There is a new hashtag making its way around social media at the moment. Not just any hashtag. It is a hashtag that is highlighting something that I worry about every single day. A hashtag highlighting the female ‘place’ in this world. A hashtag that reminds me every time it pops onto my screen how scared I should be. A hashtag that makes me look at the women who wrote it and not only empathise, but relate to what it means.
Two words. Two words that say to the world that I too have been sexually harassed / assaulted / violated / victimised / persecuted against. Two words that are fast becoming a collective voice. A voice that is standing up and being counted. In the wake of the news of years of sexual assault by yet another Hollywood top-dog, women all over the world are sharing #metoo with horrific stories of their own. Opening their wounds, displaying bravery and the utmost vulnerability, women are showing the world how deep this goes.
It is not just powerful and rich men who are to blame. It is friends and cousins and brothers and husbands and colleagues and bosses. It is the drunk guy who gropes you when he walks past you in a club. It is the guy who whistles at you as you walk past him on the street. It is your boyfriend’s friends who make lewd comments because now that you’re in a physical relationship with their ‘bro’, they too feel entitled to your intimate secrets. It is the guy at varsity who invites you to an after party at your friend’s house, but when you arrive and the door closes, you realise you are alone with him and it’s just an after-party for two. It is your friend’s dad who propositions you for an affair. It is your barman boyfriend who locks you in the storeroom where no one can hear you.
#metoo is bringing women’s shared history out into the open. It is not just happening to strangers. It is happening to you and to me. And that is why this hashtag is so important. The number of #metoo statuses I’ve seen in the last few days has shocked me. It has shown me that we have to speak up. Confront your boss when he makes a misogynist remark. Stand up for a stranger when her husband belittles her in front of you. Say something when a man brushes past you in a club. Walk away when you feel uncomfortable around a man, but would normally stick around so as to not appear rude. As women we have to be brave. And vulnerable. And honest. And strong. We have to stand up against the sexism, misogyny and violence surrounding women all over the world.
Last night I read through people’s #metoo statuses, and I thought about my little girl. My entire body was cold with fear, with rage. Will this be her reality too? How can I protect her? How can I warn her? When will she suddenly realise what kind of world we live in? Will I have done enough for her?
So I am saying #metoo. I am going to stand my ground and fight the fight. I am going to raise a feminist, a strong-willed and feisty young woman. I am going to teach her to be kind and vulnerable, but above all to be fierce. I am going to raise a warrior.
I am saying #metoo, in the hope that one day my daughter won’t have to.