In October 2017 when the hashtag #MeToo went viral, a lot of the popularity was chalked up to some rich, white celebrities speaking out. What these media reports failed to acknowledge however was that the movement’s true founder was Tarana Burke. This new anthology, #MeToo: Stories from the Australian Movement, is broadens #MeToo’s scope, whilst redressing some of these wrongs by giving a diverse range of voices a platform. This multifaceted perspective serves as a brilliant starting point for further dialogue on some important topics.
This collection is edited by four Melbourne-based writers: Nataile Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved, and perhaps unsurprisingly they choose some rather Victorian-centric artists to focus upon. The foursome are a group of feminists, who are also editors and academics. They have published two other anthologies about the female experience, Mothers & Others and Just Between Us. In the case of the current anthology, they have curated three pieces that span a number of different genres including: essays, fiction and poetry.
There is no one single message in this collection. The writing is confronting and sometimes it is quite hard to read. But, this is also because it is offering us some useful food for thought. In some cases, the writers are so visceral with their prose that readers will feel spurred into action; in other cases, readers might just be forced to rethink some of their own feelings about certain issues.
One of the most noteworthy pieces here is Kaya Wilson‘s description of their experiences as a Trans man as he deals with stranger harassment. Meanwhile, Aboriginal writer Eugenia Flynn draws our attention to how society is often structured around white and patriarchal values. Carly Findlay looks at lateral violence from activists in the disabled community. Gretta Parry’s work meanwhile, on the partners of men accused by the movement is a fascinating think piece.
There is also Sylvie Leber’s personal account of her own rape and how this drove her into crisis work for those sexually abused. There is a graphic novel by Sarah Firth who explores an all-too-common #MeToo conversation. Other writers represent the medical, music, business and legal industries, and they explore workplace harassment. This can be quite harrowing stuff.
#MeToo: Stories from the Australian Movement should be commended for exploring challenging themes. By offering up some diverse voices including representatives from the LGBTQI+, disabled and immigrant communities, we get a rich perspective on how complicated the problem and the solution is. Anthologies like this one are timely and useful at pointing out the parts of the patriarchy that urgently need dismantling. This contemporary and intersectional book is a useful first chapter in this rich and vital conversation.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
#MeToo: Stories from the Australian Movement is available now through Picador Australia.