Cayla Marie Peterson
On Thursday, Jan. 25, ten UCSB staff and students sat down in the MultiCultural Center to discuss the effects of the #MeToo Movement in today’s society. The event, held by MCC Program Coordinator Sepideah Mohsenian-Rahman, was the third meeting in a series of discussions entitled Courageous Conversations. The dialogue ranged from defining nonverbal cues to acknowledging accountability by two parties, from Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech to Emma Watson’s, “white feminism.”
Lauren Clark, a graduate student in UCSB’s Department of Feminist Studies, led the discussion. “There is a continuous problem with the legal definitions of consent,” Clark said. An allegation levelled against Aziz Ansari’s sexual misconduct on a date, as recounted in babe, was a starting point for conversation. Opinions differed on how to approach Aziz Ansari’s inattention to nonverbal cues. While many spoke against the apparent victim blaming towards the ”Grace,” the article’s subject, others felt she should be just as responsible for vocalizing her discomfort as he should be for not noticing her discomfort.
As the conversation continued, participants began to discuss accountability. One attendee felt there has to be more than nonverbal cues to signal sexual consent; however, others felt nonverbal cues are strong enough to give a clear message. In Aziz Ansari’s case, many students and staff remained curious about the nonverbal cues given that night.
Many agreed that because of men’s inattention, inability, or disregard of women’s comfort levels, more thought should be put into what consent entails. In our current culture, the assumption is that consent has to be verbal and that women should be held accountable if they do not speak up.
Although there was general agreement that social media is helping address problems that fall into the vastly growing gray area of sexual assault, some participants expressed their concerns that the social media movement is lacking inclusivity. Participants expressed that the movement has to create a platform where every woman can see herself in the movement and where every victim feels safe to speak out. The table fell silent on how exactly to create a safe place for the young victims who feel as if they have no platform.
British actress Emma Watson addressed that there is a distinction of feminism amongst race, class, and gender after she obtained criticism for unintentionally spotlighting the struggles of only a “White Feminist.” Although Watson spearheaded a strong campaign for feminists, she initially failed to understand that other feminist women who speak against injustices would be treated differently due to their social class or race. The consensus around the table was the movement has struggled to create dialogues between social classes and race within the ideology.
Praise over the movement accompanied the dialogue, as the staff and students verbally applauded the movement’s ability to hold assaulters accountable and give women, men, and children encouragement and support to call out their attackers.
However, as the room continued to acknowledge the positives, one mother of three voiced concern of how to continue the support when the movement falls off the twitter trending section. This only began to spark more questions in the room. How do we help and speak up for women when companies like Facebook block or remove their posts, enabling predators and rendering victims silent? How does the public place men of power like Harvey Weinstein in jail instead of offering him an insufficient bailout price?
“Where do we go from here?” was the biggest question that was left undecided at the table. One graduate student voiced her support for young girls to always be confident and strong. The table seemed to agree that the #MeToo movement can only be the start.
Participants agreed that everyone needs to be held accountable for persecuting predators, uplift people who speak out, and increase the initiation of conversations among all races, genders, and classes. As the meeting concluded, the staff and students around the table all seemed to agree: as #MeToo grows more prominent, people who identify with it need to make sure they create a movement in which everyone feels empowered to say “me, too.”