The Harvey Weinstein allegations were just the beginning. Millions of women worldwide are now sharing their own experiences of sexual harassment. Triggered by revelations about alleged predatory and systematic abuses suffered by young Hollywood actors, the Twitter hashtag #MeToo has gone viral. But how can outrage be translated into action?
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reported in 2014 that more than half of all women in the EU have personally experienced sexual harassment. Since the Weinstein allegations came to light, surveys have shown that half of women in Britain have been sexually harassed at work, and more than half of French and German women have experienced sexual harassment and / or sexual assault at least once in their lives.
This is not just an issue for Hollywood. In the UK, the scandal has reached Parliament, with ministers resigning and London’s political district of Westminster dubbed “Pestminster” by journalists. The European Parliament is also accused of having a “culture of silence” over sexual assault and harassment. People are coming forward with their experiences in all walks of life, from journalists, to chefs, to workers on temporary or zero hours contracts.
What needs to change? In France, politicians have been debating passing new laws to protect victims of sexual harassment. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has also called for tougher legislation, saying she has personally experienced harassment even at the highest levels of politics.
There is also, however, a growing recognition that nothing will change unless men change. It’s true that both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment. However, it’s also clear that it’s overwhelmingly men harassing women, not the other way round.
Men can take a stand to stop sexual harassment. They can speak up when they see it happening. They can take seriously victims who come forward with their stories instead of dismissing them automatically. They can change the way they talk about women with their male friends and colleagues. It’s ridiculous to argue that taking these steps will somehow lead to a sexless dystopia or a Handmaid’s Tale for men.
How can we stop sexual harassment? Do we need tougher laws? Or do attitudes towards women fundamentally need to change? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!