After #MeToo, The New Year Gave Us Fragile Hope that Times are About to Change
The year 2017 largely went on record as being nothing more than a nightmare we all wish to forget. There were few bright moments to celebrate but one that will likely ever be forgotten is the #MeToo movement that quickly spread across social media in support of survivors of sexual violence.
In the months following #MeToo — and more recently, #TimesUp — there’s been a seismic shift in the way we talk about sexual assault and harassment against women. For too long, society at large has allowed for misogynistic, sexist, inappropriate and abusive behaviour towards women to go unchallenged but now, for the first time, change is in the air. For the first time, the world is beginning to listen to victims rather than judging, shaming and blaming them.
What a difference a year can make.
This improved conversation about assault and harassment is new and of course, hope that it might create real change as opposed to timely dialogue is fragile. But there are reasons to be hopeful that the former just might come to fruition: This month alone, there were numerous events to indicate that times are in fact changing. From powerful displays of solidarity among both women and men to legislative reform, the first month of 2018 has given women a few reasons to hope that maybe, just maybe, a new day is on the horizon.
Stars show support and solidarity at the Golden Globes
Perhaps no industry has been more shaken by the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns than the entertainment industry. Last year, the world watched as dozens of high profile stars and directors were brought to their knees after their histories of harassment, assault and abuse were uncovered. In a refreshing show of solidarity with victims, celebrities at this year’s Golden Globe Awards attended the red carpet event wearing black and took advantage of every available moment to speak out against gender inequality. Some of the stars chose to walk the red carpet with activists as their dates, while many of the presenters used the stage to challenge the system. It was Oprah Winfrey however who stole the night: While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award – the first black woman to ever receive the accolade – she delivered a formidable speech that called for change while simultaneously praising the many courageous women who have come forward to share their truths.
Justice is served for more than 150 of Larry Nassar’s victims
After 20 years of accusations that went ignored, justice was finally served for the more than 150 women, many of them Olympic athletes, who were molested by former doctor Larry Nassar when this week a judge sentenced him to 175 years in prison. The presiding judge, who upon handing down her sentence told Nassar, “I’ve just signed your death warrant,” allowed for a full week of victim impact statements. One hundred and sixty eight brave women came forward over the course of seven days to share their stories of abuse and ultimately, survival. Rightfully, they didn’t hold back as they each delivered emotional testimonies of how Nassar’s abuse impacted their lives (BuzzFeed News published a powerful roundup of some of the survivors’ most impactful statements, which you can check out here). Many of the women have also criticized Michigan State University (MSU) for failing to prevent the assaults and protect the victims. In the aftermath of Nassar’s sentencing, MSU President Lou Anna Simon resigned, while it was also announced that a special prosecutor has opened an investigation into how the abuse went on for so long without any university action.
Shining a light on sexual assault in Canadian politics
While the long overdue #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have largely centered around abuse perpetrated by powerful men in the U.S., this week, the campaigns crossed the border into Canadian politics, ending the careers of two prominent politicians. Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party Leader Patrick Brown and Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative (PC) Party Leader Jamie Baillie resigned this week after allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” by several women surfaced. Though the allegations have yet to be proven in court – Brown vehemently denies the accusations while Baillie has remained mum on the issue – it’s nevertheless a significant moment for women in Canadian politics. As 22-year-old Arezoo Najibzadeh, an advocate and co-founder of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, explains in Flare Magazine, sexual misconduct is prevalent throughout Canadian politics and furthermore enabled by a culture of silence. While there is still much work to do, Brown and Baillie’s resignations send a clear signal that times are changing.
Iceland moves towards equal pay for equal work
While Iceland has held the top spot in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for nine years, the small Nordic nation is showing little sign of slowing down. This year, the country became the first in the world to pass legislation making it illegal to pay men more than women. According to USA Today, the new law, which went into effect January 1 and aims to close the gender pay gap by 2022, “makes equal pay for equal work a must in the country – irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality.” Although the new policy isn’t a one-stop solution to unequal pay (there are various other factors that contribute to the gender pay gap, such as the fact that women are more likely than men to interrupt their careers to take care of their families), it’s nonetheless a positive step in the right direction.
Social movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, supported by a renewed conversation about sexual assault violence, have helped to empower women around the world to share their truths, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. These overdue discussions are only in their infancy stages and we have a long road ahead of us, but there are signs – albeit fragile – that a new day is on the horizon.
As I finish this post, a New York Times push notification just popped up on my iPhone. Is #MeToo catching up to Woody Allen? it reads. Sexual abuse allegations from his past are putting his deal with Amazon, and maybe his career, in peril.
A girl can at least hope, right?
But that’s just According to Adrienne.