The #MeToo movement originally started in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke as a mechanism to speak about the experiences of Women of Colour. In 2018, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein and the movement’s Hollywood rebranding, it has come to expand the discourse in a way no one could have imagined. It has since become a global movement, with people from all walks of life using the term to speak about their own experiences, make their voices heard, or in some cases to dismiss accounts as witch-hunts — Australia is no exception.
#MeToo Stories from the Australian Movement shifts this somewhat broad lens to focus on our own country, collecting a range of pieces in varied mediums (essay, prose, poetry, comic and creative-nonfiction) to bring insight and legitimacy to varying accounts. This provides a snapshot of what the #Metoo movement means for Australians in practice.
The greatest strength of the book is the choice of editors Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved to not present a single, monolithic idea or style. Instead, the book approaches the topic from nuanced and multivalent perspectives, in turn giving weight to a myriad of experiences and voices that the imperfect movement often smothers. As an anthology, the book expands beyond a single individual experience, rather, the audience becomes privy to how the systematic mistreatment of women interacts at the intersections of identities such as ethnicity, indigeneity, gender and class. This better reflects, uncovers and teases out the complex nature of what constitutes the movement’s boundaries, and the highly unique nature of the non-male experience.
Each piece stands on its own in an episodic manner, covering a range of topics from micro-aggressions to pointing out flaws in the current feminist framework. The subjects are just as variant as their writers, once more painting a broader picture than what we may have otherwise received. The personal testimonies bring great intimacy to the book, while more traditional essays foreground the highly institutional nature of the issue. This juxtaposition brings out the irony of the phenomenon: topics surrounding sexual harassment and assault exist both as incredibly personal experiences, as well as part of a collective experience. The format of an anthology is perhaps the only means to fully encapsulate the multifaceted nature of the #MeToo movement.
Due to the subject matter of the book, there are some traumatic and highly uncomfortable aspects; moments that may ring a little too familiar or hold discomfort in their foreignness. It is best read episodically as per design to allow each testimony to sink in and give the reader appropriate breaks between confronting issues. No matter how you read #MeToo Stories from the Australian movement, it should be read.
#MeToo Stories from the Australian movement is an excellent attempt in navigating what is often a vacuous and ever expansive topic – bringing to the forefront perspectives and writers that would otherwise be washed away in an abundance of hashtags and online vitriol. From beginning to end it is nothing but the truth on the nuances of the Australian movement.
Izabella Antoniou is a Sydney-based writer and cooking tutorial enthusiast with a background in marketing and content production. She is currently researching for her latest academic work centred around Bosnian ethno-religious practices. You can find her on Twitter @Izo_Ant.