What is this about?: This book is a collection of essays from women, and a man, in Australia who experienced sexual abuse, harassment at work and at home.
What else is this about?: The stories are written by diverse women, in diverse fields and yet their experiences are much the same.
#MeToo is not just about famous people … If #MeToo is going to ultimately make the big difference we all want to see, it’s got to mean something for [any] woman who gets harassed. – Julia Gillard
This is the first collection that aims to make sense of the #MeToo movement in Australia. A collection that follows Julia Gillard’s imperative to listen to the stories of every women who faces sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment. Contributors cross boundaries of colour and class, ability and disability, region and industry.
Like the movement itself, this is an anthology about unearthing and listening to the things that happen away from the public eye, in one-on-one moments, and that we can only know about when women speak up. But it is also an attempt to grapple with how this movement has evolved, about toxic masculinity, cyberhate, rape culture, a gendered economy. It is a collection that tries to create a forum for what happens next. Where we can go from here.
Above all, this is an anthology that resists victimhood.
#Me Too: Stories from the Australian Movement is a collection of essays from diverse Australian women, who work and play in diverse fields and their experiences of exclusion, harassment, abuse and the misogyny they have experienced.
It’s hard reading, but illuminating too for these are women in fields in which I never thought about their experiences and its exhausting because while details are different the underlying message from the men around them is that they do not belong; that they are there to be looked at and judged by their bodies and what they can do.
Here’s a selection of stories that stuck with me:
In This Place Eugenia Flynn writes about Indigenous Australian women and how their fight against the stereotypes of being Aboriginal affects their choices when it comes to #MeToo
Carly Findlay in Us, Too talks about being an appearance activist who writes and speaks about ichthyosis, a severe skin condition that she suffers from and disability issues. She writes about the abuse she endures from within the disabled community.
Greta Parry in #Metoo and Other Women writes about a message she saw one day about her current boyfriend and the behaviour he once subjected other women too — hitting on girls and being intimidating. She goes on to question what becomes of the Georgina Chapmans of this movement, who bear the consequences of their partners’ actions.
Fleur McDonald in Breaking the Silence talks about the rural experience, of being in a house kilometres away from other house and enduring emotional or other abuse. Abuse, Fleur writes, can so easily go ignored in rural homes and communities. That’s why she started an organisation called Breaking the Silence.
Rashmi Patel writes about her experience in a start-up in Who is Afraid of Hindi. The start-up insisted that everyone speak English in the office because it was too clique-y. Management never realised that speaking Hindi provides support in a white office. And it’s that support that comes together for a young Indian woman who is being harassed and doesn’t want to lose her job.
Kaya Wilson in Among Men writes about how his experience as a woman affects his present post-transition. He writes about men needing to change how they react to gendered violence.
Jenna Guillaume in The Lucky Ones chronicles what she has had to do to protect herself at different stages in her life from walking down the street to how she learned that her body will always be seen first. She is 32 at the time of writing this piece and counts herself as one of the lucky ones for having survived her experiences with harassment during her lifetime. It’s sad that in a country known as the Lucky Country, the lucky ones are the women who have survived the abuse from men in their lifetime?
And not to mention, the poetry from accomplished writers that are sprinkled through this book.
This book is thought-provoking and engrossing and forced me to think about things I should have a long time ago.