By Aleja LeVert | Staff Writer
Throughout history, women have been taught to keep quiet, dress pretty and follow the lead of men. The power men hold reigns in society and the workplace, but every day, more and more women are speaking their minds and taking charge.
This is evidenced by CEO of the League of Education Voters and state chapter board member for the National Women’s Political Caucus, Lauri Hennessey, bravely speaking about her experiences with sexual harassment. On Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Weyerhaeuser Hall’s Robinson Teaching Theater, Hennessey told her #MeToo story.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in three women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. According to activist Tarana Burke, the #MeToo movement has become a global trend for people to come together to combat the abuse of sexual harassment.
“The essence of #MeToo promotes a sense of strength between women. That we have more similarities than differences and we can all stand together and make an impact,” Carley Wahlgren, president of the G.E.M. [Gender Equality Movement] Club, said.
Although it’s been 30 years since her experiences, Hennessey said, “The imprint of what happened to me at that age still lives with me…once I started talking about these things, it freed me.”
As Hennessey told her story, she explained the different lessons she learned along the way – one of those discoveries being that when women speak up about instances of sexual harassment, men are quick to shut them down and blame the victim.
Wahlgren agreed, saying, “[Victims of sexual assault] think it’s their fault because the media really portrays it that way, and not everyone is on the woman’s side most of the time which is sad.”
Hennessey explained that obligation is placed on victims to conceal the truth. She said, “The complicity of staff and friends is the hardest part.”
Realizing that she was her own biggest advocate has helped Hennessey and others with similar experiences stand up for themselves. “I had no reason to be afraid of him. He should be afraid of me,” Hennessey proclaimed. That is the power of feminism.
“If you’re a feminist then you believe that everyone should be treated equally no matter what…it’s as simply as that,” Wahlgren said.
Treating people with equality presents itself as a daunting task to a lot of men because it’s a threat to their power, especially in the workplace. Hennessey said during her time in Washington D.C., she was told to be “loyal to your boss” and that being close to him was the way to get noticed.
“It’s really about men in power. It’s about how men in power behave towards young women,” Hennessey said.
The sexist gender roles of the past have slowly started being confronted because people are speaking up about the pain and injustice they cause. According to Hennessey, “People are waking up.”
The questions Hennessey left the audience to ponder were: Are things actually better now? How do we have these conversations without being afraid?
The scars left from sexual harassment are a trauma women, men and everyone in-between battle daily. That is why the #MeToo movement is meant for everyone. It is meant for victims of sexual harassment that live in fear of their abusers. Its message of empowerment is ubiquitous.