On Sunday night, Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award. In her acceptance speech, she powerfully remembered the many women who have been victimized by men throughout human history. Speaking of the recently deceased Recy Taylor – an African American woman brutally raped by six white men in 1944 – Winfrey turned our attention to the many women who have chosen to speak their own painful experiences of sexual assault and harassment in the media this year.
Winfrey noted that her own field, the media industry, is just one of every industry where women experience sexual violence and harassment. Many women, however, will never have their stories heard. Despite experiences of gender violence and discrimination, they must continue to work to support their children and families.
But in a powerful call to all the girls in the room watching the screen, Winfrey’s tone changed:
So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.
Inspiring as this is, the call is not simply to the girls at home watching from their own television screens. The call is for all of us – especially for those of us who are men. Sexual assault and gender violence will not end unless each of us become those magnificent women and phenomenal men. We all are called to action.
Heeding Winfrey’s invitation, we must all ask ourselves, how might we have contributed to gender-based violence? What have we done to prevent gender-based violence in our workplaces and homes? What are we doing to support women so they can vocalize the truth of their experiences? And what more must we do to protect women across all workplaces?
Without sustained, long-term hard work, the hashtag #MeToo will fall out of fashion and we’ll move onto the next social problem of the month. But, if we commit ourselves to the hard work Winfrey calls us to, perhaps we’ll ensure that that new day will finally dawn.
The cover photo is courtesy of Chris Owen of the Flickr Creative Commons.