Here she is, the reason for this website. Here she is, the dear teen of whom I speak so often.
Here she is, the smart and kind and beautiful Hannah.
Hannah, who is now 19, was overjoyed when I suggested we do a photoshoot to illustrate a topic which means a lot to me and even more to her: the place of women in society, especially in the light of MeToo and Time’s Up.
A topic that became important to me by necessity – not for myself, actually – but for them, these children that I accompany in the discovery of their lives, be it at 5, 8 or 19. What world will they live in?
The first two articles I wrote on the subject – available here and here – were illustrated by her younger brother and sister (from afar or with profile shots, always unrecognizable because they are underage and therefore cannot give me their consent). This is because my interrogation is about the present but mostly about the future: what is a woman’s place (and a man’s) in today’s world, yes, but what will their place be in the post-Weinstein world?
It seemed only fair that the last article of this series be illustrated by pictures of this young woman, who is undertaking a university degree which will help her understand the world she lives in from philosophical, economic and sociological perspectives, given that she believes everything is linked (and rightly so, in my opinion).
More than a year after the explosion of the Weinstein bomb, where do we stand?
Six months ago, I voiced a few wishes. I hoped that the legislative branch would start acting fast. That women who have been sexually abused would be given, and would pursue, judiciary expression. I also hoped that the media would respect the presumption of innocence principle, and that the tyranny of democracy which allows for individuals to insult, lynch and vilify one another through the relative anonymous channel of social media would end.
So, more than a year after the explosion of the Weinstein bomb, where are we?
Not very far along that road, I have to say.
Yes, there have been breakthroughs.
Several women were elected mayor in large U.S. cities, a woman was elected mayor of Montreal and the Woman’s March has grown all around the world. In January 2018, Iceland became the first country to enforce their equal pay for men and women act.
But from a legislative point of view, I have not seen – in the U.S. or in France – any worthwhile initiatives reinforcing women’s rights in the face of sexual harassment and abuse or sexist behaviors.
On the contrary, under Trump’s presidency, women’s rights have been increasingly challenged, be they around issues such as abortion, equal pay or the legitimacy of their voices when calling out sexual harassment in the workplace.
The context was already tense, given the fact that the President himself has never shown a great amount of respect for women but the Trump government took it to another level when it suggested all aid and government funding should be withdrawn from clinics offering abortive services and from organisms providing support to victims of domestic abuse, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This is how the State muzzles and silences women.
The Trump government repealed the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” act, signed by Obama in 2014, which obliged every company providing services to the U.S. government to practice full salary transparency and prevented them from including a private arbitration of sexual harassment in the workplace clause in their work contracts, finally enabling every employee to proceed with their litigation through the court system, thus making it public.
By repealing this act, Trump allowed for these affiliated companies to revert to a beautiful practice called the “cover-up”, enabled by the confidential nature of private arbitration. Yet another way the State has found to silence the voice of women and other minorities.
On 3rd April 2018, a law designed to enhance the fight against sexual and sexist acts of violence and was passed in France. It changed the prescription period for rape and sexual abuse from 20 years after the abuse was committed to 30 years, counting from the day the victim legally becomes an adult. Although the aforementioned measure is definitely positive, the law is mainly a communication strategy on the part of the government, which emphasized the action taken around the issue of street harassment for several months.
Let’s take a closer look at it.
All behaviors pertaining to street harassment, defined as “the imposition of all speech and acts with a sexual or sexist connotation on any individual, which either affects their dignity due to its degrading and humiliating character, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation for said individual”, will be fined between 90 euros (in immediate payment) to 750 euros.
We’ve got a slight issue here, though.
A fine entails that the police has to witness the behavior.
Which means they can only fine someone caught red handed. I have trouble understanding how that will happen, given that France doesn’t have a police officer posted at the corner of every street.
Just a communication strategy, I tell you.
And from a societal standpoint, where are we?
Not very far along that road, I have to say (again).
We are living in an age of incredible tension between men and women, which is extremely unfortunate, seeing as nothing can really change if both aren’t included in the movement. We are in a state of utter confusion, which is probably normal given our lack of hindsight, but very disturbing and problematic nonetheless.
The severely lacking legislative arsenal and educational support combined with the poor mediatization of affairs relating to MeToo and Time’s Up, makes it difficult for anyone to have a clear view of the situation, as we are stuck between judicial time and media time, which do not run at the same speed. When it comes to our children, the only thing in our power is to explain, again and again, to repeat ourselves endlessly when it comes to advocating for the respect of others, to telling them that you should do onto others as you wish they would onto you, without distinguishing on the basis of gender, color or social condition.
I am writing these lines shortly after the explosion of another bomb, this time in the United Kingdom. Indeed, after an eight-month-long investigation, the British newspaper The Telegraph became aware of five cases of repeated sexual harassment perpetrated by the CEO of a very well-known English company.
The issue was that all of those abusive behaviors were covered-up with clauses of confidentiality, which bind the victims to silence regarding the affair.
Uncertain about the protocol, they brought the case to court, where it was quickly settled: between the contractual power of a confidentiality agreement and the freedom of the press invoked by The Telegraph, contractual power had the upper hand in the eyes of the English judge. As a consequence, no English media could publish the story.
In order to override this silencing of the fourth estate, Member of Parliament Peter Hain decided to use his parliamentary privilege to name the incriminated figure in the House of Lords.
His name? Philip Green. The super-mediatized billionaire founder of Topshop, the omnipresent English retail brand.
Once again, the creation of a state of utter confusion. I hope Peter Hain had access to a solid, evidence-based case before calling Philip Green out. These endless series of mediatized explosions are creating torrents of purulent mud and I’m referring not only to disgusting abuses committed but also to the witch hunt 2.0 enabled by social media.
Welcome to the post-Weinstein era.