Following the publicized sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, thousands have taken to Facebook, Twitter and various other social media platforms to post a short but devastating message: #MeToo.
While the movement originally began over a decade ago, through the efforts of Tarana Burke, it experienced a major reemergence when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
Over half a million individuals, both famous and not, have responded with their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. The significance of this social media movement is important to note during this time.
An editorial in Dallas News states, “Simply declaring ‘Me too’ helps eat away at the silence on which such predatory behavior always depends.” By speaking up, victims are demanding attention and forcing others to recognize that such a level of sexual misconduct is not normal and should not be accepted as such.
Recognizing the problem is crucial, but it is only the first step in effecting change. The #MeToo movement is extremely beneficial to victims of sexual harassment and assault, however, we will need to take action beyond social media in order to modify the way society addresses sexual abuse.
According to Sophie Gilbert’s piece in The Atlantic, “[#MeToo is] simply an attempt to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society.” While this is important, both to show the magnitude of people effected by sexual abuse and remind survivors that they are not alone, it is slightly problematic.
Reducing the movement to just a “show of hands” instead of making it a “call for action” puts the movement’s potential at risk. Previous consciousness-raising movements have been overlooked, such as #YesAllWomen and #WhatWereYouWearing, according to Alyssa Rosenberg from The Washington Post.
Clearly, this is not the first time a hashtag has blown up on social media, drawing attention to a major societal concern, and it definitely will not be the last. The issue here is that these social media movements are so quickly forgotten that their impact is rather minimal. They are ignored, because they die as words on a screen with no one daring to act and make them truly mean something.
Lisa Senecal, a member of the Vermont Commission on Women, stated, “This isn’t a women’s issue. This is a violence issue, and an issue of power and who has the power. So until the people who still primarily do hold the power, which is primarily men and primarily white men, until they’re going to begin to act, then the problems are going to persist,” according to PBS.
By continuing to call upon men, who are most often the perpetrators of harassment and assault, we can begin guiding the #MeToo movement in a direction of active change.
There are so many valid directions that can take the #MeToo movement to the next level and evoke change. It is clear, however, that we cannot leave the movement where it is, decaying on Twitter’s trending page. Explicit action toward holding perpetrators accountable must be taken by all genders in order for this social media movement to assist in preventing future victims of sexual harassment and assault.