By Maddy Talbert
While the #MeToo movement gained the most traction across media platforms in October 2017, this movement had existed for more than a decade. Tarana Burke, a social activist, created the phrase “Me Too” in 2006 on the social networking site Myspace. Burke used the phrase to “encourage empowerment through empathy” for women of color who had faced sexual abuse.
The phrase would appear again in October of 2017, amongst allegations of sexual abuse and harassment perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein, a high-profile Hollywood producer and executive. The New York Times and The New Yorker reported about the dozens of women who had accused Weinstein of sexual abuse over a time period spanning 30+ years. After light was shed on this scandal, many people began to make similar accusation against high profile men in various industries who had used their power to sexually abuse their staff or coworkers.
Initially, the issue of sexual abuse was portrayed as a problem exclusive to Hollywood, and some dismissed the issue as a few “bad apples” that had taken advantage of their position of authority. Actress Alyssa Milano wanted to establish that this problem was ubiquitous and faced by people from every kind of background. She encouraged the use of the phrase #MeToo in a tweet stating, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too,’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
From there the movement exploded as people, regardless of background, began sharing their own stories of sexual abuse or simply stating #MeToo on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For many this movement offered an opportunity to break the silence about what had happened to them, knowing that they were not alone in their experience. #MeToo provided an outlet for expressing the anger, shame, and humiliation many felt that they had to hide over the years out of fear of repercussions or losing their jobs.
The #MeToo movement allowed people in various industries to talk about their experiences with sexual abuse in their field. From farming, to academia, to music, and beyond – stories of sexual abuse and misconduct that occurred for decades were now brought to the forefront. #MeToo validated victims’ experiences, and let the world know that sexual abuse and coercion is common and prevalent.
This movement inspired protests and the creation of the Time’s Up movement by Hollywood celebrities. Time’s Up formed a legal defense fund was created in order to aid anyone in their pursuit of justice for workplace sexual harassment, and during the 75th Golden Globes women wore black on the red carpet in protest of sexual harassment, and solidarity with the movement.
Featured image is from Mashable.