Illustration by Siena Laws
Women from around the world are taking to Twitter and Facebook to share their experiences with sexual harassment and abuse, via the hashtag #MeToo. This viral message is a sound, albeit flawed, start to a future in which people are not stigmatized for being sexually harassed.
On October 15, actress Alyssa Milano shared a tweet that would spark a Twitter-wide revolution. “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.” This statement prompted millions of women to tweet #MeToo, opening the world’s eyes to experiences previously reduced to hushed conversations and neglected complaints.
The #MeToo campaign was actually conceived years ago by activist Tarana Burke. She was moved to start Me Too when she was volunteering at a camp, and a little girl told her about how her stepfather sexually harassed her. Burke was horrified by this, saying, “I watched her put her mask back on and go back into the world like she was all alone and I couldn’t even bring myself to whisper … me too.”
While many are praising this movement as exactly what the world needs right now, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Survivors need more than just recognition. They need accountability and consequences. They need an administration who shares these values, instead of the polar opposite. #MeToo is a good first step, but in order for many to enact real change, we need the harassers to start owning up to what they did, and only then can the healing process really happen.
This campaign is helping women feel like they aren’t alone, but what about making them feel like whoever assaulted or harassed them will never do it again? The problem is not in the victim, the problem is in the predator.
While men are primarily to blame for the acts of harassment and assault, it is easy to forget that anyone can commit these acts. Many men have also stepped up and shared #MeToo. This demonstration can be made even more effective if people stop excusing harassment or assault by saying things like, “she was asking for it,” or “men have needs.” These fallacies are ingrained from a young age, and children today hearing this in their households will grow up to believe the same things. For every man who acts on their “needs,” there is another man who manages to be respectful and kind.
If this movement is able to create an environment in which everyone feels comfortable enough to talk about their experiences with sexual harassment, #MeToo will have been a complete success.