Over the past year, I’ve had a drastic change of mind. It’s been whirlwind in the world of politics, and really, the world in general. Since September 2016, and even before, the world has blown up in a frenzy, from continually escalating conflicts in the Middle East, natural disasters, heightening tensions between North Korea and the U.S, to the end of net neutrality, child molesters running for Senate and women’s marches. But the one at the forefront of all of our minds is the relentless bigotry, hatred, incomprehensible election of one Donald J. Trump. It might sound ridiculous, but throughout all this, I was sure that at the heart of all this, it wasn’t about women. Hatred, probably. We have seen with our own eyes the racial tension, verbal harassment and outright unfathomable violence committed in the 2016/17 year. It seemed to me plausible that with ongoing social tension, extremely polarizing political views, events like the shooting in L.A were bound to happen. It explains the rise of Trump, built on a platform of ignorance and abhorrence, and the apparent rise of Neo-Nazism and white supremacy. But this soon changed. I had considered that maybe it was simply confusion. With the “fake news” phenomena, present from day one of the American campaigns, people have become disoriented in the world, seeking truth and knowledge in all the wrong places. Perhaps it was even a misconstrued nationalism, as people struggle to find their place in an ever-growing world, the need for social acceptance has become even more important. Where people once belonged to a state, country or ethnic group, they have now gravitated towards political groups and populist leaders. While all of these things are certainly key factors contributing to the harsh and irrational political climate we now live in, it is time to face a truth. This is about women.
First, Hillary Clinton was not elected. It was a shock to a political system that had been so sure of its strengths one night previous. Wednesday, November ninth, 2016 revealed the devastating loss that Hillary had suffered and a close win that the Republican party had pulled off. Everyone remembers that night, and whether they were Trump supporters or not, they were in shock. A sense of disbelief swept over news stations as the blue states turned red, and the once 95% predicted chance of Clinton’s win that night rapidly declined. It seemed like something out of a movie, or some cheap dystopian novel, but Donald Trump became the President-Elect in 2016. Immediately, my thinking went straight to- she failed. Because, after all she did. The Hillary movement never had strong grassroots participation across the board, missed large subsections of possible votes such as educated men and evangelical women but also failed to send a strong consistent message. Hillary was overqualified for the job, her years as a political figure giving her a plethora of experience, though this somehow hurt her in this election. The election was different in a way that our generation, and possibly the last two before us have never witnessed before. It seemed that people wanted a change and not just a slight political change, they wanted to “topple the oligarchy” on the left and “drain the swamp” on the right. It felt almost like revolution. The kind of revolution that Hillary promised was swiftly rejected, and was exchanged for the wild card candidacy of the Trump brand. And this was a change many wish they could take back.
And then, in one of the most stunning societal shifts in the last few decades, the silence was broken. This was a silence, held for perhaps centuries, was one of sexual oppression. On Thursday, October 5th, 2017, Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault. The allegations were heinous, revealing decades of “casting couch” practices, assault and even rape. As it turns out, there were more than 90 women who had been allegedly harassed on several occasions by the man. Weinstein was a harbinger of a rampant problem in Hollywood and the wider entertainment industry, prophesying the fall of hundreds of stars. Instantly, actresses, comedians, politicians, and women in general, began to feel empowered by the “silence breakers” to speak out against a problem that they felt (and rightly so) plagued the workplaces of women and men alike. Under the hashtag #metoo, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were riddled with stories of sexual assault and mistreatment of women. This was a huge awakening to the world, as the problem that we knew did occur, was much larger, and much more widespread than previously anticipated. Soon actors like Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K, Senator Al. Franken, former President George H.W Bush, Ben Affleck and numerous other public figures were brought to attention as alleged sexual assaulters. It was difficult to keep track of just how many people were perpetrators of sexual harassment, and the sheer amount of women affected was incomprehensible.
In the midst of this societal purge, Roy Moore was running for re-election to the United State’s Senate- and this, for me, was where everything started to come together. Roy Moore had been accused of child molestation. In devastating, and, as it turns out, very credible accounts, the victims alleged that they had been approached by, groped and even raped. Some of the incidents were isolated, while others were repeated. The youngest of the victims was only 14. Amidst these reprehensible accusations, Roy Moore used Trumpian tactics to defend himself. He called his accusers liars. It was simple but somehow seemed to be working on near half of Alabama. This had now reached national attention, that an alleged child molester was running for Senate, and yet somehow, Republicans seemed to be split on whether to believe him or not! Suddenly, this became more than just about a monster of a man, this became about whether to believe these women. Thankfully, after months of campaigning, Doug Jones, Roy Moore’s opponent won out. More importantly, this was a symbolic victory for the people opting to believe the women.
The “Me Too” campaign has now reached several sectors, starting with entertainment, moving to politics, and may begin to move into the business sector. Because of the environment teachers work in (dealing with minors), there has always been some level of alert when it comes to sexual harassment and crude behavior. In fact, there is a reference for this kind of behavior in the back of a magazine called “professionally speaking”. Monthly issues of this magazine are available online at http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/, in the “back section”. Though this is often dealt with swiftly, I believe that there are cases that have not come to light, some may be systemic and run deep. This movement has empowered women and men alike to have the freedom speak out about their experiences, and has sparked international conversation about what consent, respect and love really means. If this issue is truly as widespread as it is in other industries, the education system could come crashing down with the rest of them. Time’s up.