#MeToo is one step against sexual assault, but #WhereToNow?

What allows Weinstein, or my local lipstick pig, to operate in 2017? asks Shanthini Naidoo

23 October 2017 - 11:36 By Shanthini Naidoo
Actress Alyssa Milano, who asked her social media followers to reply #MeToo if they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Actress Alyssa Milano, who asked her social media followers to reply #MeToo if they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Image: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Of course, #MeToo.

One of my most subtle yet most jarring experiences was while driving my child to school.

As we bantered about the day ahead, I applied lip gloss at the traffic light, unknowing until too late that the neighbouring driver was nodding in approval or appreciation and licking his slavering lips.

I was shocked silent until a hooter reminded me to move.

Move on?

No!

I hooted lengthily at the pig who dared to bring his filth into my private safe space, a precious time with my baby daughter. She did not know what was going on, but soon she will.

Is anywhere sacred? Maternity wards, perhaps? Please let me know if you have been sexually harassed in a maternity ward so I can resign from humanity.

The ticker-counter for #MeToo, to highlight sexual harassment and violations against women, has been ticking over so rapidly since last Sunday that it is giving me eye fatigue.

The #MeToo movement took off from where the vestiges of morality and respect for women are eroded as the celluloid rolls - Hollywood.

The outing of film mogul Harvey Weinstein as a serial abuser of women, who apologised for touching a young actress's breast because he was "used to it", had people asking, what else are you "used to"?

Actress Alyssa Milano on Sunday asked her social media followers to reply "me too" if they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted, inspired by activist Tarana Burke who coined the phrase far too long ago.

After a week of the recent outlash, it seemed to have reached every woman and child in the world, and a number of men in the social media stratosphere.

Soon after, there was backlash. Some of it was constructive. "How can we help?" or "I believe you," men said, encouraged to respond. Many, many, did not.

Some said it was a repeat of #allwomen from previous months, finding it tiresome. Others said it was forcing victims to come out, that silence was okay, too.

Editorials spoke about how this is a construct of women networking as we always have, just amplified in the internet age.

WATCH | #MeToo - SA women share stories of sexual assault, harassment

But what we have to really wonder about after #MeToo, and the next hashtag to come, is #WhereToNow?

Can we discuss what it is that men talk about in their huddles around the braai, that allows Weinsteins, or my local lipstick pig, to operate in 2017?

If you are bromancing today, please talk about #MeToo and let it be known publicly if you have contributed to this. Don't be shy, now. Tell us #WhereToNow.

Because this five-character hashtag has united the affected all over the world, from all walks of life, against you. Against you all, yes.

Because what #MeToo means is that no corner of the world has left women untouched by the lecherous eyes, overpowering hands, the potty mouths of the instantly privileged because they have a penis.

Do you ever encourage each other to be pigs, or to stop being pigs? Are you all pigs? Is any single one of you innocent?

The #MeToos don't discern between levels of abuse: one is as unacceptable as the other.

It was every woman, and Lady Gaga, Oscar-winning Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood and, in days, millions, MILLIONS of internet-savvy women who shared stories and offered support under hashtags.

Women have to put up with overwork, are over-stressed, suffer over-illness from over-performing, and this too. Because since time immemorial, you have been immoral.

Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi tweeted: "#Metoo is a reflection of the social and cultural revolution that is sweeping the world. The victims are shedding the stigmatisation. We will not allow our children and women to be invalidated by societal constructs. I stand with you all till we end this."

#WhereToNow?