In the past couple of weeks, details of Harvey Weinstein’s countless sexual assaults on women in the entertainment industry has been brought to the surface. The New York Times published an article on October 5 on the disgraced figure and how he used to buy his victims’ silence.
On the same day, actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd came forward with their recounts of sexual assault by Weinstein. Since then, the allegations against him have skyrocketed, and as of October 20, over fifty women have come forward publicly with accusations against Weinstein, the latest one being actress and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.
The phrase “me too,” rendered as the hashtag #MeToo, gained traction after actress and activist Alyssa Milano sent out a Tweet suggesting that women who have been assaulted write “me too” or #MeToo as either a response to her Tweet or as a status. This way, the world would be able to sense the extent of sexual assaults.
The hashtag quickly flared up over the Internet, as social media users worldwide made use of it; whether by sharing their own stories, speaking their minds, or otherwise showing their support, the impact has been felt. By coming forward, women have done incredible work to communicate the severity of the issue of sexual harassment and assault. When thinking about #MeToo, here are some thoughts to consider:
There’s no pressure to participate
While the hashtag is doing a wonderful thing, you shouldn’t feel like it’s necessary to take part in #MeToo if you feel unsafe doing so. For many women, revisiting their traumatic experiences can trigger damaging thoughts and emotions. It can bring about their post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression.
Furthermore, people who have been assaulted aren’t likely to tell every one of their Facebook friends about it. Coming out about it on a social media platform could not only attract unwanted sympathy, but it might cause further harassment from assholes in the forms of skepticism and victim shaming.
#MeToo is great. However, if you’re not participating, don’t feel guilty. If you know someone who isn’t participating, don’t blame them for it.
Who can use the hashtag?
Should men who have been assaulted or harassed also have the opportunity to speak out about their experiences via #MeToo? Is doing so going to help others realize the magnitude of sexual violence in the world, or will it only serve to take the attention away from women? Because this movement started with the cases of abuse by women against Harvey Weinstein, some feel like men should not use this opportunity to speak about being victims as well, and instead find another time.
To be honest, I don’t know if there will be another time like this. It’s common knowledge that the patriarchy has done a substantial part in keeping men silent about assault to preserve a harmful stereotype of “masculinity.” Men are encouraged to not show emotion so they don’t seem weak. This is why I stand behind men who are using #MeToo to share their experiences. Maybe doing so will help tear down the patriarchy and the toxic masculinity that comes with it — something that benefits all of us.
Men have been responding to the #MeToo tag with #HowIWillChange, a tag to remind themselves to modify their behaviour to be more sensitive and empathetic to women. Unlike some people who believe that this hashtag takes the focus away from women, I believe this is beneficial.
If we don’t allow men to look back on their behaviour, how will they change for the better? This might seem like a movement for men to gloat about being “good guys,” but when men are able to see on social media that their peers want to change, it causes a snowball effect, and induces change in them, too.