TW: #MeToo, sexual harassment and sexual assault
When the #MeToo movement came to light just over a year ago, it put me in an interesting place in my own life and really forced me to confront issues and events of my past that I had so long suppressed.
The movement mobilized millions of women around the world and their allies. It wasn’t a call for help — it was a call to action.
#MeToo and #BelieveWomen pulled back the curtain on many high-profile Hollywood A-listers, politicians, and people who were held in very high esteem. It was a stand to show that bad behaviour would no longer be tolerated. That what was once kept in the dark would now be brought into the light.
But there is still so much to do in this movement.
Tomorrow on Y57, I’ll have the opportunity to interview to incredible artists and musicians who are staking their claim in the #MeToo movement. The release of their powerful song, “Men Like You”, is a “battle cry for survivors” and a “call for sexual assault accountability in the music industry”.
Maryze and Ciele are excellent artists in their own right, and together, they have created a song that is not only pure magic (Maryze’s intoxicating voice and Ciele’s masterful production is incredible), but also has artists, musicians, and industry professionals taking a step back in reflection. It has me reflecting on my own experiences, even though I’m not in the industry myself.
I write this while listening to the song on loop, and I’ll let you take a listen to it as well.
The chorus is chilling:
I hope one day you have a daughter Hope that she likes music too Hope you protect her from the other men like you.
In its haunting simplicity, it shows forward thinking: the implications of sexual harassment and sexual assault have serious ramifications beyond the incident itself.
Some of the discourse around harassment and assault is that “boys will be boys” and that it is just a natural part of growing up. That these incidents are one-off, unique, and will never happen again. But as we’ve seen in the testimonies of women such as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and so many other women before and after her, these incidents are not unique. The memories and nightmares from such incidents can last for years and decades, and can impact these women in their education, work, relationships, and their mental and physical health.
There are also serious ramifications for the perpetrator, and that is exactly what is highlighted here in “Men Like You”. These men typically go on to lead somewhat regular lives, go on to have families and go on continuing to advance their careers. Some of these men will have daughters whose lives may mirror the ones of the women he has harassed. Some of these men will have sons who may continue to treat women with the same lack of respect.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Like many women before me and currently still, I have had my own issues with harassment and assault.
There are mundane things that happen every so often to the point where I’m not phased – from cat-calling on the street, to explicit messages sent by randoms on social media, to continue to be pushed after I’ve already said ‘no’ to a drink or a dance. This behaviour is just that – mundane. They’re isolated incidents that can be ignored or swept under the rug.
But collectively, they are part of a systemic issue.
The worst of it – the absolute worst – is when serious incidents like this are committed by people who you thought you could trust. Those people who you thought that you loved at one point. As Maryze sings,
Started out, so impressed with you Worried about what you wanted me to do There’s a gap in the story you choose To tell yourself I can’t forget, I never do
Such events are difficult to forget because they have lasting effects. I’ve dealt with nightmares and insomnia, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety, and a severe impact in the way that I relate to men, particularly men in power. I’ve come to tell myself lies that I will never be able to find love because I am not submissive enough and that I don’t take enough risks, or because men don’t love because I’m not attractive enough.
But all of these things are things that I have come to accept about myself. What I hate accepting is the fact that I will be worried about every single man who I potentially date and what harm they could potentially bring to me.
People tell me not to worry and to let them prove me wrong. People tell me that not every man is like that. And of course that’s true – there are some brilliant men out there who are excellent, caring, and the direct opposite of the monsters that we have seen come to light over the course of the #MeToo movement. Men like my own father, my grandfathers, and some male friends that I have the privilege to call friends. There are men of excellence.
There isn’t an on-off switch to turn sexual harassment and assault, but there is a way that we can change it. By changing our attitudes towards relationships, dating, and love, we can change our culture to one of respect. By understanding what consent means, being honest, and actually taking a step back to consider the other person, we might be able to take the first steps in conquering this seemingly impossible feat.
All this is possible. I know it.
EDIT (11.22.18): Take a listen to my interview with Maryze and Ciele on their song “Men Like You” on Y57 here. Lead image courtesy of Maryze and Ciele. Artwork by Gaëlle Legrand.