What next for #MeToo?

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We’ve been here before. Revelations emerge about a famous figure’s misdeeds and public condemnation and discussion about our misogynistic society grows, building up hopes that things will finally change. And maybe for a while it does. But soon the furore fades away and the status quo returns. Next month, Harvey Weinstein will be forgotten, only to be raised in end-of-year round-ups and when the Oscars roll around again.

I suspect there’s a man behind this excoriation of Weinstein. The producer’s projects have not had the same impact in recent years as before. His last Best Picture Oscar was in 2012 for The Artist. His crown was slipping. And some man hoping to grab it for himself decided to bury Weinstein in all those tales of rape and abuse known try everyone in the industry.

The complaints of a handful of women were publicised first, with the glorious Rose McGowan being perhaps the most active on social media. But the accusations had to be banded together to gain credence. McGowan’s account of how she was punished by the industry for speaking out led to a few other abuse perpetrators being outed. More and more of the big female names began to tell their experiences too. They knew it was now safe as they no longer had to fear the same reprisals McGowan did.

The stories started to spread outside the movie industry, as women across the workforce instantly recognised the scenario and matched it up with their own memories and realities. A hashtag was born. But are men listening any more or has the sheer number of corroborating accounts forced them back on the defensive? Are women by now just talking to themselves again, if out loud instead of sotte voce this time? Will everyone else who comes forward be accused of jumping on a bandwagon?

Of course I can say #metoo. I can say I know how a company lets its senior males stick their hands and tongue wherever they want, while the women are expected to learn ways to avoid him. I know how long-term staff watch to see whether the new intern will fall into the sleazebag’s trap. I’ve argued with other women that they don’t need to put up with behaviour like that, or on whether it’s really necessary to have so many rape scenes in our movies and our TV programmes. Most of which are written, created and produced by the same men that are abusing women like Rose McGowan.

I don’t expect things to change much. We are not on the cusp of the Age of Equality. The White House is occupied by a man who boasted of the exact same behaviours as Weinstein. Advertising firms will still use female bodies to sell everything under the sun. And women will continue to dodge the perverts. As for equal pay, equal opportunities, or just not having to see your work passed on to your male colleagues to sign off on, don’t hold your breath.

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10 grams of gold

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It’s not something to take lightly,

These 10 grams of gold

Encircling my third finger on my left hand.

One gram for each digit.

It’s a weight that feels solid,

Grown-ups’ jewellery.

It’s no trinket picked up on a side-street

Meant to declare a persona.

 

It’s no charmed gilded cage,

Suffocating, restricting, controlling.

it’s a reminder of you,

Every minute of every day,

Of a love that’s secure,

Without artifice, threats or lies.

It’s our treasure to share,

Our investment to protect.

Rust, don’t you settle here.

Why a magnet?

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The broken radio lay discarded on the junk heap. Its still-shiny chrome and black plastic casing stood out against the dark red of the rusted anvils and old machinery. It was strange to see it there instead of on its customary place on the dresser.

We grabbed it,  and began twisting the dials, raising the antenna and pushing it back down, pressing buttons. But nothing happened. The radio was truly broken. Then one of the speakers came loose, giving a glimpse at the inner workings of the device. My brother began to pry it open further. I was the hesitant ninny. I knew how vital the radio was to everyday life, how valuable electrical goods were. But my brother said they didn’t need it, wasn’t the replacement in there in the kitchen already?

I was curious too to see inside the radio, so my protests didn’’t last long. I wanted to know how this little box brought us music from America and beyond, and let us attend sports events taking place a hundred miles away.

But when I saw the magnet in the centre of the speaker, I was stumped. What could it possibly have to do with radio broadcasting? A magnet was a magical thing of itself to us children, our concept of it highly influenced by cartoons, where the bad guy was lifted up and held tight by a massive red and silver U-shaped specimen, betrayed by his belt buckle. But I knew this black circle that looked like a piece of rubber was a magnet, because it looked exactly like the fragments we’d played with before. They must also have come from obsolete radios, taken apart by either someone curious or someone thrifty. And knowing my dad, I’m going with curious.

My brother and I split the magnet in two. I took my half into school, and it was a sensation for a day.

Thirty years later, I listen to music and radio programmes on my laptop. I can’t even see the speakers, and have no idea if they need magnets or not. But the excitement and wonder of that afternoon pulling a radio apart is as fond a memory of a time gone past as the sound of crackling voices coming over the airwaves as a station bursts out of the white noise and into life. Beat that, iTunes podcasts.

 

Inspired by Daily Prompt: Magnet

“Hello.”

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“Hello.”

A seemingly innocuous word. Yet, like all utterances, it depends on how it’s said.

When men bellow it across the street, it’s not so welcoming. When they whisper it at you in a dark street or corridor, it’s the verbal equivalent of an opportunistic grope.

As a foreign female, the word is thrown at you like a javelin. It tells you that you have been seen, your otherness will not go unnoticed, unremarked here. It slices through the air at you, dragging the attention of everyone around with it. It punctures any daydream you may have been having, any illusion that you can have a normal life here, be an ordinary person.

Then there’s the mothers/grandmothers who point their toddler at you and tell it over and over: “Say ‘Hello’”. Teaching the child from a young age that people with different skin colours are something to stare at, to point out, to treat as exotic spectacles. So the concept will prevail for yet another generation that people of other ethnicities are tourist attractions, so it’s okay to gawp slack jawed at them and discuss their appearance like you would an exhibit in a museum. That a photograph of them is a prize to show off on social media. Or a sneaky selfie beside them on a plane or in the metro. Ignore their discomfort, their annoyance; sure, it’s not like they’re human beings like yourself, is it?

Rubbish

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We got lucky. The rush hour crowds were ebbing away as we reached Beijing’s metro Line 1. The platform was half-empty. There was no panicked crush to pour into the carriages when the train arrived, and inside our car, we could choose where we stood.

I slid into the corner beside the linking door to the next carriage, My Man beside me leaning against the overhead bar. In the other corner was a young couple, in their private fascination oblivious to the rest of the passengers, if not the world. Holding onto the central vertical pole directly in front of the doors were two teenage female BFFs, intensely aware of every male on board and every female worth competing against. Their style and confidence labelled them as privileged; whether the other members of their families were as pampered is another matter. Between ourselves and the door was an office worker in his early thirties, short, stocky and anonymous. He was also hunched protectively over the object of his absorption; this time a smartphone.

The train pulled into the notoriously-overcrowded Guomao station smack in the middle of the city’s Central Business District. People flowed out and flowed in. As they did so, we noticed a see-through plastic beverage cup in a plastic bag on the ground where the smartphone man had been standing. Whether it was his or not, I can’t say. I never saw him holding anything. My Man said, “Oh look, someone forgot their cup.” At that precise moment, a woman who had just entered also saw the cup. Her reaction was to throw her own rubbish — the core of an apple or pear in a plastic bag — down beside the cup, nudging it with her foot until they rested side-by-side.

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Fleeting springtime

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Copyright: freeimages.com

Speckles of green against the dreary greyness herald the arrival of spring,

A weight taken from your shoulders as you walk down the street in a light jacket,

Planning to give your trusty woollen winter shield a cleansing before it hibernates.

Then, at the corner before the metro entrance, you see a single blossom on a tree,

It sneers at you with its unabashedly exotic fleshy petals and heady scent,

Destroying your sentimental daydreaming of gentle spring days in temperate climes.

Instead, it’s a brutal harbinger of the sweaty days and nights that are to come,

Mosquito bites, incessant cricket chirps drilling into your brain,

Sheltering from the heat instead of the cold,

In a country where the spring and autumn last as long

As the single half of a luscious sweet strawberry adorning your slice of bland sponge cake.

Everybody Knows

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Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’ says it all. It’s a seductively bitter ballad to those who despair of the world’s unfairness, with his bass-heavy tones seeming to commiserate with you and absolve you of all responsibilities for doing anything about it. What’s the point, when everybody knows?

Everybody knows we now have a leader of the free world who openly censors journalists at his press conferences.

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