In October 2017 serious sexual abuse claims were made against film producer Harvey Weinstein and published in The New York Times. After the allegations surfaced, Hollywood stirred in disquiet. And then, a two-word hashtag caught fire on social media. Actress Alyssa Milano was credited for setting off the social media avalanche when she tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet”. The post triggered an out-pour of painful personal experiences of misogyny, assault, abuse and misconduct. At first it was mostly prominent women in the Hollywood entertainment industry who publicly called out their attackers. However, #MeToo soon became a global phenomenon. Within 24 hours Milano’s tweet received over 38,000 comments, 27,000 likes and more than 13,000 people retweeted it. Over 4.7 million people have used the hashtag on Facebook in more than 12 million posts.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
United in hardship, women from all over the world and all walks of life made the same statement: #MeToo. From a farmer in rural Africa and a Japanese tech fundi to a stay at home mother in England and an insurance broker in North America – millions stood in solidarity, and everyone was heard. This unprecedented level of sexual misconduct denouncement has horrified many, but it has also brought hope that the global epidemic of abuse and misogyny will one day come to an end.
This is not the first time the words “Me too” have done the rounds on social media. In 2006 the social activist Tarana Burke used the phrase on the MySpace social media platform. Her aim was to promote ‘empowerment through empathy’ with a grassroots campaign aimed at women of color who have experienced sexual abuse. Burke first coined the phrase after an encounter with a young teenager who told her that she had been sexually abused. Burke was emotionally charged and not able to respond to the girl at the time, but later wished that she had simply said, ‘me too.’ This is when, what Burke calls ‘the movement’, began. In later years she became program director at Girls for Gender Equity, a multi-generational nonprofit that strengthens communities and empowers women by giving them the opportunity to choose there own professional paths, succeed, and empower others.
Since it first appeared on the web, the #MeToo movement has evolved to include women of all races. It is now not even limited to women alone. The patriarchal nature of our society is seen as the main cause for this particular form of violence, for the escalation in the number of incidents, and for the years upon years of secrecy and denial surrounding it. However, this does not mean that women are the only victims. Men and transgender people all over the world also shared their stories. Actor Javier Munoz replied to Milano saying, “Me too. I don’t know if it means anything coming from a gay man but it’s happened. Multiple times.”
Besides making a huge impact in Hollywood, statehouses across the United States responded to various allegations of sexual abuse that surfaced from the campaign. In November New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand specifically referred to the movement when discussing allegations of sexual misconduct by politicians like President Trump, former President Clinton and Senator Al Franken. The hashtag has also trended in over 80 countries across the world including the United Kingdom, Pakistan and India. In France, Italy and Spain variations of the phrase trended and in Sweden women stood together and used the hashtag to confront TV presenter Martin Timell’s alleged abuse – and all of his shows were canceled. Furthermore, the #MeToo Center was launched as a space online where the stories of victims and the names of their predators can be publicized. The website aims to change the culture of acceptance when it comes to sexual assault while providing a platform that predators can fear.
The idea behind the #MeToo movement was to expose the magnitude of the problem and to hold men accountable for their inappropriate and/or violent conduct no matter how famous and powerful they are. So far, it seems to be working – a global community of people is standing in unity, and making their abuse known with two little words. It is powerful and empowering beyond words, and it cannot stop here.
This article is very good
Great thing Social Media is the quickest way to circulate news. The thing is, it’s not just for everyone to be aware of but for us to be responsive to women’s concern so they can be empowered as well.
best article. very useful.
Great article. It is nice to see women coming forward and sharing their experiences so others do not feel alone or that it just happened to them.
It just goes to show what social media can do sometimes. Unfortunately there are still people denying the problem and dismissing these stories as minor. They don’t understand that everyday harassment builds up over time for women and can be seriously harmful.
Wow! What an overwhelming response. Good article.
We have to be careful that due process is followed