This week you have ‘me’, Deborah Campbell, founder of Future Female and Deborah Campbell Atelier, sharing my thoughts in the wake of the #metoo hashtag swarming social media over the last month. The facebook figures are impressive, in 24 hours 4.7 million had used the hashtag. The hashtag highlighted the huge proportion of women and some men who put up with sexual harassment, bullying and assault on a regular basis. And it’s harrowing and sickening that such actions have been ignored, dismissed as shameful or normal. The hashtag enabled me to say #metoo and confront my own sexual harassment experience.
So is this a story that will be just that? Or can we see change? Will we forget about it and move on? I don’t think so. It’s like when you learn of a terminal illness, you can’t go back. It feels more like a watershed moment.
Close to my heart is the movement of Future Female and how this looks for all cross generational women and the blog was born out of my need to promote everyday gender equality, eliminate the misogynistic chatter that surrounds us daily. It was a risk to put myself out there, because feminism is still not entirely understood, or embraced by both males and females. So what type of everyday chatter and negative phrases often used to describe women am I talking about? I’ve compiled this list (thanks Caroline Burke for sharing) comparing attitudes of men and women, some of which I have been accused of in my career and socially, and not just by men!
A man is forceful – a woman is pushy
He’s assertive – she’s aggressive
He strategizes – she manipulates
He shows leadership – she’s controlling
He’s committed – she’s obsessed
He’s persevering – she’s relentless
He sticks to his guns – she’s stubborn
A man is uncompromising – a woman is a ball breaker
A man is a perfectionist – a woman’s a pain in the arse
I think some Women may feel feminism is something that doesn’t effect them and happens to someone else. That’s how I felt for many years. It’s acceptable if you don’t feel the need to embrace feminism and you are happy with your relationships in the work place and socially. But if you are confused by feminism like I was, that’s ok too. What shifted my view was watching the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Ted Talk which I highly recommend ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, Ted Talk Click Here
Prior to watching Chimamanda’s Ted Talk, I realise I was frightened of confronting gender equality. To voice my concerns, when put in an uncomfortable situation was not easy, I was branded with one of the above phrases on the occasions I did, which made me feel uneasy.
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in a sexual harassment scenario like I was, when I was harassed by a business partner back in the early 2000’s, you may blame yourself, like I did. He was renowned for having an eye for the ladies, for being dominant, a bully and very used to getting his own way. My gut instinct was to have little to do with him. But I had to find a way to work with him, there was no choice. On a number of occasions he invaded my space and made me very uncomfortable, with bully tactics and inappropriate blocking of my personal space, made suggestive comments and intimidated me. Eventually after 5 years I decided to walk away. I never confronted the situation by calling his behaviour out, and only spoke to my husband and a few colleagues about it and then promptly put it away in my memory box and hoped to get over it.
In reality you take these experiences and hold on to them, not realising they do impact on your behaviour, thought process and development as a person. Ultimately my past has led me to launch Future Female. Although when we launched in July 2017, I had not even joined the dots to realise it had, until the Harvey Weinstein story broke, and the #metoo campaign gave me permission to unlock the deep rooted emotional memory of the sexual harassment I faced as a young woman.
During the #metoo campaign, started by Alyssa Milano, and founded by activist Tarana Burke, some have commented, ‘so why have these women found it so hard to speak up’? The same comments are made of women suffering domestic abuse. ‘Why does she stay’? Leslie Morgan Steiner, a domestic violence victim herself, tells us why in her Ted Talk, click to view. Ted Talk Everyone thinks domestic violence happens to Women, that it’s a womens’ issue, over 85% of abusers are men. It’s the same for sexual abuse and harassment. It’s often viewed as the females issue, her fault and often the threat of being victimised by speaking up is too much to handle. In my case I felt it was my fault, and I hid the fact that I walked away from the business because of it. I told myself I was tired of the way the business was being run, tired of where it was heading. Tired of what was happening in fast fashion, and while these were the reasons, another key issue was that I was not willing to put up with my business partners behaviour. I also believed I’d failed and I’d put my career in jeopardy by walking away from a profitable business. And I never once blamed the business partner, why? Because I was in control, the last thing I wanted to be was a victim, I never felt like a victim, because that would have made him the winner.
It’s like bullying, if you have ever been bullied as an adult, it’s quite hard to firstly believe that is what is happening and then to admit it and get out of it. I’ve been bullied on a number of occasions over the years. In some cases the warning signs were there right at the start, but I ignored my gut instinct.
I set up Future Female to promote everyday gender equality and encourage women to call out soft misogyny, the type of sexist commentary we hear on a daily basis, often condoned by ignoring it. If we change the small chatter that fuels such behaviour, I believe that the bigger issues of bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse won’t be as common place. I hope soft misogynistic behaviour will get stopped in its tracks as unacceptable before its had chance to manifest. The more we stand together as women and men and embrace the new wave of awareness the better the human race will be. The #metoo hashtag has brought to light behaviour that is no longer acceptable, it never was of course, but that was then and this is now. The Future Female movement will continue to grow and encourage debate and social change.
That said, some people will never adapt, so always trust your gut instinct, always believe when something does not feel right, walk away. I’m taking a piece of my own advice from now on. And tell everyone if you are at risk, as Leslie Morgan Steiner did. There is help out there like Womens Aid, who do a brilliant job.
Deborah Campbell Atelier Click here supports Womens Aid, a charity supporting women and children surviving domestic abuse. Click here DCA, donate 20% of the profit from the sale of each sweat-shirt and tee-shirt we sell. Bee the change we wish to see in the world and go forth and be inspired by the Future Female movement. Do get involved and tell your story, I would love to share your view from which ever point it comes from, leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org