Why #MeToo matters for all of us

Especially in Cambridge

CN: sexual assault, r*pe.

The #metoo campaign, originally started by Tarana Burke, took over Twitter when American actress Alissa Milano posted this tweet:

Her point was to demonstrate that the allegations against Harvey Weinstein are just one example of a culture where sexual assault, and even rape, is normalised.

A lot of people still hold the view that rape culture doesn’t exist. Just the other night I was talking to a friend about this very subject over dinner. We began to share experiences.

Experiences like when, from the age of twelve, strange men began to shout at us from their cars, or whisper in our ears on escalators, snaking their arms round our waists. Or how they’ve chased us down dark streets when it’s late at night and we’re in heels – the lack of proper lighting in Cambridge making it all the more frightening.

At swaps, when drinking games force us into uncomfortably intimate positions with people we barely know, and we’re told by one guy that he’s not interested in talking to us unless there’s a chance we’ll have sex with him.

Or being followed onto an empty train carriage, fearing for our lives whilst a man tries to get us to go on a date with him, threatening to follow us all the way home. I doubt he even realised that we were scared of not making it off the train alive – he was just trying to get a hot girl’s number.

The worst part of it all was that we’d actually shared very little of this stuff up until that night, because we considered it so normal. I think that the majority of aggressions are made in ignorance, because aggressors think it’s normal too.

Except it’s not normal. They all exist on the same spectrum, all the way from rape at one end down to shouting out of cars at the other. It’s about wielding genuine terrifying power over someone who can do nothing about it. And it’s exhausting to constantly just deal with it, because it’s “normal”.

Some have suggested that participating in #metoo is in some way attention seeking. And it is. That is precisely the point. Attention needs to be brought to the current epidemic of sexual harassment and everybody needs to realise that none of these experiences are okay: nobody should have to go through them.

It’s good to see that more attention is being paid by universities to the issue of sexual harassment. Cambridge now has a new and much better sexual misconduct policy and we’re finally getting a full-time sexual assault and harassment adviser.

But there’s still so much to be done. A lot of this will simply come through raising awareness that this is not a way to treat people, or to be treated, an awareness that #metoo can help to bring.

That said, it’s certainly no one’s job to participate – your trauma does not need to be public to be valid. If by talking about your experiences you feel you might be putting yourself in danger, or if you still haven’t worked them through in your head enough to talk about them, it’s in no way your responsibility to write about them online.

But for me, that’s no longer the case. So I’m saying #metoo. Let’s put a stop to this bullshit.

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