You may have seen the hashtag #metoo in response to countless sexual harassment scandals that have come to light over the course of the last year. The minute high-profile cases of sexual assault started to be revealed - Harvey Weinstein being the first to explode - women all over the world took to Twitter to share their stories of injustice and abuse, using this hashtag. This is great, but do you know what is even better?
This was started by a group of Hollywood actresses - Reese Witherspoon, Brie Larson and Natalie Portman, amongst others - who realised that in order to make a difference, money is required. Using the power and ability to generate publicity they have in show business, these women plan to expose and condemn sexual harassment in every employment sector. They have built up a legal fund for such a purpose: $16 million so far. This fund aims to enable women from any industry and background who have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or discrimination to sue their attackers - not just to expose and embarrass them, but to bring them to justice, and promote gender equality in the world of the future.
So what is all the fuss about? Statistically, most women entering the world of work are surrounded by men who are more physically imposing, paid more and more powerful. In this context, when harassed by one’s boss, it takes a huge amount of courage to share this information, threatening one’s career development. But it takes a whole new level of bravery to get lawyers involved and press charges - and, in reality, most of the women who have been subject to harassment (we’re talking about thousands of working-class women) have not had the means to sue their attackers. This is why #timesup could be such a powerful global force.
There is some debate about the range of accusations being made - catcalling and pitiful fumbling being ‘outed’ alongside rape and physical assault. However, I believe these discrepancies are mere attempts to distract from the core issue: that this is an issue. Since the beginning of time, women have been oppressed and abused, being seen as being intrinsically weaker. Of course, we have come a long way: we are no longer legally considered the property of our husbands; we got the vote (a really long time after men, mind you); the Equal Pay Act of 1970 was a critical milestone (though it doesn’t seem to have achieved much: witness the latest outcry on unequal pay practices at the BBC). But why has it taken long for only some of us to realise that being harassed in the workplace, or being touched against your will, is wrong and should no longer be judged acceptable or normal? And what is it about our society that means that generations of men (acknowledging that not all men should be labelled as ‘predatory’ and ‘controlling’) have grown up thinking it just might be something they can do and get away with?
It seems fitting that around 100 years ago the Women’s Suffrage Movement used the slogan ‘deeds not words’ to win the vote. This was feminism taking matters into its own hands, rather than waiting for the establishment to sort things out. Feminism in a new world is epitomised by #timesup: ‘Cash and lawyers, not tweets.’