Observing #metoo with respect

Maybe it's too early to say but last October felt important.

At the beginning I was at Burning Seed and interested in the conversations about when an eleventh principle needed to be added to those that guide the event.

One speaker at a Town Hall meeting said it should be called Radical Respect and acknowledge issues of consent.

It became a topic I raised in conversations throughout Seed. Many women I spoke to thought it was a good idea, in contrast some men suggested it shouldn't be enshrined.

I could see both perspectives. On one hand it's important to promote consent and to frame it within a broader discussion of respect; while on the other hand, it's the case that most people are already respectful and ensuring consensual relations with each other.

It was said that making respect a principle risked looking like a nanny.

Then came #metoo and it was a shock to see many women I know shared experiences of times when consent and respect were lacking. The volume and details in these accounts were powerful.

It demonstrated clearly that society does need to be reminded to respect individual autonomy.

The #metoo discussion varied from women recalling hearing catcalls while still children, through to accounts of rape.

There was an outpouring of grief and also support, the latter valuable as social media does not offer mechanisms beyond audience reactions to address mental health.

Then men joined the conversation with their own examples of feeling like victims, again ranging from sexual harassment to rape.

But then I feel it became even more remarkable when I saw a few men I know acknowledging on Facebook that they had been part of the problem.

These blokes reflected on times when they hadn't respected a woman's autonomy and I feel that it showed how powerful the conversation had been, as well as the potential for it to have broader impact if the reflections I'd seen from older men and women reached a younger audience.

The thing that gave a surprising resonance in these conversations was when one friend recounted times when she'd been abused by strangers in public and the lack of response from passing men.

She illustrated her #metoo post with this graphic, which I assume must be from a Burner website as it proposes the 11th Principle should be Consent.

I like the phrase Radical Respect as it opens a broader topic in addressing interpersonal relations. As you can above, I used the term when I was looking for a phrase to embroider at a workshop recently.

It would be good to see the conversation continue, both within the Burner community and more widely in society.