23rd Oct2017

#IBelieveYou and #MeToo Hashtags

by admin


This month was met with the emergence of allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, concerning sexual misconduct and incidents of sexual assault. This spawned a worldwide call for solidarity amongst women on social media who had never before admitted to experiencing sexual harassment and assault. Before long, I was confronted with this reality on my own Facebook feed.

These posts, although they detailed harrowing events, were no surprise to me, for as womxn, we do understand just how rampant sexual violence against women is in our society, particularly as South Africans. However, what I found to be most interesting is just how desensitised I had become before these hashtags, #MeToo and #IBelieveYou, to every day instances of gendered harassment.

This is, in part, the reason why I refrained from sharing anything as there was a part of my brain that would not conflate every day instances of harassment which I have experienced with traumatic events like rape and other forms of sexual assault. I realise now that my hesitance is the result of a subliminal conditioning which works to normalise everyday harassment. I have found that it is often a woman’s burden to ensure that she does not inconvenience others with her own discomfort and I find myself challenged with having to unlearn this way of thinking . Being harassed in public spaces, through jeers from leering men and relentless propositioning despite overt and visible discomfort, has started to feel invalid and this is a product of a rape culture which seeks to further embed fear in women’s minds. This is not a fear of the harassment itself (which is why the act is invalidated), but rather, it is a fear of what it could lead to. Thus, if we are spared any physical violence, sexual assault, or death, we sigh in relief and invalidate the fear that is associated with the initial act of harassment. So, it becomes hard to say #MeToo, although we understand that for all its worth, our #MeToo matters just as much as anyone else’s because catcalling, jeering and intimidation should not be a daily part of women’s interactions with men.

Consequently, I have not posted anything on social media, despite liking and reacting to countless posts by my friends and womxn around the world. This piece is my longwinded #MeToo, and my #IBelieveYou to all the womxn who have shared their experiences of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. It is also an affirmation for myself, and a request for us all – even those of us who have chosen to not share, or those who feel that their experiences are not valid – to say #IBelieveMe.

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