The voices of #MeToo break global silences
I had just experienced one of my biggest traveller dreams – a holiday in Mexico.
Sad to return to SA after a break from the exhaustion and mansplaining of #MenAreTrash, I was relaxed and feeling energised.
On our connecting flight from New York to Milan a man in his mid-fifties sat between my friend and I.
She sat in the aisle seat and I at the window, as we preferred.
The man was friendly, telling us about his life and his journey to Pakistan so that he could spend Ramadan with his elderly mother.
Despite being bleak that there was a stranger, my friend and I felt comfortable including the nice uncle in our conversations as we prepared to take off.
But as the lights dimmed in the cabin and everyone got cosy under their blanket – my friend sleeping and I watching a movie, something I never thought could possibly happen completely erased my Zen energy.
All of a sudden I felt a strange sensation – like the back of the man’s hand was brushing against my thigh.
I ignored it and thought it was a mistake.
But it happened again and more frequently, and I knew it was the “nice uncle” next to me touching me.
With my heart beating insanely fast, confused and unaware of what to do, I moved more and more into the corner of my seat hoping that this wasn’t happening to me.
But it didn’t stop. I then pulled my blanket off so fast and stared at him dead in the eyes, he stared back and moved his hand away – by then it was on top of my lap.
Traumatised by this man’s brazen predatory behaviour, I burst into tears and wrapped myself in the blanket trying to decide whether I should wake my friend up or call a flight attendant for help.
I decided to keep quiet because there wasn’t a single open seat and I didn’t want anyone else to experience this revolting man. We had seven more hours to go … so all I did was cry.
He then taps me on the shoulder and asks “Does it make you feel uncomfortable when I do that?” Shocked by his question, I exclaimed, “Yes! Yes!”
“Sorry, okay, sorry!” he responded.
As the flight descended, he started telling me about the movie he was watching during the flight … as if nothing had happened.
That was one of many moments of powerlessness I, like other womxn, who shared their story this week felt, as the #MeToo campaign encouraged womxn to break their silence on their experience of sexual assault.
The #MeToo hashtag, which garnered millions of posts on Twitter and Facebook globally, is a powerful moment.
Womxn are taught from a young age how to make sure that they don’t fall victim to predators and I, like many other womxn, can’t recall the men in our lives being taught how to avoid being predators.
The focus was consistently shifted off men and on to girls – freeing men of any responsibility for their behaviour.
Society has taught us that it’s our responsibility, after all, to make sure that men behave as dignified members of their community.
This notion continues to disempower womxn and shove us into a corner where we’re encouraged to behave better, dress better, speak when spoken to, all in honour of these privileged men.
While some might have seen #MeToo as just another “woke bandwagon”, it allowed the formation of a global community where womxn could speak about abuse and not suffer in silence in fear of further being abused, not being believed and publicly ridiculed – suffering twice.
By speaking out you regain your power.
#MeToo contributes to the end of encouraged silence and shame.