First organized #MeToo in Hawaii discussion hopes to create safe space for women

First organized #MeToo in Hawaii discussion hopes to create safe space for women
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of local panelists hosted the state's first organized #MeToo in Hawaii discussion Monday night.

More than 100 people attended the event at the YWCA in downtown Honolulu.

One of the panelists included Gemma Weinstein, an immigrant and former housekeeper at a Honolulu hotel, who shared her story of being sexually harassed by two hotel guests. It had been a secret she kept hidden for 27 years.

"They exposed themselves in front of me," Weinstein said. "I wanted to talk to my boss, but I was told that the customer is always right."

Weinstein is now the president of Local 5, a hotel workers union.

Another panelist included UH Manoa student Nanea Lo.

"I was slut-shamed and sexually harassed," she said. "I'm hoping my story will empower others that have similar situations to come out."

It was a mixed crowd of attendees who were curious to see how the first #MeToo in Hawaii discussion would pan out.

Panelists talked about sexual harassment in workplaces and strategies for creating conditions to end it.

The global movement sparked soon after sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein emerged last October.

"It's a good call to action for people to get involved and see how their lives line up with this whole #MeToo movement and #TimesUp since we're kind of far from the continent," said attendee Piikea Kalakau.

"I'm curious to see how it relates to Hawaii and maybe how it's different here because our culture is more intercultural," said another attendee, Anthony Chang.

About an hour into the event, things got a bit tense when one man in the crowd posed a question to the panel that  appeared to offend many in the room.

"How are you going to educate men to when they are stepping over the line?" he asked.

"Look at yourself," one woman in the crowd yelled as others clapped and cheered her on.

Another woman added "Ask a man, you can talk to him or him over there because women are not going to explain it."

Nadine Ortega with Af3irm Hawaii said these types of discussions are just the beginning and plans to host similar events in the future.

"I want women to unleash their stories," Ortega said. "We need to dismantle patriarchy and systems rooted in the oppression of women."

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