#MeToo #ThatsHarassment – but where do we go from here?

#MeToo

A few weeks ago, I was watching the Channel 5 News. They were launching their new campaign: Everyday Harassment. As the guests were speaking about the campaign, their own experiences and the experiences of the people they had engaged with in the course of the campaign so far I found myself nodding along as they shared their stories. It was all too familiar.

Just a few days later when I was walking down the street – I was followed down the road by a stranger shouting “Are you single love?” luckily I was able to cross the street and lose him – but I decided to contribute my experience to the Everyday Harassment campaign using their hashtag (#ThatsHarassment) You can see my tweet below:

I was absolutely disgusted with some of the responses I received as a result of this tweet:

“No – It’s a question”
“Just a way of asking ya out”
“Love ginger girls – I shout that lol”

These men clearly did not see anything wrong with following a woman, who clearly did not wish to respond to their crass advances, up the street and making her feel uncomfortable.

Of course, this is just one small example of the incidences of harassment which occur over and over again every single day. Too often woman are expected and told to “just put up with it”. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS.

I believe that the only way to create change in this regard is through education. Young people (of all genders) should be taught how to create and maintain positive relationships, the value of respect and most importantly, consent. They need to be taught how to recognise harassment and abuse when it happens, and crucially how to challenge it and have a safe environment in which to do so. Workplaces should also have a legislated duty of care towards their employees, to provide adequate training and an environment in which a person who has experienced sexual harassment can feel that they could report incidents in confidence, be listened to and be believed.

In light of the reports made against Hollywood film director, Harvey Weinstein and the recent Court battles faced by singers Taylor Swift and Ke$ha, sexual harassment has been forced to the forefront of the world’s media. Whilst this is hugely important in terms of raising awareness of the issue at hand and giving survivors enough confidence to come forward and cite their experiences and ordeals, I keep seeing the words “shocked” and “shocking” which leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. To say that something is shocking would imply that it was out of the blue or out of the ordinary. Try “repulsed” or “disgusted”. Sexual harassment is not a new phenomenon and it shouldn’t be treated this way in the media.

In Hillary Clinton’s new memoir “What Happened?” she recalls the second presidential debate in which Donald Trump followed her around the stage, lurking behind her as she put forward her answer to a question. She explains how despite the temptation to call him out on national television, she opted to do what many other women do when harassed: ignore it and carry on. This debate made for particularly uncomfortable viewing – as with the Channel 5 news report – I felt like screaming at my television. I was watching something that has happened to me and my friends more times than I can remember, happening to a woman on live TV and STILL nothing was being done about it. The world watched his attempt at intimidation, and the audio footage leaked just day before in which Trump alluded to “grabbing [women] by the p***y” and yet America decided that he was still worthy of their vote. Sexual harassment and misogyny wasn’t a serious enough issue to make people withdraw their support for Donald Trump and he won the election despite his behaviour.

Whilst I am glad to see sexual harassment being covered to this extent in the media, this is long overdue. It’s time to turn words into action – SHOW that this behaviour is no longer going to be tolerated. It’s time for new legislation to protect those who have experienced sexual harassment and to fairly punish the perpetrators, to educate ALL people about consent, respect and positive relationships and to finally break the silence once and for all on this epidemic that has been going on for far too long in our workplaces, schools and homes.

If you would like to learn more about Channel 5’s Everyday Harassment campaign – you can find them on Facebook and Twitter, and if you would like to share your own experiences with the campaign, you can do so using the hashtag “#ThatsHarassment”.

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