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#MeToo movement looks to November midterms

Brett Kavanugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court over the weekend was met with loud opposition from many, especially those who support the #MeToo movement; because it showed that their painful stories were still not believed and appeared to have no relevant impact where it needed to.

Kavanaugh who in his hearing claimed he was the victim of character assassination amidst very strong, sexual assault allegations from Dr Christine Blasey Ford was confirmed in a narrow 50-48 vote, that saw him promptly sworn in at a private ceremony, by Chief Justice John Roberts and the man he will replace, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, thereby cementing his lifetime appointment as a Supreme Judge in the United States.

As  the senators voted on the confirmation of what has to be President Trump’s most controversial nominee, protesters in the gallery shouted ‘Shame!’ and when he arrived at the Supreme Court in Washington to be sworn in as an associate judge, he was met by hundreds of protesters demonstrating on the steps of the building.

Many of those protesters who waved such signs proclaiming  ‘Women must be heard’ , ‘Believe Survivors’ and the most telling, ‘A woman brought you into this world and women will vote you out’, were arrested, and lead down the court steps with their hands in plastic cuffs behind their back.

Many took to their social media to express their disappointment, lively distrust and the questioning of the legitimacy of their legal system, with Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“The anger is real,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned on ABC’s “This Week.”

This bitter political fight became the cultural litmus test for the year-old  #MeToo Movement, which inspired women to speak out about their painful incidents of sexual harassment and abuse, as it collided with the ‘patriarchy of a political establishment dominated by ageing white men’ and received a serious blow.

Prior to his confirmation on Friday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat who along with her peers staged a last stand against confirming Kavanaugh, warned against what the backlash of such an appointment would mean for the country’s ethics.

“Today, in just a few hours, the United States Senate is going to turn its back on righteousness,” she said. “It’s going to turn its back on fairness and reason. And make no mistake, it is going to turn its back on women.”

With Kavanaugh becoming the 114th Supreme Court Justice, those following the #MeToo movement have set their sights on the November midterms, an outlet, that Winnie Wong, a senior adviser to the Women’s March, explained will allow women to voice their frustrations and be a ‘powerful political force’ for change.

She explained that the people she’s protesting with are ‘fired up’ and ‘enraged’ and said that they were only just getting started in their movement.

Barbara Smith, a psychotherapist who works with traumatized children, is also looking towards the midterms saying, “It’s important to vote to make our voices heard loud and clear”.

The 67 year old from Virginia noted her work and career was centered on helping people and families to find middle ground, however this situation had the feeling of domestic abuse. “Someone abuses their power and then they say: ‘Why can’t we all get along? Why are you so angry about this?’ It’s an issue of power. If we try to lower the partisanship while this group of people has all this power, they are going to continue to abuse it.”  She said.

The midterm is indeed an outlet for many to show that this kind of behavior where they are made to feel shut out is unacceptable and cannot continue.

 

 

 

 

 

The #MeToo campaign is a revolt not a witch hunt

The #MeToo campaign was designed to point out the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment, but here in Canada reaction to the campaign is widespread disapproval.  Instead of embracing and supporting women who speak out about sexual harassment, many Canadians choose to scorn, shame and defame them.

Research into sexual assault has found that, on average, only 4% of allegations are proven false, while 40% of those accused are proven to be guilty.  People who don’t know this research insist that innocent men will be destroyed by false accusations and claim the #MeToo movement is just a “witch hunt.” They ignore the facts. And these facts make it easy to identify a sexual predator:

  • Sexual predators push their victims into the court of public opinion to try to discredit them. They don’t care about the harm or shame they cause their victim
  • Sexual predators deny all accusations, unequivocally and strongly. They take to social media to broadcast their denial and shame their victim.
  • Sexual predators threaten defamation. This is designed to scare other victims from stepping forward, and push witnesses into hiding.
  • Women who come out publicly always get scorned and shamed – nobody wants that kind of attention, but sexual predators try to insist that their victims step forward to face the scorning.

Sexual predators need to scare both victims and witnesses from stepping forward, and threats of lawsuits are a common tactic they use to push witnesses into hiding.  Too few people know enough about the law to realize that they can’t be sued for giving private testimony.

Innocent men don’t push their case out to the court of public opinion, or allow women to be vilified when they come forward. Most large corporations have a sexual harassment policy that requires complete confidentiality through an investigation. This confidentiality is key to a fair investigation as it protects the woman who make the allegations, and the witnesses who might come forward.  It also conveys the message to all employees that they are free to report sexual harassment without being punished. Any company that doesn’t follow these guidelines has extremely questionable HR practices.

An actual investigation into sexual harassment needs to uncover if the person accused of harassment exhibited improper and offensive conduct, including objectionable act(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demean, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat.  Sexual predators often ignore the fact that by taking their fight to the court of public opinion they are publicly trying to shame the women involved. They will usually demean her, and try to intimidate her, without even realizing that their actions display an attempt to “belittle or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment.”  

Innocent men allow the investigation to be carried out without prejudice. Guilty men can be judged by the way they treat their accuser.  If they go public when she has asked for confidentiality, if they threaten defamation, if they try to smear her reputation, their actions indicate they are not innocent. A decent man doesn’t drag a woman out to be stoned in the court of public opinion, only a desperate man does that. 

The #MeToo campaign is not a witch hunt, it’s a revolt by women who have been silent for decades.

Is it ‘TIME’S UP’ for the 2017 feminist movement?

Women in the entertainment industry — including actresses America Ferrera and Eva Longoria; lawyer Nina L. Shaw; actress Reese Witherspoon; producer Shonda Rhimes; and lawyer Tina Tchen, to name a few — have come together to form an initiative that will fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and in blue-collar workplaces.

You may be thinking: sure, a whole bunch of famous people have come together to do some fundraising, big deal?! This happens a few times a year. But, in reality, the initiative TIME’S UP is much more than a pet project spearhead by a select number of privileged people. Instead of focusing on the sensationalist media coverage of the #MeToo movement, the initiative provides real support for victims and calls for new legislation that will penalize companies that tolerate sexual harassment.

As the initiative’s website says, “TIME’S UP is a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.”

After the social campaigns and the marches — this call for political and legal change is the next logical step. Ironically, it was a group of victims rather than those elected to lead our nations who stood up to call for this change.

TIME’S UP will provide a legal defence fund, based on $13 million in donations, to help less privileged men and women protect themselves from the fallout of reporting sexual misconduct. The fund will be administered by the National Women’s Law Centre, which has a network of lawyer and public relations professionals available to provide assistance.

The initiative is also calling for an increase of women (including members of the LGBTQ community and people of colour) in positions of power across all industries, as well as equal representation, benefits, and pay. Perhaps North America can follow Iceland, who made equal pay mandatory on Jan. 1. Every single company in Iceland now has to obtain a certification saying that men and women are being paid equally in similar positions.

Can you imagine every company in North America needing to obtain proof of pay equality? It’s the stuff of dreams.

TIME’S UP was formed after 700,000 female farmworkers sent messages and letters to celebrities throughout the entertainment industry following the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo social media campaign. “Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security,” they wrote. “In these moments of despair, and as you cope with scrutiny and criticism because you have bravely chosen to speak out against the harrowing acts that were committed against you, please know that you’re not alone. We believe and stand with you.”

The TIME’S UP website leads with a letter written to show support for those farmworkers, in which over 300 people within the entertainment industry acknowledge their suffering and stand with them to try and help change the system.

The initiative is volunteer-led and doesn’t have a leadership team. It is comprised instead of smaller working groups, each one tackling a certain area. For example, one group is creating a framework to end sexual harassment in show business while another is reviewing legislation that will tackle abuse within businesses, including the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.

About half of men think women are well-represented in leadership, despite the numbers that show otherwise. When the #MeToo campaign started to trend, most men couldn’t fathom how many women had been sexually assaulted.

2017 may have been labelled as the year for feminism and women’s rights, but nothing actually changed. Perhaps more people are aware of the situation than before, but there was no legislation promised by politicians and no guarantees made by industry management.

There is still a lot that needs to change in order to ensure gender equality — and our time is not up!

 Featured Image by Vini.