Women have always been the victims of sexual harassment. Since 1998, nearly 17 million women have reported sexual assault.
Several hashtags have been used to start movements on social media in the hope of raising awareness regarding this issue including #YesAllWomen, #WhyIStayed, #EverydaySexism, and #ToTheGirls. The most recent hashtag #MeToo has been used by women from all around the world to speak up and share their horrible experiences with sexual harassment.
Tarana Burke, a longtime female activist started the “Me Too” movement back in 2006 to help survivors of sexual harassment get over their traumatic experiences.
On October 15, 2017, the #MeToo hashtag started trending on twitter after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” after a friend suggested that “if all 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.” The hashtag went viral, and more than 1.7 million men and women from 85 different countries have used it.
Many celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Messing, Anna Paquin also tweeted the hashtag in support of the campaign and to show that they too have been sexually harassed. Najwa Zebian, the author and poet tweeted, “#MeToo. And I was blamed for it. I was told not to talk about it. I was told that it wasn’t that bad. I was told to get over it.”
Men also play an important role in this campaign. Many men are using the hashtag to tell stories of their own incidents and to support women. For example, the comedian and activist Nick Jack Pappas tweeted, “Men, don’t say you have a mother, a sister, a daughter… Say you have a father, a brother, a son who can do better. We all can. #MeToo.” In addition, A Call to Men, a socialization group for males to prevent violence, is launching a new campaign #IWillSpeakUp to help Burke’s movement. Ted Bunch, the co-founder of A Call to Men, says, “We felt like we really needed to respond because it’s out of control, and it’s not just Hollywood. Viewing women as objects, property and having less value than men is something that all males have been taught, even by ‘well-meaning men,’ and we pass that on to our boys. So this has to become a men’s issue, because men won’t stop unless other men say so.”
Time Magazine’s people of the year included a group of women named the “Silence Breakers”, who represent women “for their role in starting a global dialogue” because they came forward about their sexual assault experiences and did not stay silent. Burke is one of the silence breakers, yet she considers the “dialogue” to be too “exclusive” and says that this conversation should grow bigger to include marginalized women’s experiences. She says, “In some regards, when some women are successful we are all successful, but in other regards it doesn’t always trickle down to all of us.”
Burke says, “I’ve been saying: this is a movement, not just a moment. We’re still watching it grow.” She also describes it as “the tip of the iceberg,” claiming that this campaign is of a much greater importance than it seems to be.