THE BLOG
20/10/2017 1:47 PM AEDT | Updated 20/10/2017 1:47 PM AEDT

What This Week Has Taught Me About Womanhood

The challenge is to maintain our momentum and see meaningful change occur.

"I'm overwhelmed at the sheer scope of negative experience at the hands of men being shared."
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"I'm overwhelmed at the sheer scope of negative experience at the hands of men being shared."

My Facebook newsfeed has been a disheartening place this week -- moreso than usual.

It seems that every post is either an indictment on HSC students who thought it was a hilarious idea to abuse esteemed poet Ellen van Neerven online because they were too baffled by a poem they had to analyse in their exam, or countless female friends using the hashtag #MeToo to stand in solidarity with women around the world who have been victims of sexual harassment or abuse.

Although these issues feel disparate in content, the common thread between them is people being victimised by sinister, cowardly people who feel that it is their great right to take from the world what they want, and turn nasty when their entitlement is repudiated.

Although van Neerven's case is not strictly a sexist one -- don't even get me started on the racist slime thrown her way -- it still smacks of gender discrimination. Women on the internet -- and in life -- are seen as fair game to many, and these two events have highlighted how pervasive this abuse is in every sphere of female life.

I'm a high school teacher by trade, a writer, and a raging feminist, so to hear of the dross directed at a writer who happened to write a poem some students didn't connect with is horrifying on many levels.

I'm not particularly interested in finger pointing at a specific generation -- the belief that our opinion is the only right one and that the world deserves to hear it is an intergenerational one -- but the insidious nature of online abuse directed at women and the fact that misogynistic culture is clearly not backing down is a widespread issue that needs to change.

The fact that students felt van Neerven was a deserving target for their rage is symptomatic of an culture with no accountability -- that will tell women exactly how little it thinks of them without much consequence. The fact that this attitude is being seen in kids on the cusp of a future that needs empathetic, intelligent citizens who will foster positive change is what feels most demoralising.

We won't put up with men like Weinstein getting away with their abuse. We won't ignore the systematic bullying of women online (or in real life).

With the quasi-macho rhetoric that is still being championed by high-profile men (read: much of Trump's disgusting talk about women being shrugged off by a huge chunk of media and voters) and the lack of online accountability for trolling (see the horrendous abuse Clementine Ford puts up with on a daily basis), it's no wonder that things are feeling bleak for modern women.

The allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinsteinhave lifted the lid on a culture of exploited power and low regard for women in the film industry, but they have also spawned the extraordinary movement of women sharing their own suffering on social media.

I'm overwhelmed at the sheer scope of negative experience at the hands of men being shared. Overwhelmed, but not surprised. Most women could describe instances of feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable. A great many can speak of much deeper physical and emotional trauma.

I'm finding flecks of hope in the sludge of this week: what is different is that it feels like the tide of public opinion is turning.

Faceless trolling online isn't new but the disgust at van Neerven's treatment is widespread and vocal. Weinstein's predatory practices have been occurring for decades but now the women he abused are finally believed and he's losing the power and prestige he wielded.

Women are pissed and are only getting louder. You only have to look at the #MeToo movement to see that the rage expressed in the Women's Marches at the start of 2017 has continued to boil as the year rounds the finish line.

We won't put up with men like Weinstein getting away with their abuse. We won't ignore the systematic bullying of women online (or in real life). The challenge is to maintain our momentum and see meaningful change occur, not allow pervasive and relentless sexism to have the loudest voice on women.