Over the last few years, Women’s History Month, which happens every March, has garnered an increasingly strong presence on the social stage. From the #metoo movement to #timesup, the conversation surrounding women’s rights is potent and powerful – and in some ways, we’re seeing this social attitude affect change at a speed that feels far faster than previous decades. Naturally, I am a supporter of social and political change, as that is how civilisations and humanity evolve. But at times, I’ve found myself a little frustrated at how the conversation is handled. Too often, it starts with a clear point, but becomes muddled, with polarised sides pointing fingers and white noise drowning out anything relevant or valuable to the movement.
I want to be clear that it’s not just in women’s issues where I see this happening. I see it in almost every movement or political hot topic. I see it in the current divisiveness of the United States. And in every example, I feel as though the same things are to blame – namely a reactive inability to listen – which results in a lack of real communication. And where there’s no communication, there’s no real progress – rather simply an illusion – and a whole lot of noise.
I think the #metoo movement is an example of this in some ways. I’ve found myself regularly shocked and outraged at so many of the heinous, violent crimes against women that have been uncovered. But I’ve also found myself wondering if this is a movement that has the potential to become dangerous? It’s difficult – if not impossible – to simplify something that is as complex as the #metoo movement on a mainstream level. There are so many grey areas. For instance, the terms ‘assault’ and ‘harassment’ sound just as bad no matter what the degree of action actually was.
We’ve had a lot of discussion about how men should behave. I think that’s very necessary and I hope it continues. But when it comes to a topic like women’s equality, too often we immediately position men as the enemy, and not as our allies. Personally, I think that’s a huge missed opportunity. If feminism is really about equality, then that means we need men to be on our team just as much as we need women to support one another. And we need to support them too.
It’s important to also talk about what women can do – not just as a collective, but individually as well. As women, we need to be fastidious about how we communicate. We need to learn how to better express when something makes us uncomfortable. We need to be clear about our personal boundaries. We need to let go of fear. And just as in any other political movement, we need to resist reactive tendencies and try to listen with an open mind. Because the true catalyst for change is not in what happens to
a person, but how one reacts to it.
I’ve had so many female friends share their stories of harassment and their #metoo moments, and it’s broken my heart over and over. I’ve wept for the countless women who have been assaulted whose stories we have not heard about. But I’ve also had male friends who, given the current climate, are terrified of being wrongly accused for ulterior motives – and some who I even believe have been. As it is with everything in this world, there are wrongdoings everywhere and we will not always be able to control them. But one thing we can control is how we conduct ourselves. And as a society, we need to clearly define due process on a legal level, so that if someone is accused of something, we have clear laws to also protect the accused, not just the accuser.