As a society, we’re bad at coping with sexual harassment. Helping survivors and holding perpetrators to account is not our strong suit. If that seems pretty bleak, it is. But we’ve come a long way. While there’s no denying that things like the Kavanaugh nomination are irreversible and, to many, awful decisions, looking at what has improved can help us to keep on fighting.
In the past 20 years, there has been a significant shift in the way that our society deals with sexual harassment and assault. We’ve learnt that victim-blaming is wrong. More recently, #MeToo has changed the lens. People have support when they speak out. Victims are not isolated. More and more, we are holding perpetrators to account in meaningful ways. And we can be proud of those changes.
No example makes the shift more apparent than Monica Lewinsky. She suffered from PTSD as the result of an investigation which somehow blamed her for the abuse of power that occurred in her relationship with the President. People were blind to the idea that such a vast power differential makes sexual relationships inappropriate. She was blamed and her voice was largely ignored. I think the response today would be vastly different.
#MeToo has taught society to listen to victims. It’s made us aware that a lot of systems need to be redesigned in order to support, rather than penalise, victims for speaking out. By removing the barriers to victims sharing their experiences, #MeToo has created a community of support. Victims know they are not alone, and their voices are strengthened with numbers.
The #MeToo movement has also sparked a desired for accountability. It exposed the bias towards perpetrators within our current system and raised awareness by exposing just how prevalent sexual harassment is. As a result, the protections in place for powerful men are starting to dissolve.
Due to these changes, we’re looking harder at why and where sexual harassment occurs. Rather than focusing on the behaviour alone, we’re starting to criticise cultures of disrespect towards women and targeting the sexism that forms the precursor to sexual harassment.
But there are still undeniable problems. While the barriers to speaking out have been removed, victims are still at risk for doing so. Christine Blasey Ford received numerous death threats for her testimony about Kavanaugh. Further, #MeToo was centred around the voices of women with a lot of power and privilege. Extending the same support to those with less privilege is the next challenge for the movement to tackle.
The progress we have made is not irreversible. But it is important. Looking back can give us the momentum we need to continue. Feminist activism has changed things for the better. More women are being believed than ever before. And our voices are loud enough to drown out those who try to silence us.Support Villainesse