CW: Rape, sexual intimidation

Yesterday, our friends at Our Bodies Our Voice organized an event in collaboration with Amsterdam United, a board of students at the University of Amsterdam who lobby for a more inclusive university. The event was called “From #MeToo to #WeToo” and it intended to “explore the ways we can create a more inclusive movement that pays attention to the many different forms of oppression and (sexual) harassment that people are subjected to.”

The Panel

The discussion about the inclusivity of #MeToo has a long history. The movement reached it’s publicity peak when tons of famous actresses and other celebrities came forward sharing their stories of sexual intimidation and rape. Many were quick to point out that being a celebrity and being able to secure your safety after speaking up is a privilege many others do not have.

Fatima, one of the speakers of Amsterdam United, said that some people perceive the #MeToo movement as whitewashed. Tarana Burke is an activist from New York who founded the #MeToo movement, and she is also a black woman. Many people argue, however, that the #MeToo movement is not what it was intended to be and does not provide a platform for the experiences of women of color.

Soula Notos

The night proceeded with stand-up comedian Soula Notos. She made some interesting remarks that humanistically characterize subtle sexism in the Dutch context. “Many Dutch women call their co-workers ‘collegaatjes’, and many Dutch women call their friends ‘vriendinnetjes’. But in fact, Dutch women are very tall.”

Up next on the program there was a panel discussion with Mridula Shobinath, Nugah Shrestha and Manjit Krishna Kaur. They spoke about their different experiences and research on the topic of sexual violence and inclusivity. “For a lot of people it’s empowering to talk about it but it also doesn’t make sense that we put the burden of proof and confessions on the victims.” These words by Mridula really made an impact. She argued that in the end it is the agressors who carry full responsibility, and ideally, they should be the one to step forward. Later the conversation switched to inclusivity within the context of the University of Amsterdam. Someone from the audience admitted to being disappointed in the diversity of the university, as the university sometimes pushes a very diverse image when in reality the university is very white. Mridula asks: “Who gets to say what is diversity within this white space?”

Agathe Cherbit-Langer

Agathe from Our Bodies Our Voice says that despite #MeToo, she feels talking about sexual violence and prevention thereof is still a big taboo amongst students and people outside of universities. She speaks of a lack of spaces to discuss on an intimate and interpersonal level: Help for survivors is “inaccessible and cold”. With her project, Our Bodies Our Voice, she tries to create a safe space in which people can be honest and open with one another, moving closer towards a world in which #MeToo is no longer relevant. Agathe argues that rape culture is still prevalent in the university and that there is still a lot to be done.

Overall I think this event was well-prepared and very interesting. I can’t wait to see what events Amsterdam United and Our Bodies Our Voice are working on next.

Text & images: Tessel ten Zweege

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