal’ people want absurd. Too much theory and ideology about what people want just becomes a set of directives about what they should want.

    One law for the lion and the ox is oppression – William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell”

    Feminism offers a far more radical critique of society than what crusty old paleoleftists have to offer, especially when it is intersectional – and look up that word!

    I see myself in the mirror every morning when I brush my teeth. I know who I am, I know what I want, but what do other people want?

    Make it safe for everyone who isn’t a Chris Trotter clone to say so.

    *The Who, “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYMD_W_r3Fg

    • Incognito 7.1

      Since you’re a regular commenter here whose comments I generally like I’ll respond to your comment, which is thought-provoking (challenging).

      At times, The Standard is not a friendly place. Full. Stop. Other times, however, it is very welcoming, with a community feel with loads of camaraderie and where people can share extremely personal experiences in a receptive & respectful environment.

      Who hasn’t had those experiences with loved ones, e.g. close family members, best friends, spouse, children, or beloved pet, when they were not ‘feeling the love’?

      The paradox of intolerance doesn’t just apply to society. Recently, a commenter said this on stuff:

      For society to remain tolerant, it must be intolerant of intolerance.


      I think they were wrong (two wrongs don’t make a right) and that taken to its logical conclusion we would end up with or at totalitarian absolutism.

      A good motto might be “live and let live” IMHO.

      I was also going to respond to the other things you wrote (incl. about Trotter), which I found mighty fascinating, but I think I’ll leave at this for tonight.

    • weka 7.2

      One thing that would help is to support feminist authors and commenters when they are writing generally. So support to push back when they are being attacked is good, but also support when the situation is non-controversial as well.

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