The Fight for Gender Equality has been given a Voice
Women’s Marches, #MeToo, Time’s Up and the fight for 50/50 by 2020
Female empowerment has seen a surge and it is not going away. The conversation has begun and women are taking back the equality they deserve.
Since Donald Trump’s election, women have been pushing back hard against under-representation and a lack of gender parity. Another rich, white man, who has faced several allegations of sexual harassment, is in charge. He is the leader of the free world. Women have had enough. They are taking back the equality they deserve.
The election of Trump and the defeat of Clinton was expected to initiate a fall in the feminist movement. Experts predicted it would ‘cause women to retreat from running for public office.’ Women felt unheard and unimportant. But that has changed. As Hillary Clinton said;
‘In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere.’
The election of Trump provoked 3-5 million women to go out on the Women’s March in 2017 in the U.S. alone. But it took a different rich, white man in a position of power to spark the next major flame in the fires of the fight for female equality. The public allegations against Harvey Weinstein began on 05 October. On 15 October the #MeToo movement was reignited. Within three days over 4.7million Facebook users had joined the movement. The conversation had begun.
#MeToo was created to remind women that they are not alone. It is a concept that the creator Tarana Burke describes as ‘empowerment through empathy’. This simple hashtag was able to demonstrate how prolific sexual harassment really is in our society. CNN reported that ‘45% of US Facebook users are friends with someone who posted a “Me Too” message.’
Although the large turn out at the women’s marches and the reigniting of #MeToo may have begun as reactions to men, women are starting to take back control. As The Washington Post said of #MeToo, it ‘has helped to redirect a conversation about one man, toward one about the women who have survived sexual harassment or sexual assault.’ #MeToo allowed women to see that it was not just them. It allowed people to see how widespread this problem has become. Most importantly, it gave women a voice.
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It was this voice, this empowerment, that Time’s Up wants to build on. In their opening letter these women from the public sphere of entertainment recognise that they ‘have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices.’ They highlight that women should not feel isolated, saying ‘We stand with you. We support you.’
Most importantly, and in contrast to the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up has clear goals. Not only do they ‘seek equal representation, opportunities, benefits, and pay for all women workers’, but they also highlight that harassment persists because of a lack of consequences. Yet it is the final sentence of their letter which is the most important. They declare they have ‘the goal of shifting our society’s perception and treatment of women.’ This is the goal for all women’s movements. It is what all the fights are for.
There was recently a case in which an actor, Aziz Ansari,was accused of sexual misconduct. Many people describe Grace’s Story as very familiar. A woman trusted a man. She didn’t want to get further involved, felt obliged to do things she didn’t want to and didn’t feel listened to when she said no. She was left feeling shaken and upset after being in a situation that she wasn’t comfortable in.
Some people are arguing that she shouldn’t be publicising this or making a fuss. By her own account, he didn’t have sex with her because she said no and he did apologise the next day for misreading the signals. There has been a backlash for whether or not it sufficiently constituted sexual harassment for her to be included in the #MeToo movement.
But Kiran Samrai of Gal-Dem Magazine points out that
‘When we are debating which forms of sexual behaviour are rape-or-not, we are actually discussing “what is up for the taking”.’
This should not be a debate as to whether what happened to her was better or worse than for other people. It is about our culture in society that allows for this to be a common occurrence. This is exactly what #MeToo was highlighting and exactly what Time’s Up is trying to change.
People are speaking up
We shouldn’t continue to support a society in which sexual harassment, of any level, is a common and accepted occurrence. It is this that the women of Time’s Up were declaring when they wore black at the Golden Globes. Amber Tamblyn, one of the founding members of Time’s Up explains why they did it:
‘To uniformly reject our lifelong objectification and say: Enough…. It is a direct message of resistance…. We’re done being silenced and we’re done with the silencers.’
People in power are speaking up. Pat Mitchell, chairperson of the Sundance Institute’s board of trustees, declared that ‘Systematic, sustainable change is absolutely necessary, and it must come now.’ Melinda Gates empowered women calling ‘it needs more of you in government.’ ‘The Silence Breakers’ who spoke out against Weinstein were even named Time’s Person of the year. They were declared to have ‘started a revolution of refusal.’ For the first time in history women have a voice and they are receiving support for standing up.
This is the legacy of #MeToo. The hashtag started the conversation. Now action is being taken. Time’s Up has begun a legal fund to help ‘survivors of sexual assault and harassment across all industries challenge those responsible.’ The concept of 50/50 by 2020, which believes ‘Gender balanced leadership is good for business’ has been given more publicity through Shonda Rhimes. She persuaded ICM Partners to ‘Reach 50-50 gender parity on its staff and in leadership roles by 2020.’
Actions like these by high-profile figures are making the world see that we can change the world we live in. We can all make a difference. Feminism is no longer just a conversation. It is a movement with a voice, support and action.
Make sure your company is doing all it can in the fight for gender equality. Assess your workplace culture in our Managing Unconscious Bias workshops.
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Dates for the Diary
November 12th European Commission DG GROW
Informal talk on how to deal with sexism - 12.30 - 1400
November 25th Council of the European Union - Corporate Event
How to deal with sexism and harassment in the workplace
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