Americas, Brazil, Human Rights, Opinion

The Sexual Harassment Campaign that Inspired #MeToo

We have all read about Harvey Weinstein’s not so secret preferences of forcing himself on women. We have also read a couple of #MeToo tweets about sexual harassment, and even though this campaign started as a consequence of the Weinstein’s crimes, it actually has a predecessor: #MeuPrimeiroAssedio – #MyFirstHarrassment.

On the one hand, it is good news that the sexual harassment topic is not a taboo anymore, on the other hand… it is really depressing to see the number of women, all around the globe, who had had such terrible encounters in their lives.

#MeuPrimeiroAssedio – #MyFirstHarrassment.

But what horrifies me the most, is that age doesn’t seem to be an obstacle. Valentina Schulz, a 12-year-old Junior Master Chef contestant, called the attention of many men on Twitter who thought it was a good idea to say things like: “She’s gonna be a porn star at 12“, “If there’s consent is it pedophilia?“.

Think Olga, a Brazilian NGO, started the hashtag “#MeuPrimeiroAssedio” (#MyFirstHarassment). It was meant to promote the sharing of sexual harassment stories from women in Brazil.

The hashtag was the prime trending topics for five days. We can see this situation from two sides. It shows us that millions of people paid attention to how much harm women have gone through, but it also tells us that there are so many stories to tell that this hashtag was up for five days straight.

What is Wrong with Society?

According to Juliana de Faria, founder of Think Olga, the stories shared with the hashtag were disturbing. More than 80,000 tweets of girls from 9 to 50-year-old who went through sexual assault and sexual harassment situations. Those numbers tell us that disrespect towards women is normalized, and the #MeuPrimeiroAssedio campaign worked to raise awareness about it.

Is it about the way women dress? Or is it because “they constantly want it”? The answer is neither. Women today can dress the way they want. Wearing shorts or a pronounced neckline doesn’t mean they want to be raped or to be involved in a sexual proposal. Neither in the middle of the street nor a bar.

Sadly, and particularly in Latin America, society is still strongly patriarchal and misogynistic. Women, even though they have many rights and the liberty to do some things, they are still seen as men’s property, and the problem with this sexual harassment topic is that men really do not understand when they are being abusive.

What is Sexual Harassment and What Isn’t?

The prime question that men keep asking on Twitter and Facebook. We are all free to look. When humans find someone attractive, they stare and enjoy it. But once you try to make an approach and say inappropriate things or when you follow a girl asking her out once she had said no, that is sexual harassment.

Some people like to joke and say “well, one of these days we (men) are going to jail just for saying ‘good morning’ to a girl.” It’s not just about the words you use; a good morning salute can transform from something polite to something uncomfortable depending on the tone you use and the situation you’re in.

Manoela Miklos, a social scientist from Brazil, launched a similar campaign with the hashtag “#‎AgoraÉQueSãoElas” (now it’s her turn). It became trending, but most the tweets were from men talking about how important it was to listen to women, and that was the issue: they were speaking, not listening to them.

Sexual Harassment in Everyday Life

Instead of making profound social changes, women are changing their outfits before leaving their place to avoid unwanted commentaries or approaches from men that do not have limits.

So how exactly do we fix this, you may be asking? First of all, stop calling women “feminazis.” It may be a joke, but jokes have a sticky feature. They are easy to share and once you laugh, the message got to your brain. That’s why women complaining about men staring inappropriately leads to the F-word and them not being taken seriously.

Secondly, if you find someone attractive on the street, find kind words to say it and think if it really needs to be said. When we are on the street, we are minding our own business, so a kind way to interrupt someone’s monotony would be excusing yourself. It’s not the same thing to say how badly you want to do things to a woman and saying she looks beautiful this morning.

We Have a Long Way to Go

I am putting it very simply, but this complication goes way deeper. And if you want to check it yourself, take notice of how many pornographic websites promote sex with teens and female family members. Yes, it is something going on screen, but it teaches some deranged men that it’s okay to pursue this kind of pleasure.

There is still a long way to go for feminism to achieve equality. But social media campaigns and feminist protests all around the globe are slowly helping to raise awareness about this situation, and hopefully, someday close, it will be over.

About Daniela D. Franco

Daniela is a Social Psychologist from Venezuela, she is interested in the changes technology and the development of social networks generate into human interactions, and is currently studying Digital Marketing. She enjoys reading, writing and biking while David Bowie is playing in her iPod.

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