Prof Bev Skeggs
Academic Director, AFSEE
The ‘Me Too’ campaign is just a start of a campaign to bring to the world’s attention the horrific behaviour of men around the world, and it draws on a long history.
It revealed the ubiquity of the different forms of harassment to which women across all differences are subject, something that was further revealed when it was found that half of British women have been sexually harassed at work.
What it also reveals is the paucity of male power, from the pathetic attempts to touch without consent to the brutal forms of violence used to damage women. These abuses are on a continuum because they operate on a scale of what the perpetrator thinks they can “get away with”.
Their gestures and attacks are displays of entitlement, of right of access to another, of complete disregard for what the woman might think or feel. The general response given to “why did you do it?” is because they could. Power without restraint. They didn’t think they’d be held to account.
It’s about time they were.
The ‘Me Too’ campaign reveals the levels of structured gender inequality, both disrespect for women and the tragic forms of masculinity whose connection to women is through the abuse of power. What does it say about these types of masculinity when some of the most powerful men in the world resort to such desperate measures? Men who clearly are not comfortable enough in their own psyches to respectfully relate to others. Their pathetic masculinity is fully revealed when we hear their excuses, desperately calling for collusion from other pathetic men, whose entitlement also knows no limits, who have not been fully socialised, who think they won’t be called to account.
The institutional structures that protect these men (in government, education, TV and film industry, sport, aid agencies, no doubt ALL institutions) is where forensic attention should now be drawn. Without the protection of these institutions that sustain and perpetuate the abuse - an additional form of institutional sexual harassment - those who think they can “get away with it” will continue to try.
This is institutionalised gender inequality writ large. It is bare power.
Me Too was the start of a new push to call the men and the institutions to account, and it is a struggle that must continue.
Harassment in the UK
In the UK approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that's roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. Ministry of Justice 2016-17
In the UK one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime. Office of National Statistics 2017
On average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. ONS17
On average the police receive over 100 calls relating to domestic abuse every hour in England and Wales. ONS17
Hope for the future
We take heart from the activism described in this blog by our Atlantic Fellows, Jane, Saida and Rania, who document how these struggles continue across global spaces and generations. Being alert to the scale of the different challenges is heartening, but also sad that it is incumbent upon future generation to have to continue the fight.
If men stopped abusing their power all this energy could be turned into something much more positive.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme, the International Inequalities Institute, or the London School of Economics and Political Science.