Culture after #metoo

In an era where women are unceasingly raising their fists and shouting the words “me too”, it is out ofthe question to just loll around, not thinking about the fact that serious harassment-stories are going around, and that stories of the kind could have had shaped basically each persons’ lives as well. Maybe, it’s all a matter of sheer luck not to be involved personally in the whirl of violence as a woman, since a survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights determines that quite a colossal number of female individuals have encountered some sort of brutality. The aforementioned survey was conducted on 42 000 women Europe-wise, women from 28 countries, aged between 18-74 years, were asked about the physical, sexual and psychological experiences they encountered, regardless of the fact that the cases were incidents or aggression from thebehalf of their partners, so it generally concentrates on violence against women, more specifically, violence based on gender. The study outlined that, byand large, one in every 10 women suffered a form of sexual violence from theage of 15, yet one in every 20 was literally harassed as well. Moreover, more than one in every 5 females faced physical and/or sexual violence from their past or current life partners, while more than one in 10 women claims to have been a victim of some kind of sexual aggression as a teenager, per an adult man. And if all this information isn’t enough to have you intrigued, then the worst is yet to come: only 14% of the mistreated who are in relationship reported the police their most critical case, while a mere percentage of 13% insisted on reporting harassment committed not by their partners.

The advent of the #metoo movement goes back to October, 2017. Ever since, victims, sexually harassed and damaged individuals tend to share their personal stories, experiences on social media, myriads of people tell personal stories about facing harsh or minor sexual harassment, thus trying to raise awareness in a world where violence turns out to be at the helm of society. To put it bluntly, not only the matter of sexual violence seemed to be hostile to change until a climatic point in the 21st Century, but also, it was out of the question to talk about the magnitude of the problem. Neither victims, nor culprits talked about the nightmare-like experiences, so the whole matter became a taboo. Particularly in view of this fact, some ghastly unsaid things have been piling up, since the dawn of humankind, most probably. Silence is violence, and it’s time high time we talked about it.

Planetarium Talks emerged as a real kickoff platform from the behalf of Planetarium Café in Cluj-Napoca, and now, it’s home to a diverse array of cultural events and table talks, mostly interactive ones. This time, the organizers set their hearts on unfolding the long-censored topic that meant losing heart for some, so to say: #metoo with its sweeping and all-pervading impacts concerning East-European patterns and social norms was the theme of the event that took place on the 29th of May, 2019.

It’s a fact of life that everyone knows about the issue of being harassed at one’s workplace or at any environment, about being mistreated inany way (physically or even verbally), we just simply don’t know how to handle it or don’t have the proper tools to turn into social activists. In order to weather the storm, externalizing experiences verbally would be blooming interms of rising from setbacks or helping others rise from their decay. Since the matter itself is quite hard and tense, to be dealt with it requires compassion and respect, no wonder then both the guests and the moderator of the Planetarium Talk were a bit intimidated.

Photo from the official Planetarium Facebook Page

The discussion was conducted by cultural manager Kinga Kelemen, and the guests included a freelance playwright and theatre creator, namely Panna Adorjáni, an investigative journalist and editor in chief of Transparent Transylvania, Zoltán Sipos, and last but not least a psychologist and lecturer at Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Éva László.

In a nutshell, the discussion mainly revolved around the effects the #metoo movement stirred and triggered across the East-European culture, the reason behind the fact that human creatures seemingly react to the matter with high-level difficulty both on institutional, professional and even personal levels. Moreover, the discussion put those particular experiences in limelight that drive our attention when it comes to harassment, and it also pinpointed the responsibility of the public as far as the #metoo stories are concerned. Another crucially important topic at the talk was a reflection about how the movement looks like in Transylvania these days. Throughout the entire talk, the guests representing three different professional fields, answered the questions accordingly to their professions, so basically three points of view came together during the event.

Some major thoughts shared at the table talk:

In the young playwright’s view #metoo did not receive enough attention in the theatrical world of our country:

In Transylvania and generally in Romania, the #metoo occurrence was not enhanced enough, local audiences did not imply in the globally whirling topic of #metoo, that I hasten to add, destroyed a pile of careers as well. It didn’t get enough publicity, there weren’t any outstanding harassment stories shared or distributed.

 Panna Adorjáni

From the perspective of the psychologist, the way we deal with the #metoo movement in our region is characterized by nothing, but simply not being taught how to handle such situations. According to her, it all traces back to not knowing how to, instead of not wanting to. The psychologist added that:

When it comes to bullying, I feel that the role of publicity is of utmost importance. Due to the fact that society’s attitude alters and affects the personal sphere, overcoming persecution really goes hand in hand with public exposure.

Éva László

The journalist highlighted the fact that there is an extensive difference between what is the story in its purest form and what lies behind the meaning of the published materials in the media. He added:

Ideally, through distributing these abusement-based stories, further cases of aggression could be prevented. There are always two relevant questions in the matter: firstly, whether there was actual abusement or not? If one of those involved feels so, then certainly yes, it’s a case of violence. Secondly, does this issue concern publicity? If one ofthe two involved is a public figure, then the answer is yes, the case concernspublicity as well.

Zoltán Sipos

Interactive as the event was, the audience also shared their viewpoints and answered a couple of questions, leaving no moments of blank silence. Most probably, everyone in the room was blown away by a singular moment when a woman from the crowd, after raising her hand and grabbing the microphone, asked with brevity the question that no one else dared to: “How many of you were not victims of aggression or assault of any kind?”. Even after some seconds of absolute and spine-tingling silence, looking around the café, you couldn’t catch sight of a single hand raised high up, and that really was a moment of common sincerity and compassion.

Even though questions were raised and partially answered, the whole talk remained furtive in a way, as in many cases answers were laden with rather euphemistically tuned content. Seems like even specialists have a hard time answering questions that petrify a whole society, questions that constantly loom over us, questions that are like a perpetual loop and nobody turns out to solve the crux of this controversial matter. Even so, there’s so much more to go for and so much to be invested in the matter, until the problem would be (even partially) solved.

Globally causing a sweeping stir among people, the #metoo movement is now all-pervading: some household names like comedian Jessie Woo, who once and for all unraveled the truth by sharing her personal story with #metoo movement founder Tara Burke, burst into tears when she told that she had been raped by somebody in the music industry, and who, nevertheless the deed, is “living an abundant life”, as she said. Despite the fact that she would like to work in that particular field and environment with widely-praised talents and artists, she really can’t afford to do that, as she constantly fells small and keeps asking “How do I live with that?”.

Janka Mozes

Janka Mozes