HAVANA TIMES – When Tarana Burke invited women from her support group to go public with the abuse they had suffered, she knew that bringing sexual assualt and harassment to the spotlight was the first step towards talking about it.
Burke helped young, underprivileged black women in the US from working-class families, who were victims of sexual assault, rape, etc. They needed to release this burden from their shoulders, to be heard, seen and validated.
It was a way of freeing themselves of this secret in order to process it, come to terms with it, analyze it; and it also helped other women to feel like they weren’t alone and/or to be on the lookout. As these efforts didn’t receive a lot of media coverage at that time, the ripple effect wasn’t that great. For example, in Cuba, we know very little about what happened with the Me Too movement in the first decade of the 21st century.
Ten years later, there was the Harvey Weinstein scandal where the famous Hollywood producer’s history of sexual abuse came to light, leading to a public outcry. Actress Alyssa Milano unleashed a storm on social media with a tweet calling on women who have been victims of sexual assault to post write “me too” on their social media, because she thought that this would be a way of seeing just how great the magnitude of this problem is.
Many responded to this new call to put the issue of sexual assualt under the spotlight and the hashtag #metoo went viral. In just a few hours, thousands of women had written “me too” on their social media, and it continued to snowball.
This has led to many people being taken to court, facing public scorn and their public figure falling to pieces. Powerful institutions have taken it upon themselves to bring justice to the victims, etc.
In Cuba, we are still a little out of the loop with the impact of the #MeToo movement, there have only been some isolated articles about international cases, and they are almost aways about well-known actors and actresses, or an important politician.
However, the #MeToo movement is more than a battle for the famous; Burke herself said this, who is wary about all the media scandal surrounding an issue that is so important. Getting here has taken years of suffering and revictimization, as well as studying, self-identification and challenging those in power.
It’s obvious that inequality lies at the heart of sexual assault and gender-based violence. Several Cuban feminists have stepped out on their own and dealt with this problem on their social media and in research or journalism-related articles; however, ordinary Cuban women are still in the dark.
#MeToo has taken over in Europe, Asia and Latin America and it has helped to expose annoying, disturbing and humiliating actions that are seen as “normal”, which women suffer the world over because of the patriarchy that has been established.
Sexual harassment happens every day, but it’s hushed up a lot of the time. Victims feel unprotected, fear reprisals and, sometimes, even feel they like are the ones to blame.
This is where the importance of this movement lies. It is not just about some scandals or the polarization of some people, #MeToo is a battle cry, to try and make sexual harassment and assault an issue to be discussed in public spaces, and to get people talking about it. Thereby, recognizing this ghost that roams in our cultural, education institutions and political organizations, out on the street, at work or within the family.