Dear White Australian Progressives,
Please don't forget about representation.
The #MeToo Movement in the United States, founded by Brooklyn-born black activist Tarana Burke 10 years ago and brought to Twitter by actor Alyssa Milano, has led to the downfall of many predators, most notoriously Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK. Women and men in the media and entertainment industries have been coming together in solidarity to share their accounts of being sexually harassed and assaulted. The hashtag #MeToo has been used thousands of times across social media platforms, more than any feminist hashtag ever, and most of its action has centred around Twitter.
Source: Tarana Burke's Twitter
And so it begins in Australia. Last night on ABC’s 7.30, it was revealed that Don Burke, the cheerful host of Burke’s Backyard for 17 years and one of the most powerful men in Australia’s entertainment industry, has been under investigation by the ABC and Fairfax for sexual harassment and bullying allegations.
While it is important for us to recognise the strength and courage of those who have come forward with their stories about Don Burke, this represents a pivotal moment for all victims of sexual violence across Australia and the beginning of a very long and grueling process. If you have been following the movement overseas, you will already know this. Australia’s defamation laws are very different from the States, which makes pursuing these kind of stories even more difficult. According to journalist Tracey Spicer, “It takes time.”
Source: Tracey Spicer's Twitter
So knowing that we have some time, I want to use this to highlight something extremely important to remember:
White Australians, I'm calling you out. As a queer Latina woman with mental illness who is a victim of sexual assault, I feel I'm barely keeping my head above water these days. If this is how I feel, think of those who are far more marginalised than me.
As you see the stories of sexual harassment, assault, and rape come to light, I want you to ask yourself some questions: Where are the queer people of colour and queer Indigenous people who are statistically more likely to experience discrimination, sexual harassment, assault, rape, and violence and why are they not also at the forefront of your progressive movements? Where is the representation?
The crux of the issue is that white journalists, publications and organisations are not centering or amplifying their voices. Even some of the most popular political organisations that supposedly champion diversity will put their three minority employees in the front for their photos on Instagram and call it a day. This is an issue. Meaningful representation requires more than organisations tokenising people of colour for the sake of extra “diversity points.” A single person from each population should not have to carry the weight of speaking for their community alone because this does nothing but further entrench damaging stereotypes and monolithic thinking. What we need is for our differences to be normalised, not commoditised. Meaningful representation matters.
So how can we fix this? It’s pretty simple. Hire more Indigenous, queer, trans, disabled, and neurodivergent people of colour. Give them the platform. Only those who are most marginalised know what those who are most marginalised need. It’s time for white Australians to stop controlling the entire narrative and to make space. All oppression is linked, and until we are all free, none of us will be free.
Join the #MeToo movement to support survivors and end sexual violence here.