The #MeToo Twitter movement went viral in October of 2017 after Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused by multiple women of sexual intimidation, harassment and rape. The movement allows an open forum for victims of sexual harassment and intimidation, and it has collected 1.7 million tweets in just two months. The widespread use of the hashtag has sparked an intense debate on sexual harassment and intimidation.
Tarana Burke, who originally penned the hashtag in 2009, weighed in on the debate, saying she started the “me too” hashtag in order to evoke empathy. Empathy, according to Burke, can help survivors of sexual assault. Burke is amazed by the kind of attention the movement has drawn, but encourages everybody to now focus on what is going to happen after the Twitter campaign quiets down. “The next step in the movement will be helping women navigate what happens after they disclose an experience,” says Burke, as these women need help dealing with their trauma. Burke says that the power of #MeToo is not in just using the hashtag. “Naming it is just the beginning of the journey.”
Jackson Katz is the creator of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program, a gender violence prevention and education program for the U.S. military and sporting organizations. Katz’s TED talk on the issue of sexual harassment has gone viral in the wake of the #MeToo movement. His quote is seen as holding great importance for the movement: “We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women.” In his TED talk he raises the issue of the language surrounding sexual harassment. He sees terms such as ‘violence against women’ to be problematic, because it lacks an active agent; it implies there is no perpetrator.
Most of the debate in the #MeToo movement, then, concerns the involvement of men. Many, such as Burke and Katz, simply see them as the bad guys. However, many journalists and experts feel it it’s unfortunate that male victims of sexual harassment are being overlooked in this movement. Social media expert Alexandra Samuel thinks that it is important to also include these men. According to her, most men who have experienced sexual harassment have experienced it at the hand of other men. Samuel pinpoints the problem: “We need to remember that what’s surfacing here online is really about behavior by men in the workplace and beyond.” Author and journalist, Heather Jo Flores of the UK’s Independent agrees with her: “This is not about women, but about male violence and patriarchal control.”
In her column for the Los Angeles Times, Cathy Young also expressed a fear that the #MeToo movement may have gone too far. Reader reaction to her has not been positive. Young feels that some women are overreacting to fairly innocent exchanges in the workplace, even saying that “many women enjoy some degree of sexual interaction in their work lives.”
Heather Wilhelm, in a column for the Chicago Tribune, states that little things such as catcalling is something that everyone has dealt with at some point. “And that, my friends, is life,” according to her. She says she has nothing but respect for victims of true sexual harassment, but that some women are overdoing it with the hashtag. She feels the need to stand up for men. She reacted to a quote from the Huffington Post stating that “If every woman you know has been harassed or assaulted, then every man you know has likely made a woman feel unsafe.” Wilhelm poses that this is simply untrue, and it is ruining men’s reputation.
The impact of the #MeToo movement has been felt globally, with women and men having contributed stories from all over the world. This has also caused the resigning and firing of many powerful men in all sorts of professional fields. However, the movement has provoked something of a debate.
On one hand, some are saying that the movement can ruin the reputation of innocent men, and that we need a serious debate about what should be considered inappropriate and true sexual harassment. On the other hand, the movement has given sexual harassment victims an important platform to speak out, and it has had a significant impact on the awareness of sexual harassment. All in all, the movement and its effects are seen by many as very positive.
Kelly de Jong (Spain)