#MeToo a social trend to exploit painful trauma or a charged movement to force justice and change?

It’s in the still of the night that I feel I can properly process my feelings. It’s around midnight that I am at my most zen and ready to write, although writing this blog has been a difficult road to navigate. I will write my truth, it may not be the whole of it but it will be something and that something feels like leaping over a mountain! I have decided that my feelings on this viral trend matter, not just because the #MeToo status on my life existed well before any trend started to circulate but because the burden of it still exists now.

When #MeToo started to circulate I had no idea of the magnitude of people suffering and the sheer vastness of this epidemic. Even though my affiliation with this topic is weighty, it’s not something I pick up to carry around with me to discuss. As a creative I’ve had the great freedom and tools to put my heart, soul, pain and personality into my work which is a blessing when difficult times surface. I have been strictly guarded about my own experiences with sexual harassment and assault so I should have presumed many others will be that way inclined also. Harassment has always felt just a part of modern day adult life, speaking about the obvious doesn’t change anything, not for me anyway besides we very rarely see attackers convicted.

A few years after I returned from a volunteering trip to Kenya I received a letter from a young girl. She spoke about how she was glad that she had been raped in the slums because at least now ‘she doesn’t have to carry around the burden of virginity’, she said ‘when your own nightmare happens, the darkness doesn’t scare you anymore, you just live in the darkness’. Reading this letter was heart breaking, knowing this beautiful vibrant girl is very much living in a world in which there is no justice, no protection and little comfort makes it even more devastating. It brings a certain perspective, one which I think about often.

It was Tarana Burke who founded the me too movement in 2006, in order to spread awareness and understanding about sexual assault in underprivileged communities of colour, “[Me too] was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible”. So what happened from 2006 to now? Where have all the rallying cries been? What happened to the media coverage? What would a MeToo movement look like in Kenya? Much has been written about the fact that people only care now because white, rich, Hollywood women are coming forward like Alyssa Milano, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow to declare their own #MeToo ‘status’. Which is why I have been struggling to define whether I feel this is a real movement for change or just a moment to task women with reliving their trauma out in public for all to see and then everyone is just, well, silent again. As Emma Thompson said ‘this BIG problem (Hollywood) is only the tip of the iceberg’ and as Tracey Ullman said (in her Tracey breaks the news sketch show) ‘People have already stopped talking’.

Why ‘#MeToo’ now?

Sharing my own experiences within this epidemic makes what happened to me a part of me again. It brings it forcibly back into the centre of my world, which I categorically reject. I thrive off happiness and I make it my daily mission to exist in this state for as many hours, minutes, seconds of the day as humanly possible. Trying my best to not appear like a teletubby on speed!

People often recount (to their own hilarity) ‘but why is your surname Sadd, you aren’t Sadd you are always happy’, if I had a pound for every time someone has said that to me I would be a very wealthy woman! Of course, this is not the case, no one can be entirely happy ALL of the time, however I actively seek happiness which is why I am relentless in following my dreams. The arts; dance, acting, poetry, in particular have been my saviour at times when I most needed to drive myself out of a pit and back to that Teletubby on speed vibe.

My favourite real but pretend Sheri is the one that’s invincible, confident, assured, in full possession of my truth and power – Beyonce like in strength and Betty Boop like in sass! I love leaning on that Sheri when she comes out to play. I’ve always been of the thinking that declaring my #MeToo status will instantly tarnish this Sheri that I most like to present to people.  But once again is this silence harmful?

Since the Weinstein scandal broke and associates, colleagues, celebrities, friends, loved ones have shared their stories, I have discovered the exact opposite! I do NOT think they are lesser than what they were before, I do NOT think they are a victim of something that happened to them, I do NOT think they are no longer strong, independent, Beyonce like in power! They are bloody heroes!! I for one know how big that mountain is to climb and to see women and some men throwing themselves over it fills me with an abundance of pride, admiration and gratitude. What vivacious, opulent courage you have.

So, why can’t I think/feel this about myself? Well, it’s a process isn’t it? I can’t rewind the times I’ve spent obsessing over the details, stewing in guilt, shame and embarrassment, in some configuration it’s all still present. These are pungent, deep rooted, full bodied emotions that take years to dilute. To the charming but slightly ignorant person that said to me ‘I don’t know why people take so long to speak up about sexual harassment or assault’ my reply to you is this. Feeling an ounce of one of these emotions ie guilt, shame, embarrassment, absorbed deep into your head will hold you captive to silence for many many many long years. And when those feelings lessen slightly your body will still be charged with trauma and that is what will do all of the feeling when your head and heart need a rest. I feel particularly strong that women and men only should come forward to add their voice to this movement if they are ready to do so and that they WANT to do so. Often with social media it’s very easy to feel carried along by the tide because everyone is jumping into the sea, however, I respect peoples silence as much as I respect the people that can participate in the dialogue. Surely both is valid? Don’t exploit your trauma, don’t expose what you need to protect, do what you need to do when you can and along your journey seek help in professionals and friends. The best advice I could ever give is DO YOU. Social media is such a huge blessing (I can now be facebook friends with all of the friends I made whilst out in Kenya, what a huge privilege to share our lives together in this very modern way) but of course it is also a place that breeds comparison, pressure, and huge responsibility. Know yourself well enough to know your boundaries, how much you can digest in a healthy and positive way and when it’s time to step back.

I’ve finally landed at this place where I feel it’s important for me to say #METOO because I’m no longer wanting to participate in my own silence, because I’m hopeful, because I want to help action change in whatever way I can. I have the huge privilege of being artistic director of this agency that celebrates freedom of speech, artistic expression and female equality and empowerment. I also have the privilege of standing beside Freya, both friend and fellow director, who encouraged me unreservedly to write this blog. Thank you for your support.

And finally, thank you to the late great Katherine Ann Porter for this quote, one that has served me well during my not so teletubby on speed times;

‘When all about you is lying in the dust, it will be the arts that will remind you who you were, who you are and what matters because they’re always there’.

Sheri Sadd

Sheri Sadd is Artistic Director of Elite Squad London, a theatre and screen actor, movement director, Beyonce fan and Norwich city girl now living in London!

To keep up to date with Sheri’s creative work please follow her Twitter 

You can email Sheri via this address – Sheri@elitesquadlondon.com 

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