“This is Dakota Johnson. Please leave a voicemail after the tone and I will record and share your stories, so that we can live in a world where she is equal.”
Women all over the world have heard these words, recorded by Johnson, after the actor invited anyone who identifies as female to call and share their stories with her of sexual harassment, abuse and assault for the podcast she has now launched the first episode.
Posting a picture of her phone number on Instagram, she said: “Women and girls in every corner of the world face extreme violence and sexual harassment on a daily basis.
“Over 800 women and adolescent girls die every day because they do not have access to reliable contraceptives and basic maternity services. I don’t want to speak for you. I want to listen to you.
“This is my phone number. Tell me your story in my voicemail, and I will listen.”
Now nearly a year later, Johnson has collated the responses and curated them into a podcast called The Left Ear, named as such because your left ear is the one closest to your heart and as she says in her most recent post “by listening with your heart, you can save someone even just a little bit.”
Describing the process of creating the podcast, Johnson says: “One year ago I asked women and girls around the world to call me and leave a voicemail telling their stories of sexual violence, harassment, and gender based inequalities. I didn’t want to speak on their behalf, I wanted to listen to them.”
Johnson continues to explain that the voices of those who have taken part have been slightly pitched and any identifiers have been removed to ensure the women and girl’s anonymity is protected. She also notes that listening to the podcast can be quite “intense” and asks listeners to look after themselves.
So far, one full episode is available to listen to as well as a trailer and prolouge, with more following every Monday from 7 October. Throughout the inaugural episode, which lasts just over ten minutes, several women share their stories in retellings that feel raw, traumatic, emotional and yet, nearly always, uplifting.
Through traumas such as being sexually abused by a family member or kidnapped and assaulted, many of the women speaking on the podcast have a surprisingly positive message. Some say that they refuse to let their experiences define them or to continue living in fear and one speaker, after delivering a powerful monologue about being abused by a teacher, finishes her piece by saying “go kick some ass”.
Although incredibly difficult to listen to, this podcast is crucial to bear witness to the experiences women are having and could be the unexpected jolt of strength and optimism that we all need.
Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.
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