Every woman has a story. About the fear and anger they feel when they walk down the road and endure lewd comments from road-side lurkers. About disrespectful, sexist comments they endure in both their personal and professional lives. About sexual assault, and physical, verbal or sexual abuse at the hands of predators, be they strangers, family members, or trusted friends and colleagues.
Many of our stories remain untold because we fear the blame that comes too often when we speak. Because we’d rather avoid the dismissal, questioning and disbelief of those around us. Because there are few spaces that feel safe enough for us to share. So stories remain untold and the silence can become a burden. Weighing us down both emotionally and physically.
#Lifeinleggings is a story about untold stories. Barbadian feminist, blogger and creator of the hashtag Ronelle King took to social media with the support of her best friend Allyson Benn to share their stories.
Their stories touched the women around them, burdened by their own silence, and they began to share too. Leggings are an item of clothing deemed too revealing by some, often cited as the reason for harassment, and they became the symbol of what was soon to become a viral movement. The myth that only women wearing clothing like leggings experience harassment, assault, rape and abuse was challenged by stories of women from all walks of life and all styles of dress.
Within days, an online community grew across Barbados and quickly spilled into other Caribbean islands. A community of women sharing their stories, supporting other women who shared their stories and sending kind words and love to women who weren’t ready to share theirs.
In a physical world that is often hostile towards women, the virtual world of social media was used to create a space for catharsis, support and healing as women refused to be dismissed, and demanded to be heard. As Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds were flooded, those who had never engaged in discussions surrounding gender based violence, were forced to listen.
Some praised the bravery of women sharing their stories, while some dismissed the growing movement as “just another fad”. Some vowed to examine their own behaviour and how it contributes to violence towards women and pledged to make changes. As the stories grew, so did the much-needed discussion on violence towards women in the Caribbean and with growing attention from media and policy makers, #lifeinleggings is set to be the catalyst of long-lasting discussion and change.
#Lifeinleggings is a story about stories and it is a story in of itself. A story about the power of solidarity, support and courage, and the power of social media reach. The power of one person to inspire change from the ground up and the power we each have to challenge injustices around us.
You can show your power by searching for #lifeinleggings on Facebook and Twitter, and adding your story or giving your support.
Alexine Jackman is a blogger, public speaker, social activist and mental health professional, Alexine is one of the many women inspired by the #lifeinleggings movement. She is currently working alongside the creators to move the viral campaign forward towards lasting education and policy change.