Friday, October 20, 2017

#MeToo social media phenomenon resonates in rural America, too

Don't miss Ashley Westerman's story this morning out of western Kentucky, which is where Westerman happens to have grown up.  Indeed this story arose from Westerman's observation that the hashtag #metoo had caught on among those in her home community, something she says is unusual.
People don't usually jump onto social media campaign bandwagons like that ... This is the first time I've noticed an issue campaign like this trickle down in my home community.  
This phenomenon would suggest a greater "feminist consciousness" than is typically associated with rural people and places--though those rural women might not label it "feminist."

One woman Westerman interviewed was Julie Martin, who is probably middle-aged because she has three daughters and four granddaughters.  Martin reported that, especially when she was younger, she was subject to unwanted behavior from male colleagues.  Martin initially worked as a grocery clerk and then in the medical field, but she has spent the last 14 years working at the local school.  Martin is quoted:
They would refer to you as sugar [expletive] or honey bun and sweetheart and darling. And I'm not your sweetheart. And I'm not your darling, you know (laughter)? I had one grab my behind. And after I jumped him and explained sternly that that was not acceptable, I never had that problem with him again. But you always have the verbal harassment--that some guys just feel they have that privilege.
Martin never reported any of the behavior.  Why not?  Well, her answer echoes the rural ethos of  self-reliance:
I've always been one of those that was taught that you deal with problems yourself. You don't shove them on someone else. When he grabbed me on the butt, I didn't go to my supervisor. And to this day, I still regret not going to my supervisor and saying, hey, we have a problem.
Further, she would encourage her daughters and granddaughters to report.  Martin indicated that she thinks women are now more empowered by social media, which has helped to diminish the stigma associated with these incidents.
It doesn't really matter whether you're in a small community or a larger city. That's something that has just always been not talked about. And so many people have faced that. And maybe they felt that they were the only ones. And then when they started seeing me too, me too, me too, they're like, hey, wait a minute. Me too. And it's nothing to be ashamed of.
Here's a great segment on American Public Media's "The World" about sexual harassment around the world.  One woman talked about how having jobs in the service sector, like restaurants, where sexual banter is common, can leave one thinking that such behavior is normal--and that you just have to deal it. 

Here's a post on how the January 2017 Women's Marches played out in rural places, too.

Cross-posted to Feminist Legal Theory.

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