How should someone feel when a movement becomes Time’s Person of the Year?
Around 35 students were in the Hoag great room on University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus Tuesday night to listen to a four-person panel discuss the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
The #MeToo movement began in 2006, with Tarana Burke. It was created to provide a voice for females who had not come forward with their sexual abuse scenarios. On Oct. 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano sent out a tweet saying for women who have experienced sexual abuse to quote her tweet with the phrase “Me Too.”
The UNG panel was composed of Terry Carnes, the care manager at Rainbow Children’s Home, a home in Dahlonega for girls who have experienced sexual abuse, Dr. Joshua Martin, an assistant professor of Spanish, Katiee McKinstry, president of the Dahlonega Female Egalitarian Movement and a senior English major and Felicia Turk, a sexual assault awareness advocate and a political science and international affairs professor.
The night began with Martin going through a slide presentation explaining the origin of the two movements, different characteristics of gender and statistics behind sexual assault provided by the UN.
The panel then began answering moderated questions given by Brigette Kinkade, a senior marketing major and the vice president of the Gay-Straight Alliance.
Although the panel did not speak negatively, there were instances that did not provide any confidence in how the U.S. is approaching the issue of sexual assault discussed throughout the night.
“Working at Rainbow Children’s Home, with the youth that we have, the young girls feel like they have no voice whatsoever. They’re children! Who’s going to listen to them?” Carnes said.
“When someone does come forward, it’s ignored,” Turk said.
“I want to say I have hope, but that’s nebulous, based off of the country’s current status,” Martin said.
“This is not a new phenomenon. There has always been a patriarchal state,” Carnes said.
When the questions from the audience began, audience members expressed concerns about the United States’ current political standing and the people who are in charge.
“Will we have to wait until a female president for things to begin changing?” one woman said.
“How discouraged are you by the response of the #MeToo movement to the men currently in power?” a male student asked.
“With the current administration that we have, do you think we are moving backward instead of forward?” said a female student.
“I think everyone tends to think that this is a conservative problem,” Martin said. “People in power usually determine things. Conservative or liberals can both be honest about that. There is a phrase that was used during the election: trickle-down misogyny’ or ‘trickle-down racism,’ and there’s power to that because the presidency is something that is revered or looked up to so it’s problematic to hear sexist things being passed off as normal.”
The room was filled with the sense of power and encouragement. All four panel members continued to use the word “hope” in every question they were given.
These hashtags kept people engaged for a 90-minute discussion. Why?
“I was very interested in both the Me Too and Time’s Up movements but I felt like I wasn’t educated enough on the topic,” Sarah Hardeman, a sophomore art marketing major said. “I saw the event and now I feel like I can be a better advocate on campus for the movement.”
Educating people through panels such as this is part of the solution, but Kinkade believes that this is only the beginning.
“If we can improve the way in which schools educate students and staff about issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment, then we can hopefully make an impact in reducing their occurrence,” Kinkade said.
Where can the average person make a change?
“Make it known that you believe people and that you’re there to be supportive of whatever story they have to tell,” Carnes said.
The hashtags are more than the Person of the Year — they’re an attempt to change the culture. The hashtags could be unifying.
“I hope people’s main takeaway from last night was that sexual assault and harassment affects everyone,” Kinkade said. “Young and old, rich and poor, black, white, Latin, man, woman or otherwise. It’s not just a ‘woman’s issue’ and it’s not up to just women to solve it. We need everyone to be an active participant when it comes to ending this injustice in our society and I hope people realize that everyone has a voice in this conversation and should use it.”