Six panelists gathered at BRIC House to discuss how the #MeToo movement can succeed outside of social media.
A philosopher, a lawyer, a human rights commissioner and three community activists sit down to discuss sexism and sexual harassment on a snowy evening. This was the scene of ‘#MeToo is Just the Beginning’, a #BHeard Town Hall hosted by BRIC on Wednesday, March 21.
BRIC’s TV Senior Correspondent Brian Vines moderated the panel consisting of NYC Human Rights Commissioner Carmelyn P. Malalis; Serene J. Khader, associate professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College; Maria D’Cruze, wellness group coordinator of WOMANKIND; Juan Ramos, anti-sexism activist and executive director of Southside United-Los; Ashleigh Eubanks, organizer for the Audre Lorde Project, and employment attorney Maria Chickedantz.
Before the panelists could discuss how to bring the #MeToo movement, which has given visibility to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in our society, beyond the realm of social media, #MeToo-founder Tarana Burke cleared up some misconceptions about the movement. Via video message, she explained that the movement is not about taking down powerful men, nor is it a movement only for women.
“I think it’s really important for us to understand that this a movement for and about survivors,” said Burke. “Our goal is to center survivors, to make sure they understand that healing is possible and to help survivors to craft a healing journey.”
Much of the conversation’s emphasis was placed on what it means to be an “upstander” — a person who takes actions such as listening to women when they open up about their experiences of sexual harassment and interrupting harassment as it occurs —rather than a bystander.
The group also acknowledged that working to end sexual harassment isn’t as easy as ousting out a few bad men in a company.
“We’re not talking about just what happens in the workplace; there’s a continuum of what happens on the streets or on the sidewalk in our communities and then going into the workplace,” said Commissioner Malalis. “We can’t expect that learned behavior or habits are just going to stop once somebody comes into the workplace.”
Part of stopping this behavior from persisting through time and communities is by not writing off movements like #MeToo, said Ramos. “Those movements continue to resurge in our communities for a reason, and that’s because we as men haven’t taken them seriously.”
As the conversation wrapped up it became evident that it will take a combination of everyday upstanders, government policy and the work of activists like the night’s panelists for the #MeToo movement to succeed beyond the screens of smartphones and laptops.