There they were, more than 100 women of fame and fortune, assembled for the prestigious Golden Globe Awards. Fashion writers and reporters charged their phones and their cameras. Ready!
And they were all wearing black.
They didn’t have to articulate their position because everyone knew what they were saying. “#MeToo”, and “#Time’sUp”.
And for the first time it wasn’t just glamour and dresses and fun – Hollywood had something to say!! The film industry had been hit badly by scandals of sexual harassment, starting with Harvey Weinstein but spreading quickly through television and even print media. Women were speaking out about this one topic that had always silenced them. Soon women from all walks of life were offering understanding and support with the simple phrase “MeToo.”
Tarana Burke, who works for an organization called Girls for Gender Equality, coined the phrase ten years ago after a conversation with a young girl that left her shaken. The girl had been horrendously abused by her mother’s boyfriend, and Ms. Burke could not find adequate words to sympathize but signified her understanding with just that simple phrase. Me too.
Later in an interview with CNN Ms Burke said “On one side, it’s a bold declarative statement that ‘I’m not ashamed’ and ‘I’m not alone.’ On the other side, it’s a statement from survivor to survivor that says ‘I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I’m here for you or I get it.'”
And now suddenly it seems all women, and many men, get it. All women have been objectified, disrespected, harassed at some time in their lives. Ok, yes, you can agree with Catherine Deneuve who says it’s often “innocent flirting” – brush it off if you aren’t interested. That’s fine as long as there is no power disparity. But the power dynamic brings a radical change to the situation, whether the power is authority within the family or workspace or even in simple terms of physical size and strength.
That night at the Golden Globe awards was a real high for so many women. Billie Jean King, the feminist tennis champion who accepted the challenge to play against Bobby Riggs in 1973, was there, in black. Meryl Streep was there, in black, and Oprah Winfrey was there, in black. Oprah gave a stirring speech which ended with the hope that no girl anywhere would ever again have to say “Me too.” By the next day people were getting excited about the idea of Oprah for President in 2020, and her speech was being compared to that of Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004 – which signified he would be a force to reckon with in 2008.
But this is perhaps not entirely serious.
Two days after the awards, Christiane Amanpour interviewed Meryl Streep who talked about the very real change she feels in the air. There won’t be any going back to the old ways, she said, because women now talk to each other. Men, therefore, are put on notice: you can’t get away from this. Time’s up!
It is interesting that she sees the main element of change in the fact that women are more willing to talk to each other, make their experiences public. That means that the women of all cultures can indeed take action to end sexual harassment. We could do it here; we just need to open up and talk. Time’s up!