If you have visited any social media within the past week, you’ve probably seen these two little words going around like wildfire.
In those two words, seemingly insignificant without context, is an honest representation of how universal sexual harassment is. Most of those posting “Me, too.” have been women, which in of itself isn’t surprising, but it’s the extent to which this movement spread within days, how many people find themselves within its message, that makes it so profound and truly unsettling.
So where did this all begin? The hashtag #MeToo was trending on social media after actress Alyssa Milano asked victims of sexual harassment to come forward and let their voices be heard. Along with other celebrities speaking out, everyday people also felt the need to speak out.
All of this arises amidst the allegations surrounding Harvey Weinstein. With the news breaking out about his many inappropriate sexual interactions with actresses, it seems the entire Hollywood community has been abuzz with how prevalent harassment and assault are. It’s been one of those topics that everyone, regardless of their “star status,” has pushed under the rug and kept hush-hush for far too long, as if it’s just a normal aspect of life that we should accept.
An important element of this campaign to bring up is what #MeToo means because the definition of sexual assault can range widely among individuals. Is it catcalling? Is it just as severe as rape? Can it be beyond the workplace setting? Can words without additional action constitute abuse? If one person has faced greater harm than another, is that experience more valid?
It can feel like we’re opening up a can of worms here, but it’s something we need to do. A campaign like this exemplifies the power of social media and, despite the many negative attributes we might associate with it, how much good it can serve. Social media acts as bridge, a way to spread awareness that probably wouldn’t occur for sensitive topics. It’s not like we’re about to start up a conversation about sexual assault out of the blue. Heck, we might not ever mention our own experience out loud.
Sharing a trending hashtag might not feel like something memorable or brave, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s not easy, even online, to admit that you’ve faced sexual harassment and/or assault. There’s still many people who aren’t comfortable posting two little words online, their own hesitations holding themselves back.
I also think that this type of movement is the one that actually has the potential to become more. As a college student, you go through the Title IX training, you learn about workplace sexual harassment in employment orientations, but when you can make a personal connection to the problem, a new awareness of loved ones feeling victimized, we’ll take it more seriously. We have a more pertinent reason to fight against it.
There’s a fear of judgment, of disbelief that is often associated with admitting sexual abuse. What if people don’t take my claim seriously? What if they think I’m lying? What backlash could result from me speaking out? In this moment, you might not want to share anything, and that’s okay, and even then, your experiences are no less valid than anybody else’s. With as many people using the hashtag, we still cannot fully comprehend how widespread sexual assault may be. But my hope is that with a viral movement like this, we can realize that no, none of us are alone, and yes, this is an issue we must address beyond social media.
Will we take this farther than a hashtag? Will any action occur in light of the countless men and women admitting at least one instance of sexual assault? Great question. It’s one of many examples of well-intentioned campaigns that never goes beyond the online realm. We build the foundation of awareness and dialogue, but it’s our responsibility to take it to the next level, meaning we need to go to those who can create political change.
Beyond political change, I hope we can further address sexual assault by holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and behaviors. It’s important for men to call each other out when they see others using crude language to talk about women or making inappropriate sexual jokes. This kind of culture is supported by toxic masculinity so we all need to step up and hold each other accountable.
Regardless of what happens from here, always remember that if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, no part of the experience was your fault. Your words, actions, and appearance did not constitute abuse or violence. Whether you’re ready to say “Me, too” or not, your feelings are valid. You deserve support. And you deserve to see a lasting solution to prevent more people from encountering what you have felt.
What are your thoughts on #MeToo? Do you think more will come out of it?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie