Remember months ago when there were so many accusations about Bill Cosby? There was a bit of a shell shock about it. How could someone we grew up with and held in such high esteem betray our trust so badly? How could such a groundbreaking entertainer who paved the way for progress in the African American community over several decades ever be such a habitual predator? We were just left confused and questioning what we thought we knew.
This is when the proverbial shit really hit the fan.
Fast forward to the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal. Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the levee break and the waters of accusations of sexual harassment come rushing in. Powerful, despicable people like Weinstein went down, drowning under the weight of the accusations. I also watched people I considered giants in their respective industries stand accused and, often times admit, their terrible behaviour - Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Louis CK, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey…It’s difficult to reconcile these accusations with the personalities I’ve come to know and trust.
In my opinion, the #metoo movement, which encouraged women to empathize and share stories of sexual harassment emboldened women to speak up. And boy, did it ever! The interesting thing is to watch this happen in America and in various cities around the world. Let me speak for my little part of the world, The Bahamas.
I do know someone who created a video sharing the story of an incident that she found to be troubling, accusing a former co-worker of sexually inappropriate behaviour. It was shared among a group of my friends. For the most part the men in the group, despite knowing character of the woman, still questioned her motives even when, to my view, there was really nothing to gain on her part. Instead she opened herself up to people she knows questioning her credibility and motives for speaking out. I can’t say that I was shocked, given the culture of victim blaming and slut shaming in socially conservative Caribbean society.
That made me wonder about why I haven’t seen much traction around the #metoo movement in my own country. Let me give a little context. In 2016 the government held a referendum proposing, among other things, to grant Bahamian women equal rights to men under the laws of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. And the majority of the country voted against it. Surprisingly, women were vocal about their opposition. One of the reasons was that women are not equal to men because that’s not what the bible decrees. In many churches on any given Sunday, male preachers are telling congregations large and small that the man is the head of the household and that women are relegated to the backseat when it comes to making decisions.
Having said that, it seems little wonder why women here haven’t really grasped on to this movement even insofar as having the conversation about it in a major way. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few woke women who are creating conversations around this but I think that these women are in the minority.
No matter how educated women are, if women are taught to believe that they are not equal to men and should not enjoy the same rights are not likely to believe that they have the right to not be treated as sexual objects by men in their work environment or anywhere for that matter. They will believe it when they are told that that’s just “how men go”. They will suppress the feeling of discomfort and smallness and take it on as their burden to bear as women.
I sometimes joke to my friends that if a #metoo movement started in The Bahamas and well known men were held accountable, we may not have any public figures left!
What is truly disheartening is my belief that if more women did come forward they would be berated not only by the men in our society but also by the women who should be on their side as a show of solidarity. Women who will question motives, actions, manner of dress and all sorts of other incidentals that don’t matter when it comes to sexually inappropriate behaviour - all in the name of maintaining the false pretext of a second class citizen status. Further, men and women will jump to the defense of the men because they cannot reconcile the person they may have known and liked for many years with accusations levied by "those" women.
To me the scariest part is that these women will raise daughters who feel powerless in the face of this predatory behaviour. They will go into a situation expecting it to happen and then sitting small when it does because well, what can they do? They are a woman and that’s just how men go.
I'll end on a hopeful note. TIME magazine's 2017 Person of the Year is The Silence Breakers. Women and men who spoke up about their experiences with sexually inappropriate behaviour. I will leave you with the Person of the Year video and hope that like me, you see the glimmer of hope for a better world that these people represent.
'm a strategic marketing communication consultant who works with premium brands to tell compelling brand stories, guide perception, drive engagement and build loyalty to win hearts and wallets. Find out more about me at www.royanndean.com, follow me on Twitter @royanndean and Linkedin.