Hannah Brown is the President of Durham’s Intersectional Feminism Society. She is from Glasgow and is a Classics Student with a real interest in gender and modern reception studies. Alice, Politics Editor, asks Hannah about the successes and shortfalls of the #MeToo movement from an Intersectional Feminist perspective.
How do you perceive MeToo, do you think it’s an effective movement?
It is an effective movement, the whole message behind it and what it tries to produce; a strong community which can speak up about their experiences. But obviously theory is different from practice, and although its achievements have been great there’s also a lot it hasn’t done. Its complete focus, with men as the perpetrators and CIS white women as victims, is still heteronormative which can lead to a lot of men or transgender victims questioning their experience, in the sense of asking ‘does my experience matter?’. Of course it does and it’s so important we create a supportive and safe space for other victims as well- and we’re already starting to see more male victims incorporated into that landscape.
Given that the hashtag is supposed to be inclusive, do you think it’s not doing what it should do?
I think it has been inclusive to a majority and as with most things, the majority wins out. But we also need to be aware of minority groups who have been affected by MeToo, and others that have been affected in negative ways, such as those in same-sex relationships, different ethnic minority and class groups that are not being given the same scope. For example, MeToo is mainly focused on celebrities who tend to be in the upper echelons of society which means we are no longer focusing on ‘ordinary’ working class people. The movement needs to incorporate a wider range of people and create a more accessible platform.
How do we do that?
We need to make it less of a titillating fantastical movement – a lot of people like it as it’s people and celebrities we know so well. But we need to ensure social conditioning isn’t simply teaching us to be more interested in celebrities and we need to ensure it is more focused on people outside of that community. Now we need to focus on communities with more working class people and minorities.
What do you think the role of feminism is within MeToo? Do you think it’s stopping people from joining the movement or encouraging them?
Feminism’s aim is to try and create an equal platform for all through a message of inter-sectionalism and if you are a true feminist then you should be aware of that and work to ensure that feminism keeps its message of equality – supporting victims and also educating everyone who is capable of being a perpetrator. And everyone is capable of being a perpetrator in as much as everyone is capable of being a victim.
We believe that MeToo helps to reinforce the narrative of man to woman, so do you think the hashtag of MeToo should be continued? Does it need to be changed?
The issue isn’t the name, the issue stems from people’s interpretations and people’s own- without sounding condescending- ignorance. As a white straight female, I openly admit that I have my own ignorance and I’m not excluding myself from that. If we are explicitly referring to the MeToo movement, it is inclusive – that you can join in by saying me too, I’ve experienced it too. We don’t need a new hashtag, although I can understand the argument for starting a clean state. But if we go back to the hashtag in its pure meaning, it stands for inclusivity.
But has it been effective a year on?
Overall yes, its created a community, mainly a virtual community, that have been able to come together and open up about a lot of issues. It’s great to see a supportive and inclusive community. But the only issue that I have with it is to ensure it creates a more intersectional message.
Do you think it encourages men to be involved?
The reason it may detract men is because the vast majority of people that are victims do tend to be women and as a result, it is seen solely as a women’s issue to a lot of people. I feel that if you take a look at the statistics then everyone will realise that it doesn’t mean to exclude men but simply follows the majority of cases where men are the main perpetrators of sexual violence. This isn’t meaning to attack men who don’t perform these actions, it simply informs people as to how it is. And I believe men should get behind it as it helps men as much as women. If a man is intimidated by a vast percentage of women being sexually abused by a male perpetrator then I think we have to question those men and their empathy towards women.
What do you think it does help men?
It helps men to realise the issues of sexual assault and violence and it also helps men to realise what has happened to a victim and how it makes them feel. MeToo is based on communicating feelings, which helps people of all genders, including men who are actually victims. The MeToo campaign has had male victims come out and ensure we’re tackling toxic masculinity, and so it’s done more good for men than harm.
So it’s helped men to identify those within their communities and made them more aware of what they might be capable of?
It’s created a general awareness through a macrocosm of people’s own microcosm, where more distant relations for people that they don’t know are applied to people they do. It’s helped more men to get involved but it needs more action to make sure that men feel included.
Do you think it’s turned potential attackers into cooperators?
It’s a very emotive campaign so I believe it will have. It’s both pre-emptive and post-emptive by helping people realise that there is a humanity behind the crimes that they commit.
How do you feel about the narrative of constructing women as victims?
It’s dependent on how a woman wants to be portrayed, as a lot of women take empowerment from being able to speak out about their sexual assault they therefore don’t want to feel like defenceless victims. But also, a lot of women do, so it really comes down to the fact that people are different and it depends on the way they want to handle the crime. It’s important we are making sure people feel in control of their own lives.
Do you think that including people through MeToo deems people’s experiences into more generic and less personal experiences?
Not really no. MeToo shouldn’t be about thinking that people are sexually assaulted in the same way as you and therefore devalue your own personal experience. It simply ensures that people are within a community where you feel compassion between people who have had similar actions committed against them. MeToo doesn’t limit a personal involvement, it simply acts to bring people together.
Photo Credit: William Batt at the Durham Union Debate on ‘Has Feminism lost its way?’
In-Article Photo Credit: Tom Hampson via Facebook