Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 9 News List

#MeToo is one year old — and the real battle is just beginning

The past 12 months have seen a sea change in our approach to the way sexual abuse is covered, but in some ways it feels like the real work is only starting now

By Eva Wiseman  /  The Guardian

How are you celebrating the anniversary of the fall of film producer Harvey Weinstein? Cake? Crackers? A festive sob in the loos at work?

Christine Blasey Ford on Sept. 27 told the US Senate Judiciary Committee: “I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me.”

Alyssa Milano (the actor who launched the #MeToo campaign), glared at them from the cheap seats as Republican senators waited patiently for the chance, one by one, to apologize to Brett Kavanaugh, US President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court who denies any wrongdoing, for the pain he had suffered.

And haunting the room, too, were the ghosts of Rose McGowan and Asia Argento, and the millions of people that came out as victims of sexual assault. A wood-paneled room, coffin-like, to hold the bodies.

Didn’t it feel as though we had been building to this? Building to this, over the past year of stories, this bloody showdown between the sexes, accusers and the accused, the men whose privilege was being poked?

A hearing, to follow a year of listening. And (though I write before the final decision is made) didn’t it feel like we knew, even before it began, exactly how it would end?

It’s been a year since Weinstein’s accusers came forward, though he still denies the allegations, and two since the broadcast of Trump’s “pussy grab” comment. And while on one hand it feels like we have witnessed great liberation in having heard so many swallowed stories of abuse, on the other, we grip a feeling of terrible weariness, the sense that only half the world has been paying attention.

I should have been working, but I was watching the live feed, and then the office emptied around me and I was late to a birthday party because even from 6,437km away the hearing had me stuck, pinned down.

“I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” a woman called Maria Gallagher told US Senator Jeff Flake as he stepped into a lift in the Senate office buildings.

“Do you stand with these women?” asked another survivor of sexual assault, Ana Maria Archila.

Flake stayed silent — his answer came later, when he called for an FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations. They had forced him to look into their eyes.

If a woman’s civic duty is to speak up, what is the civic duty of a man? Women have been performing their civic duties across the world over the past year, reporting their trauma, not just simply to bring down a bad man, but to kick at the struts of a society that allowed it to happen.

And it goes further than sexual abuse, it extends to the way women have spoken out about other experiences that would typically have been forgotten in the dark, from abortions to miscarriages, to shed light on the realities of life as a woman.

However, the obligation that survivors must revisit horrors from their pasts — and, in doing so, open other women’s carefully dressed wounds — is a requirement that feels increasingly empty.

Doing so is only worthwhile if it actually changes something. Otherwise, having witnessed so many of these spectacles, where survivors of abuse have been ridiculed and disbelieved, soon these voices will quiet, and women will retreat once again into corners where they whisper warnings about handsy bosses and Internet creeps.

The reason that Republicans are ushering Kavanaugh through, despite what can kindly be described as a C-grade job interview (one that would not even get you behind the till at Shoezone, sorry Brett — and imagine a woman behaving like that, with the tears, the shouting?) is because of his hardline views on abortion, which, when normalized, have an impact on all women.

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