Image: #womensmarch2018 Philly Philadelphia #MeToo by Rob Kall, under a Creative Commons licence
Today, Thursday, 8 March, is International Women’s Day. In the year since the last IWD, the #MeToo phenomenon, which began on social media, has grown into a movement. Deborah Alma has edited a new collection, #MeToo – Rallying Against Sexual Assault and Harassment: A Woman’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press, £10). The anthology brings together poems that testify not only to the experience of women who have suffered rape, assault and harassment at the hands of men, it also speaks of the spirit that animates the movement: anger, yes, but also a spirit of comradeship born of common experience.
Below, in an edited version of #MeToo’s introduction, Deborah Alma explains the genesis of the book.
#MeToo – Rallying Against Sexual Assault and Harassment: A Woman’s Poetry Anthology came straight out of a long thread on my Facebook page in October 2017. I asked women friends of mine to add their name to the thread if they hadn’t experienced any form of sexual harassment in their lives and I was surprised to find that of the 200 women that started to share some of their stories, two or three said that it had never happened to them. My surprise was not that there were so few, but that there were any women at all.
These #MeToo conversations started all over social media in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, as we listened to male news reporters being genuinely shocked when they asked women if they’d ever experienced anything similar, and being told ‘Of course’ and ‘Yes, many times’ and ‘Every woman’.
We have shared these stories over and over with our friends, sisters, mothers, partners and sometimes with the police, or in court. It has been the water we swim in as women. But saying something publicly has always been difficult and brave. The words stick in our throats, for so many reasons.
Something was released and given a space within social media. It was easy to add our voice to the rising shout of #MeToo. We felt the sisterhood. Many women felt emboldened by this to share more difficult stories, more details; the lid has come off this box and now cannot be forced back on.
I’m a poet, and an editor, and someone suggested we collect these stories somehow and it was obvious to collect them as poems. It was what I could do.
I am very proud of this book, proud of the poets for sharing their stories and for putting their names to their words. It is a painful and difficult read a great deal of the time, I get that. Take it slowly, read only what you can bear. I hope that the reader will hear its rallying cry of anger and impatience, its strong message that we have had enough.
And to the men who speak up with us and for us, I hope, as the essayist Rebecca Solnit says, that they will ‘understand that feminism is not a scheme to deprive men but a campaign to liberate us all’.
The final section of the book deals with a coming back to the light; they are poems of recovery and strength out of some very dark places. There are beautiful, peaceful poems that reach out to other women and, as Roz Goddard says in her poem ‘This Poem is For You’, the book, I hope, is other women.
To order copies of #MeToo – Rallying Against Sexual Assault and Harassment: A Woman’s Poetry, click here.