Content warning: sexual abuse
We are in a time of immense advancement for women. There is finally an audience for the calls of repressed and exposed women whose vulnerability has been exploited by powerful men, breaking down enormous and long implemented barriers. While the #MeToo and Times Up movements attempt to celebrate and empower women all over the world, this has come almost exclusively from the Hollywood elite and mainly concerns those with an advantaged background and an ability to come forward to the authorities without risk of homelessness or deportation. Of course, these revelations and movements are impactful, having taken a significant step in allowing women a platform, and the bravery of the women who came forward should in no way be diminished. However, there is a patronising element to their expression of solidarity.
At the Golden Globes and BAFTAs, the Hollywood elite almost all wore black gowns and suits, many with Times Up badges pinned to their lapels. The sea of black walking the red carpet was an undoubtedly an impacting sight, but the donning of couture, priceless garments by the most advantaged people in the world is contradictory to their message of empowerment and solidarity.
Women all over the world are in unthinkably horrifying positions; in the UK women are being sexually abused, genitally mutilated and forced back to their countries where their troubles are even more extreme. It is cases like these that need and deserve a platform. Thousands of women are in desperate need of our attention and an ability to escape from the horrific conditions they have been forced into.
Illegal immigrants or asylum seekers who run the risk of deportation in the UK are facing abuse everyday and are forced into silence. This subject was brought to light by a recent article from the BBC: ‘Secret World: Women in the UK who cannot report sexual abuse’. It tells the disturbing story of Grace (real name undisclosed), a girl who fled her own country in West Africa to escape sexual abuse only to find herself in the same position here without any money or places to go. She moved from house to house each time being a slave and victim of abuse and eventually becoming homeless. Her sister, who had been with her since they escaped, went to meet a man she met online and never came back. Finally, a man who she met when she first moved to the UK saw her and took her to a refugee centre in London, where staff listened and gave her help.
Stories like this one of destitute, abused women expose an evil in the world that is shocking and unthinkable to many. They show a desperate need to widen the support of women and create a system where a person’s life comes above their legal right to be in a country. More stories like Grace’s need to be told and listened to, and while there are objectionable features to the new feminist movements, they are still pushing the voices of subjected women to the forefront. There is still a long way to go, but the coming together of women from every walk of life and from all over the world to share their stories demonstrates to victims of abuse that they should no longer be ashamed or suppressed.
Despite the inequality between those in Hollywood walking down the red carpet in black designer dresses and women being forced to move between abusive households without any means of escape, the message and impact that the #MeToo movement has had on those in less advantaged positions proves that its reach is far wider than the Hollywood elite. While there is a self-indulgence to celebrities dressing in black couture to show support, it has allowed women in the most dire of circumstances to reach out, understand their circumstances, see that they are not alone, and know that if women all over the world suffered and survived then they can too.