The #MeToo movement: what does it mean for feminism, solidarity, and social media?

#MeToo altered the global conversation on harassment and sexual assault: but its impact is still unclear. In the first of two panels on the topic during the festival, author Lydia Cacho, writer Wenceslao Bruciaga, and illustrator Maria Hesse - in discussion with Gabriela Jauregui - sat down yesterday evening (5 September) to discuss what it means for the Spanish-speaking world, from Mexico to Spain, and where that momentum might take us next.

The wave of revelations, which began nearly a year ago, changed our perception of what constitutes normality, said Maria Hesse: “Things we took to be just a part of daily life, but now many men have started to question themselves.” “It has brought on a crisis of heterosexuality,” Bruciaga said.

Women have been emboldened worldwide by the revelations of common experience, and the momentum needs to be maintained and supported; as Cacho explained: “Before, women didn’t dare speak - now they can because others dare to: those of us with access to the public narrative should support and help them.”

Though the scale of visibility is unprecedented, the facts are nothing new: the difference is who is speaking – actresses and famous women, accusing powerful men. These are allegations which have been made by campaigners, campesina activists, and Latina women both in Mexico across the border: “For Mexico, #MeToo was simply reliving what we have already known for many years.”

These issues have finally been put on the table and the solidarity is invaluable, but the debate must be relocated to focus on those without privilege: undocumented, oppressed, and vulnerable women. Genuine and meaningful solidarity is already being seen, says Cacho, and change is happening at all levels – “there has been a forceful echo throughout the world.”

Social media has been key in spreading the message, but can be a double-edged sword, said Bruciaga: it isn’t necessarily the answer, and often enables the spread of abuse. Cacho added that it is simply another tool of communication which reflects the societies and individuals who use them: “They reflect that we are violent societies.”

The panelists concluded that hope lies in pursuing justice through criminal prosecution, as well as a holistic education: “We all need to listen and learn,” said Hesse.

Lydia Cacho is a journalist and campaigner; her new book #EllosHablan (“Men Speak”) is an exploration of macho culture and the origins of violence through the eyes of men themselves.

Maria Hesse is an illustrator and author, whose latest works include illustrated biographies of Frida Kahlo and David Bowie.

Wenceslao Bruciaga is a journalist and activist.