Meet The Second Source
On Tuesday 5 December, The Second Source hosted its first event. Or, as misogynists across London might say while quaking in their boots, the coven gathered. And quake they should because sexual harassment and systemic injustices in the media industry are being hunted out.
The hunters are The Second Source - as of right now a group of 20 women working to raise awareness of the problem, inform everybody of their rights, and work with organisations to create change. That last point is crucial because if the renewed momentum of #metoo isn't channelled into bringing about a political and organisational shift now, we'll find ourselves yet another 10 years down the line dealing with yet another "flare-up." That is if we haven't all been blown up by one of the many deranged world-leaders we're so lucky to call our own at the moment.
Tuesday's event was hosted at Twitter's HQ in London, presented by The Second Source's Megha Mohan and Stephanie Boland, with a panel made up by Pavan Amara, journalist and founder of My Body Back Project; Eleanor Lisney, founder of Sisters of Frida; Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan; and Jane Merrick, journalist, co-editor of The Spoon and recent Times' Person of the Year among the Silence Breakers.
I'd dragged myself there after work, tired and a little annoyed not to be in my bed, and left buzzing with renewed energy. I was seething, yes, overwhelmed by the stories that had just been shared. At the same time though, I felt soothed by the knowledge that we can work together to tackle the problem.
Granted, it’s not going to be easy. Even calling it ‘the problem’ is to minimise what is nothing short of a nightmarish battle. For the past year, women have been painfully purging themselves and their industry of bubonic creeps, and there are inevitably countless more to dredge up. But at least now there's an organisation to turn to for support. That really is something.
The Second Source plans to share the footage from the evening's discussion, which is great because I'd only butcher the speakers' powerful articulations. Instead, I'll share the three things that stuck with me:
1. Share your story, because stories unite us.
There is a real need for women across all industries to stick together. Pavan Amara reflected bravely on how helpless and alone she had felt in her experiences of sexual harassment. If The Second Source had existed then, Pavan says, she would have contacted them for support. Now, women not only have a place to record everything that happened, but also a place to find allies and empathy.
A platform like The Second Source also gives you perspective. My seething really kicked off when Eleanor Lisney pointed out how 'sexual harassment has little to do with sex and everything to do with power'. Of course it is, but hearing it said makes it a tangible thing that we can all crowd around and examine together. It's out there, it's ugly, but it's not invincible.
2. Know your rights, because then we're armed.
If I could frame what Jane Merrick said about this, I would. In fact, what am I on about? I can and I will. She said, 'for all those men out there who seem alarmed about what the 'new rules' are for interacting with women, the rules haven't changed. Sexual harassment has always been unacceptable, but now we're less likely to tolerate it.' So just to recap for the confused men in the back, sexual harassment is defined as behaviour which:
- violates a person's dignity
- makes a person feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
- creates a hostile or offensive environment
The Second Source also directs its visitors to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for more information around the Sexual Discrimination Act and gives a number of counselling and support contacts and resources.
3. Act because, unless we do, nothing will change.
You could feel this sentiment pulsing through the room; we cannot afford to drop the ball on this as a generation. It's difficult, as Lisa Nandy pointed out, because it's not just your 'enemies' that you need to call out for their behaviour or attitude; more often than not, it's your friends. At The Second Source there's a community who'll listen to you, who'll believe you, no matter what.