I applaud those whom over the last couple of years have courageously come forward to expose the heinous and despicable sexual abuse of their victimizers. Though, I am aware that not only women have been harassed and degraded by those in power, I will speak to women, first, because I am one, and second, because most times when we hear of someone being sexually assaulted, harassed, or otherwise abused, it’s a woman who is the victim. The #MeToo movement started by social activist, Tarana Burke caught fire in 2017 when actress, Alyssa Milano, a victim herself, used the hashtag on Twitter to encourage other victims of sexual abuse to come forward. Soon after, hundreds of others came forward as the movement went viral. This continued for months, as we, the audience, watched ambivalently. We were anxious to see who’d be next, yet sullen and disappointed in the men, many notable, including celebrities, government representatives, and professional sports team owners that had been living a double life for years. We sat glued to our phones and television sets as the likes of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Jerry Richardson, and Matt Lauer stood accused of all sorts of sexual indiscretions. According to news and entertainment media organization, The Wrap, 556 high-profile people in total were called out since October 2017.
So what happened to all of these predators and their accusers? Where is the outrage and the outcries that were once so eminent when the movement began? Why has everyone seemingly been hushed? I can tell you that I don’t have the answer. I speculate that it probably a direct result of intimidation. One such example of this is the SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuit that resurfaced in a new form after the heap of sexual accusations began to surface. Originally, designed to stop communication made to influence a government outcome that resulted in a civil complaint against an individual or organization, it has morphed into a strategy to protect the accused, and silence and intimidate those who show support for the victims of sexual abuse. Other forms of intimidation are less blatant, but are as old as time itself. Follow me if you will.
Because we live in a society that dictates it’s okay to prey upon women and cross lines of decency and respect at will, with no repercussions. Our society says that women are to be objectified and serve as door prizes for men with overinflated egos, and oftentimes, nothing else of size to match. Certainly, our culture doesn’t outright say, “Take our women and do with them as you wish”, but our laws clearly show where our priorities lie and it isn’t in protecting women’s rights. Need convincing? You don’t have to look far. It is apparent everywhere, including workplace inequality, where women still make around eighty cents for every dollar men make for the same job, despite the passing of the Equal Pay Act in the 1960’s. In some instances, companies continue to practice gender discrimination and refuse to hire women at all. It’s apparent in the media, which warrants no explanation. It’s apparent in the fact that the sex trafficking industry is a $150 billion industry in this great land of the free that we live in. It’s apparent when a presidential candidate can proudly admit to being a “pussy grabber” with no regard or respect for women and still become president of the United States.
So, how does this all feed into sexual degradation of women? If you still can’t see it, I’ll make it plain. When we live in a society where women are undervalued in every way that matters, we are sending the message that it is okay to treat us like second-class citizens who are only good for the sexual gratification of men. So, now what? If the 556 that were called out were 556,000, would it make a difference? Probably not. As long as we refuse to hold our local representatives accountable for passing laws that protect women, nothing will change. When we refuse to rally around a cause and employ stick-to-it-ness to ensure that justice is done, we will continue to get the status quo. If we accept the bologna being stuffed down our throats that it’s just another case of boys being boys and “that’s just the way it is”, then that’s the way it will continue to be. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t bring about change because people sat around and talked about how bad things were; it brought about change because those impacted used their platform to galvanize those in positions of power until something changed. We know that sexual mistreatment of women is a known problem in America. What are we, as women, going to do about it?