“Don’t leave it like this”: Taiwan’s ‘Me Too’ wave sparked by drama

“Let’s not let this happen.”

The “Me Too” movement has erupted in Taiwanese politics. Ahead of a presidential election next January, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party has been rocked by revelations from within, and the opposition Kuomintang is also on the chopping block. Taiwan’s version of “Me Too” is spreading beyond the political sphere.

On July 7, the Washington Post (WP) reported that a Taiwanese Netflix political drama, “Inheritance: Wave Makers” is creating a “Me Too” tsunami in Taiwan. The show, which premiered in April, follows the struggles of a group of workers at a candidate’s campaign in the run-up to an election. In the show, one of the workers discloses that she was sexually harassed by a coworker, and a party spokesperson says, “Let’s not let this happen,” despite the damage it will do to the party.

This line has become a rallying cry for the “Me Too” movement in Taiwan. On March 31, a former DPP member wrote on Facebook that he “reported sexual harassment in the party last year to the head of the DPP’s Women’s Department (Gender Equality Department), but was treated unfairly and suffered secondary damage by the head, who is a former women’s rights activist.” He said the head complained to him that he “didn’t ask for help (at the time)”. His Facebook post began with the line “Let’s not let this happen” and ended with a screenshot of Wave Makers.

“Me Too” accusations followed in political circles. Another party member who worked in the DPP’s youth department reported being sexually harassed by a coworker to the head of the youth department, but was treated unfairly and bullied, including being removed from her job, and eventually quit. Pukunchi, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party, was also accused of grabbing the hand of a female journalist and kissing her in 2014. At least 15 women and men have spoken out about the inadequate handling of sexual harassment and sexual assault by senior politicians, seven of whom are DPP members, Taiwan News reported.

The DPP, which has long emphasized gender equality and gender issues, has suffered a major blow. A string of resignations of party officials and leaders followed, including a top aide to the president who was named as a “Me Too” perpetrator. Vice President Lei Qingde, a candidate for the next president, has also proposed an official investigation, saying he will “not tolerate any harassment within the party.” The DPP has promised reforms, including the creation of a sexual assault hotline and a zero-tolerance response to sexual harassment cases.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. Reuters

Still, the situation has not abated, prompting Tsai to apologize in person twice in less than a week. “As the president and former head of the DPP메이저사이트, I would like to apologize to the public once again,” Tsai wrote on Facebook on April 6. “We have seen cases like this not only in the DPP or other political parties, but also in workplaces and neighborhoods,” he wrote, adding that “our entire society needs to educate itself again.” President Tsai Ing-wen added: “People who are sexually harassed are victims. They should be treated with protection, not prejudice.”

The “Me Too” wave is spreading beyond the political sphere and into academia, culture, and other areas of society. <Qian Liying, author of Wave Makers, also shared her experience of being sexually harassed by a senior colleague on Facebook, writing, “I’m sure I’m not alone. I hope my experience will serve as a wake-up call for many young women and men.” There have also been reports of sexual harassment by Wang Dan, a leading figure in the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement. Wang Dan denied the allegations. “While this drama and the first (revelation) Facebook post were about politics, Taiwanese people have come forward with experiences of being sexually harmed by professors, doctors, coaches, baseball umpires, and others,” WP said.

Taiwan is a progressive country in terms of gender equality, with 42% of its legislators being women, but it also has a conservative culture where victims of sexual assault are reluctant to come forward for fear of prejudice. In this context, “Wave Makers” created an unexpected chain reaction. “Thanks to Wave Makers, we are seeing the first wave of the ‘Me Too’ movement in Taiwan,” Chen Mei-hua, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at National Chungshan University, told WP.

“The accusations should not be reduced to a mere political issue, but should be treated as a human rights issue involving all members of society,” she said, adding, “This may be a godsend for Taiwan to address gender inequality and sexual violence in the workplace,” the Taipei Times reported.

It remains to be seen how the “Me Too” movement will play into the presidential election, which is just seven months away. For now, it’s a bad time for the DPP. Favorability ratings for the DPP peaked in mid-May, before “Me Too,” and dropped to a new low earlier this month, according to the Taiwan Shu Research Center.


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