Hopeful

I’ve been so moved lately. Hearing about women coming together, listening and giving space to one another, to talk about challenging experiences, has made me hopeful for our future.

Sharing our stories and connecting with each other is the first step to healing and that’s exactly the journey we’ve started. The #MeToo movement has been instrumental in creating an environment for this to happen.

The bravery and confidence that one needs to have, to name sexual assault for what it is, is huge. There are many times I remember being groped in a bar, verbally harassed on the street or harassed on the bus. I said nothing. I classified these instances as normal occurrences, part of what a female has to deal with in life. But the #MeToo movement has allowed me to step past what I considered to be ‘normal’ and realise that in fact, this IS harassment and is not acceptable. If we condone this sort of behaviour then we are saying that it is ok to treat women disrespectfully, not honouring their legitimate right to self-determination, their basic human rights. We shouldn’t accept being harassed as a fact of life.

The #MeToo movement has allowed many of us to feel brave enough to speak out about our experiences of sexual harassment. Many women, who would have felt too alone and powerless to expose themselves on their own, have felt empowered to do so through knowing that there are others, like them out there.

In the US, the movement has prompted the downfall of more than 200 public figures, many more allegations have come to the surface and more broadly, it has allowed for honest conversations to occur. In Australia, it has made employers much more responsive to dealing with sexual assault in the workplace. Julie McKay, an ADF gender advisor says, “there is greater awareness this is (sexual assault) a business and leadership issue, as opposed to where it was positioned a year ago”.

Gloria Allred, a women’s rights lawyer representing one of Weinstein’s accusers says that victims of sexual violence were energised and empowered in a way that hasn’t been seen in her 44 years of practice, since the accusations against Weinstein came to light last year. “It (the movement) will go on and it will grow in size. It will become more powerful than ever”, she predicts.

It is more than just a passing word – In fact, it has just been accepted as a new word within Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary and was named ‘word of the year’ in 2018, owing to the widespread, continuous use of the word. Roberta Kaplan, a New York attorney expresses what many are sensing,

“I think it’s revolutionary, and it’s not going to go back. I can’t see women agreeing to return to the days of isolation and shame.”

With International Women’s Day around the corner, I’m excited about the possibilities of the future for womanhood. It feels like change is on the horizon, a glimmer of hope that I haven’t felt for many years. Strength in voices is setting the tone and we are all invited to take part in the movement.

Written by Celine, Photo by Sharon Brogan

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