Stylists’s Lucy Mangan explains why we need to keep up the momentum of #MeToo in 2018.
Well, we’ve had a week to wish each other a happy new year – now, let us MAKE IT SO!
My own resolution is to take things on, in all senses. To say ‘yes’ to things from which I would normally shy away in fear. To get involved with more stuff. And most of all, to encourage women to press our growing advantage.
Obviously there was much about 2017 that was sh*te. But the #MeToo movement took us out of it on a high. The isolated dots that had been our private, individual and – we had been told – shameful secrets began to join up into one public, comprehensible and unignorable picture of the power structures in which we are all so embedded that they seem normal and unchangeable.
Actually – seemed. SEEMED normal and unchangeable. They don’t now, and this is the advantage we must press. It is easy enough to ignore the bleating manbabies complaining that “Soon we won’t even be able to smile at a woman!” (You totally can, you just mustn’t do it while rubbing your penis under the table or threatening to demote her for no reason – ’Twas ever thus! ’Twas ever simple!)
The next stage in the fight is to resist focusing on individual perpetrators. It’s important, symbolically, but not the most important thing in real gainful terms. It’s the picture of that power structure we need to keep in mind, and that’s what we need to expend our energy on dismantling.
That means turning our attention away from the glamour of Hollywood and using the new awareness of how widespread abuse of power is in other industries and demographics. A recent TUC report, for example, found that more than 50% of women in every kind of job had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, 80% of them didn’t report it, and of the 20% that did, few saw any positive outcome.
And those employed (disproportionately compared to men) in low-paid, precarious work (particularly in the caring professions and hospitality industries) are, as the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights notes, more susceptible to abuse. A complaint about unacceptable behaviour that can lead to losing your job and the ability to feed your family is not a viable option.
We need to make 2018 the year that those of us with the emotional, social and/or financial capital to spare can pass it on to those who don’t. Women in Hollywood including Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington and Emma Stone have launched #TimesUp, a campaign to help less privileged women fight for their rights that has raised $14m and counting for a legal defence fund for victims’ use.
Let’s take our cue for solidarity from them and from Tarana Burke, the woman who created the MeToo hashtag to draw attention to all the discrimination endured by her compatriots, and who has now joined with actress Alyssa Milano (who gave it its more recent incarnation) to create #HerToo, to demand better for all women.
It is time to start not just reaching out emotionally by sharing our experiences of assault but practically, by reaching our hands out to whichever women we can see might benefit from all the other things we have to give.
I’m promising myself that I will take on more of the invitations to speak at school and other events (I am terrified of it), that I will support MP Jess Phillips’ call to found a UK equivalent of Time’s Up, and that I will pick up the various mentoring balls I have dropped in recent months.
2018, we’re coming ‘atcha. #MeYouHerToo.