Abbie Warner reminds us all of the power we have and deserve.
Gender inequality is a problem that affects women all over the world. However, if we want the whole world to fight our cause, fighting for it ourselves is a good starting point. That is the position us women are in. We need to come together, reclaiming our power to show the world that ‘enough is enough’, and that we refuse to accept unfair, derogatory and belittling treatment for a moment longer. We must stand together and put up a fight: a fight to be heard, and a fight for change. None of us are alone in this suffering, and none of us will be alone in fighting for the end of it.
The media’s exposure of power abuse, in relation to recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein, shows a shift in their representation of the mistreatment of women. I have simultaneously been hurt by the number of women suffering at the hands of this disgusting conduct, and so proud of each woman coming forward to put forth her cause. Sadly, up against these brave women come a stampede of vicious and uneducated comments on social media, calling them ‘attention seekers’ and accusing them of ‘creating a trend of making allegations’. However, these phrases can be reclaimed by us to the effect of furthering our cause.
Firstly, are we attention seekers? Yes, we are. We are actively looking for the world’s attention. We want attention to be brought to the horrific acts that are taking place all over the world, in many different contexts, while society stands by in ignorance. We are calling for the attention of other feminists to argue our cause with us. We are calling out to misogynists to show them that we will not tolerate their misconduct, and that they will be brought to justice. So, when a woman comes forth and tells the world of the abuse she has suffered, she is not trying to boost her career, or her fame; she is trying to reclaim the justice that she deserves, and to reclaim the power these men have tried to take from her. She deserves respect and support, and if the world has not recognised this yet, it is something we will continue to fight for.
Secondly, are we setting a trend of making allegations? Yes, we are. Women revealing the sexist behaviour they have been subjected to is a ‘trend’ I will encourage and fight for, and it is not one that will go out of fashion; as long as women continue to suffer, we will fight for justice. We will use this ‘trend’ to replace the current ‘trend’ of abusing women and getting away with it. It disgusts me that we live in a society where a movement of women fighting for equal treatment is viewed as wrong, while a notion of male entitlement to use women’s bodies for sexual gratification is seen as acceptable. However, these ‘trends’ are finally being brought to the forefront of the world’s attention, and will remain there until our right to equal treatment is achieved.
It is important to remember that even though these stories are being picked up on in the context of Hollywood and the UK Parliament, abuse is still occurring in other places. It is all around us: in the workplace, in the streets, and in university. Most of us, if not all of us, will have experienced some degree of this abuse, be it in the form of verbal microaggressions that tell us we ‘belong in the kitchen’ or forceful advances in clubs. Some of us have even suffered physical or sexual abuse.
This kind of gender-based abuse particularly affects women who have intersectional identities, including BAME, LGBT+ and disabled women, as they are facing discrimination against multiple aspects of their being. Ellen Page recently disclosed the abuse that she suffered at the hands of Brett Ratner, who ‘outed her’ during the production of X–men: The Last Stand. At just 18 years of age, she was left feeling powerless and violated, attacked on the basis of both her sexuality and her gender. Reclaiming our power is not only about resisting violence against women, it is also about resisting the wide range of oppressions women face on a daily basis. No woman should be discriminated against on the basis of her ethnicity, gender or sexuality. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of having a disability, be it visible or invisible, or be discriminated against because of mental illness. We are beautiful because of who we are and who we choose to identify as. We are powerful women and no one can take that from us.
If you are one of the number that have suffered, please remember that you are not alone. Every time a woman receives unequal treatment, the entire community of women share the unequal treatment with her. Current affairs in the media offer hope; women are not going to stand for this, and will support their sisters from all walks of life, helping them to get the ‘attention’ and justice that they deserve. Every woman deserves to be listened to, be it in boardrooms, tutorials or her home. Every woman deserves to have autonomy over her body, the power to decide who, if anyone, gets to see and touch her body, and to what extent.
Anyone who has faced gender-based abuse has the right to speak out, if they feel comfortable and safe doing so. You will be accepted and protected by our empowered community of women. Equally, if you do not want to disclose your experience, that is your decision to make and your right, and you will be respected and cared for by us women, who are united in our cause regardless of our individual experiences. We will reclaim our power, and we are not afraid to demand the attention we deserve in order to get it.
Photograph by Rivka Cocker.
This article was written in response to the ‘Reclaim our Power’ theme, as part of the Reclaim campaign organised by the Bristol SU Women’s Network. To find out more about the events taking place as part of Reclaim, click here.