ME TOO: COVID-19 HIGHLIGHTS ITS ENDURING SIGNIFICANCE
One in three women throughout the world will experience sexual assault at least once during the course of their lifetime. Daily, we see stories shared online making this reality more and more visible. 2020 and 2021 have seen a rising number of women (some very high profile) coming forward speaking out against abusive men in positions of power, including Paris Hilton and FKA Twigs. Names of accused abusers are high profile too - Marylin Manson, Armie Hammer and Chris D’eila.
The movement has been gaining traction in countries outside of the US - recently in Egypt, France, Turkey, Canada, The Balkans, Denmark and Greece. In Ireland there’s also been #MeToo-esque petitions for new laws after tens of thousands of intimate images of young women were shared on Discord without consent.
Alongside this we’ve seen a huge drive in awareness and support for women around the world suffering from domestic abuse throughout Covid-19 lockdowns - sparking a resurgence of conversation and a modern education drive around related cultural issues.
“It could be that lockdown has given women the time to take stock of other obstacles they’ve faced. Perhaps we’ve been daydreaming of a brave new post- pandemic society that doesn’t protect abusers.” Sophie Wilkinson
The Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 was also a reminder of the systems of oppression that are in place that lead to racism and sexism - the fight against injustice becoming more and more relevant and apparent to young people, across a variety of intersecting themes. Just this week, #MeToo movement founder, Tarana Burke, launched a new initiative with Time’s Up, focused on Black survivors - “We, As Ourselves” - and released a ‘Love Letter to Black Survivors.’
“We had the R. Kelly documentary, the Russell Simmons documentary and we were, like, ’OK that’s not really our stories. That’s A story, but it’s not representative of most people’s lives and experiences.” Tarana Burke
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez made global headlines this month too when she shared, as part of an Instagram Live about her experience at the US Capitol riots, that she is a survior of sexual assault. Now this week we’ve seen the #MeToo conversation trending again in the US as Democrats and Republicans comment on the Cuomo story following Lindsey Boylan’s (a former staffer) story.
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT: #METOO STORIES EDUCATING THE MASSES
In many cases these incidents of sexual assault are hiding in plain sight. We know that #MeToo as a modern movement highlights cultures of silence or compliance - but now that some years have passed since the onset of the public conversation, it’s becoming increasingly shocking at how public instances of abuse and assault were. Not only was it acceptable for mainstream media to be inappropriate with young women - but in some instances troubling behaviour and thinking had been explicitly referenced by abusers in the public realm, without much consequence.
For example, in the case of Rachel Evan Wood and Marylin Manson aka Brian Warner (on Feb 1st 2021 via Instagram, Wood named her high profile ex, Manson, as the man who has emotionally and physically terrorised her), many interviews have resurfaced where Warner explicitly laid out troubling behaviours and thoughts he had towards women. While many speak now of how outrage would spark differently in 2021 if this happened again (mainstream consciousness has matured as a result of Me Too), what survivors are highlighting now as a result of this, is the importance of education and awareness in de-normalising abuse. Those speaking out are giving people details of their experiences, highlighting that there is little room for grey lines anymore when it comes to abuse or assault - so that it can help others realise what they might be experiencing, because our culture and society doesn’t always make it easy to see.
“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency...I don’t think people would ever think that it would happen to me. But I think that’s the thing. It can happen to anybody.” FKA twigs
LESSONS LEARNED: HOW RECENT #METOO STORIES ARE SHAPING YOUTH CULTURE (& ENTERTAINMENT)
Sexual assault and trauma are themes now coming through in pop culture entertainment - driving awareness of how individual trauma and collective trauma (eg. as a society in the wake of Me Too) from these events can play out. Michaela Coel’s acclaimed TV show I May Destroy You, which follows the journey of a celebrated young writer who is drugged and raped during a night out with friends, has been celebrated for recognising how trauma shapes us. Unbelievable, the 2019 Netflix series nominated for multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards, also depicted the ways sexual assault victims are often re-traumatised when they report their assault. 2019’s Bombshell recounted the story of sexual misconduct at Fox News. Apple TV’s The Morning Show season 2 is also coming soon with it’s A-List cast.
...To be continued next week!
BRAND TAKEOUTS (PART ONE)
Cultural and societal power dynamics continue to shift as a result of #MeToo. This wave of Me Too is driving an ongoing cultural conversation, a mission to undo systems of oppression through individual and collective honesty, vulnerability, bravery and action. In the way it’s being brought to life in 2021, it’s increasingly tapping into unapologetic attitudes and revisits cultural attitudes around political correctness. It’s important to be up to date on new terms and boundaries that survivors are setting in this context as injustice is being fought, to ensure you don’t misstep.
Companies the world over put focus on their diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives following the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. It is important to ensure that sexual harassment - a related ongoing fight against injustice - is not forgotten in this business context too. Working from home may have provided some respite from sexual harassment in the workplace, but there is still huge concern around the boundaries of appropriate behaviour (and how other prejudices or bias may still be at play). Make sure you have a focus for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace - through policy practise and training.
March 8th is International Women’s Day - still an important and relevant effort to bring about a gender equal world. This could be a great time to discuss where you stand and how you’re acting on issues of gender equality and womens’ issues. How could you use this time to drive awareness of specific women’s issues and/or show your support for vulnerable women, in the context of your brand or business?