This year’s celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8 comes on the heels of an unprecedented reckoning against sexual predators.
Powerful men have been falling from their perches in the wake of the Me Too campaign that has empowered women to break their silence.
The social media hashtag #MeToo caught fire in the fall of 2017 following allegations of sexual harassment against now disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Women outside North America are also telling their stories.
On Twitter, French women use the #MeToo equivalent of #balancetonporc, which means ‘snitch out your pig’. In Italy, it’s #QuellaVoltaChe, or ‘that time when…’ Among Spanish speakers, it’s #YoTambien.
Here in Canada, a deluge of accusations has reached the corridors of political power.
Kent Hehr, federal Liberal MP for Calgary Centre, resigned from Cabinet pending a probe of allegations of sexual harassment.
Claude-Éric Gagné, a senior member of Justin Trudeau's team, was let go from the Prime Minister’s Office following claims of inappropriate conduct.
The New Democratic Party suspended Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir, who is facing an investigation for harassment.
Hedley, a successful pop band from B.C., was removed from the lineup of the 2018 Juno Awards, which is Canada’s version of the Grammy Awards, because of allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Me Too campaign is also catching on in the Philippines, where a number of women journalists have come out to share their experiences with male colleagues and politicians.
Women are not going to stay silent anymore.
By freeing themselves of the shame that kept the veil on a culture that tolerated sexual harassment and violence, women have also broken the wall that isolated them from others.
Women have forged a new level of unity, and this is where the true power of the Me Too phenomenon lies.
The momentum of Me Too has the potential to propel women to change many of the things that have kept them from fully realizing their gifts.
Although women have made valuable contributions in all settings of life in Canada and around the world, challenges remain.
According to Status of Women Canada, women are underrepresented in fields that make decisions affecting the lives of everyone.
Women make up less than 22 percent of the board of Canada’s top businesses. Only 26 percent of current MPs are women. Only 18 percent of municipal mayors in the country are women.
In the workplace, women on average earn less than 30 percent compared to men. They also spend more time caring for children and seniors, and performing domestic work.
The Me Too phenomenon should open the door to meaningful discussions about the real meaning of equality between men and women.
It is also an opportunity to look deeper into a prevailing culture, where sexism runs so deep that it often renders empty laws designed to prevent and punish discrimination.
With no sign that Me Too is letting up, men have a responsibility to show solidarity with women.
Men had been taught that boys will be boys, and this outlook has to change. Locker room talk and sexist jokes normalize behaviours that have caused trauma to many women. Mansplaining will have to stop.
Perhaps the easiest way for men to help is for them to listen and hear what women have to say. That would be a good start.
By the CFNet Editorial Board