Members of Concordia’s It’s On Us committee joined together with students on Friday, Nov. 3 to facilitate a dialogue surrounding the recent heightened visibility of the #MeToo movement on social media.
The #MeToo movement is the latest form of hashtag activism highlighting sexual abuse, started a decade ago by Tarana Burke, in order to encourage dialogue between survivors. The movement reentered the spotlight earlier this October when, according to the Washington Post, actress and activist Alyssa Milano called for a reemergence of the movement on Twitter shortly after the New York Times published an investigative piece alleging Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault.
The Nov. 3 event centered on the importance of consistently having open conversations about sexual misconduct and sexual violence, especially in light of the #MeToo movement.
It’s On Us is a campus-wide campaign led by Concordia’s Student Government Association focused on creating an awareness of sexual assault, said It’s On Us member Michelle Ziperovich.
“What it does is it tries to make people see that the topic is not a taboo anymore, and that it’s something that happens to others around you,” she said.
Ziperovich stated that she feels it is especially important to keep in mind aspects of society such as toxic masculinity and catcalling, and how those experiences influence our outlook on the world.
“It’s important to be aware,” she said. “I want people to be able to understand that both men and women have the same rights; nobody should feel higher or lower.”
Kylie Windecker, Concordia’s alcohol and sexual assault programming coordinator, said that there are many reasons why open dialogue is important when speaking about sexual assault.
“Sexual misconduct is such a complex topic; you can never fully discuss something in a hashtag, or in a tweet, or in a Facebook status,” she said.
As for #MeToo, Windecker commented that she felt that the number of differing reactions, ranging from an embrace of the movement to rejections of it, has been good to see.
“I don’t think any of those reactions have been wildly inappropriate; I think there are some instances where people have been enlightened that there are experiences that they weren’t aware of,” she said. “And what does that mean for us, what is our responsibility? I think that all good things deserve dialogue, because things are complex. If something was easy, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Whether or not the hashtag fades from relevance, those at the dialogue panel openly voiced their desire to continue on the conversation, both in their own lives and within Concordia’s institution. Emily Ronsburg, a student at Concordia and a resident assistant in Hoyum, stated that she felt optimistic about what was said during the dialogue.
“I thought it was a really good space to have a conversation that’s really difficult to have. I think this is a very good start to what could be a really important change, both to the community of Concordia and nationwide or worldwide. I was really hopeful coming out of it.”
As for the future, Windecker expressed her hopes for an intervention plan, to be launched in some capacity next semester. Though not much is set in stone concerning the plan, Windecker stated that her vision for the intervention plan would have three steps, including reviewing rape culture and gender norms, ways that individuals can responsible and openly respond to a survivor of sexual misconduct, and bystander intervention training.
“I think there are so many things to talk about, and we want to carry on the conversation, to explore what does this mean for Concordia, and what does this mean for us?” said Windecker. “It shouldn’t just be a ‘one and done’ kind of thing.”