Last year the word “feminism” was Merriam Webster Dictionary’s word of the year, racking up 70 percent of the online dictionary searches. If we strip down the actual word “feminism” from face value, given the context of the most recent events in 2017, it is more than just this word. It is the epitome of what is to come for women’s rights in 2018.
The #MeToo movement is just the beginning. Even I, a proud feminist, did not expect such a tsunami to arise from the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I did not expect it because our culture has a history of dismissing women who accuse men of sexual harassment and assault, and in turn, society silences them indefinitely until they fade into the background of the patriarchy.
For the last year, however, the voices of women have been lifted, even if by a mere notch. As a result of things like the 2017 Women’s March, the #MeToo movement, TIME’s Person of the Year the “silence breakers” and the #TimesUp campaign recently expressed at the Golden Globes, not only is a new year upon us, but a new era. Perhaps even a sexual revolution that could change the lives of women now and women to be.
It is also more than Hollywood that is getting gutted for its men using their power to sexually assault women. Since 2016, over 100 victims from the USA Gymnastics team have accused Larry Nassar, a former team physician, of sexual assault. This includes Olympic gold medalists like Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, who openly posted statements about their experiences. As of December 2017, Nassar faces life in prison for serial sexual assault charges and child pornography.
Even the Aziz Ansari story has sparked a difficult conversation about consent, and what it actually means. The difference between this story and other #MeToo stories is that the #MeToo stories are each different and unique, and not any person can directly identify with another. But the Aziz story is so familiar and common that we are quick to assume it’s not sexual assault because we all have experienced it. And if it is sexual assault, and we have all experienced it, it forces us to take a step back and really analyze those icky feelings we have about past sexual encounters. The Aziz story is complicated, but it has allowed us to examine what “bad sex” really means.
The #MeToo movement has helped not only dismantle a small slice of the political and entertainment power structure, but it has also helped the victims in our everyday lives. It has forced me to take inventory of my sexual encounters and reevaluate some of the negative feelings I have about my experiences and it has forced me to confront them head on. It has also helped those I love confront theirs. With that being said, however, it is only the first step.
It is absolutely critical that we use this ripe time of change to educate – educate not only ourselves, but also our peers, our friends and our family members. It is crucial to this new era of sexual revolution that we inform those who still remain ignorant to the issues at hand. We cannot remain silent when confronted with systems of oppression or unethical power structures. Time is up.