The Voices that won’t be silenced

Part 1 of a 2 part series

Women are leading marches all over the world. Shown here, women take part in a protest against Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 29. Photo: The Associated Press

The sexual misconduct accusations against then Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh resulted in hundreds of protesters taking to the streets. Women who sided with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford protested in different cities around the country, including at the front door of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh’s accuser was the first of three women who stepped forward to tell their stories of sexual assault that allegedly happened more than 35 years ago. Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was broadcast live on Sept. 27 followed by Kavanaugh’s rebuttal. Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

The Supreme Court nominee was investigated again by the FBI following the new testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In less than a week, nine witnesses were interviewed. The new interviews did not include Ford or Kavanaugh. The FBI investigation finished and the Senate voted to narrowly confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination as Supreme Court Justice on Oct. 6.

Women’s movements gained strength a year ago when actress Alyssa Milano posted a tweet asking people who had suffered sexual assault to share the hashtag #MeToo. Millions responded with emotional stories and support for the survivors. That caused the hashtag to go viral. Many women stepped up to share their stories and accusations against powerful and famous men. From that moment on, exposing sexual harassment became a public movement.

One of the biggest cases involved the more than 150 female gymnasts who stepped forward to share their experiences of abuse by USA gymnastics medical coordinator Dr. Larry Nassar, including Olympic medalists from the U.S. gymnastics team. Nassar was tried and convicted. He was sentenced in January to 40 to 125 years in prison for sexual abuse. More recently, entertainer Bill Cosby was convicted and on Sept. 25 sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for sexual assault.

The #MeToo movement was not the first time women have led big movements. The Women’s March hit the streets after Teresa Shook posted on Facebook about women who did not think President Donald Trump represented their views. They marched on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration. The march happened in Washington, D.C, cities around the U.S. and in more than 25 other countries. The march became about more than not recognizing the president, it became a movement to express demands for women’s rights.

Uma Mishra-Newbery is director of the Women’s March Global Community. She is based in Switzerland. In a video interview, she discussed her belief that women around the world are concerned about their rights.

“More than ever before, women around the world are just done. We are tired and policy makers need to remember that we haven’t gone anywhere and we aren’t going anywhere and we are going to pour out into the streets.”

Mishra-Newbery said the awakening of society is about power and that is beginning to change.

“We see these marches because we see these people waking up and not being OK with the status quo. That’s huge, because normally we would be just go about our days, work our jobs be with our families, accept the things the way they are, and the people in power continue to stay in power,” she said.

The demonstrations are not only happening in the United States. In recent weeks a wave of many demonstrations led by women around the world have flooded the news.

“Around the world women’s rights are under attack,” said Mishra-Newbery. “We are at this space right now where we see that powerful men are reacting and responding by trying to seize even more power.”

Thousands of women in Brazil took to the streets on Sept. 29 to give a voice to their movement, #Elenão (#NotHim). The campaign began in a secret Facebook group called Mulheres Unidas Contra o Bolsonaro (Women United Against Bolsonaro). Jair Messias Bolsonaro is a controversial candidate running for president of Brazil. Many think the candidate is a danger for human rights and a risk to democracy for his facism and dictator ideas.

Known by locals as “Brazil’s Trump,” Bolsonaro has made many derogatory comments about women, people of color, the LGBT community and other minorities.

Ana Carolina Rodrigues, sister of the author of this article, was at the march in Santos, in the state of São Paulo, with her friends and their children.

“I went to the protest because I felt the need to be there for my community, for my equals, for the minorities. To show my support against fascism and xenophobia,” Rodrigues said. “We are not supporting any candidate. We are against one. So, the message we support is that you can choose all the other 10 candidates. Just not him,”

India has also joined the #MeToo movement. Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta filed a formal claim with police on Oct. 7 against Bollywood actor and filmmaker Nana Patekar.

Dutta first mentioned the sexual harassment back in 2008 but no action was taken. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, she decided to bring her story up again in a recent interview on TV with Zoom, an Indian TV entertainment channel.

Women and other Bollywood stars are sharing messages in solidarity with Dutta. A recent poll of women rights experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation released in June shows that India was considered the most dangerous country for women. The United States is in 10th place.

It’s 2018 and yet the fight for equal rights between women and men is far from over. Mishra-Newbery said that there isn’t a specific time for people to step forward and say something. Every person has their own time and voice, every person needs to do it when he or she is ready.

“You need to build a movement of people who are passionate and also ready to really push for a change and if you need instead focus on internal rebuilding and care then that’s what you need to do. That in itself is a movement. That is in itself is activism and that in itself is love,” she said.

Originally published on by Aly Rodrigues
Richland Chronicle Editor-in-chief.