Infographic by Makena Huey
President Donald Trump indirectly criticized the #MeToo Movement last Saturday after defending two White House aids accused of domestic abuse, Mark Landler wrote in a Feb. 10 New York Times article.
After the resignations of Staff Secretary Rob Porter and Speechwriter David Sorenson, Trump tweeted that potentially false accusations can destroy people’s lives. He argued for the need for due process, suggesting that the widespread effects of #MeToo have done more harm than good.
“The #MeToo Movement is empowering for women of all backgrounds,” said Kevin Gordon, a junior political science and economics major at Pepperdine. “It gives them a chance to come together on a platform and let the world know that we have a lot of work to do. But with that comes great responsibility. False accusations have the potential to destroy reputations, especially because this is such a sensitive topic.”
“The #MeToo Movement is empowering for women of all backgrounds. But with that comes great responsibility.”
For many, the president’s comments only affirmed the movement’s success and propelled the need to continue discussing sexual misconduct, Landler wrote. Supporters of #MeToo believe it is critical in exposing acts of violence and showing society how pervasive this issue is. .
How the hashtag started
Actress Alyssa Milano popularized the phrase Oct.15 by encouraging victims of sexual harassment and assault to tweet “me too,” Emily Shugerman wrote in a Oct. 17 Independent article. According to her tweet, Milano hoped this hashtag would “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem” after allegations against Harvey Weinstein first emerged.
Since Milano’s original call to action, the phrase has been posted millions of times accompanied by accounts of sexual assault, especially from celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Debra Messing, Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood and Gabrielle Union, Shugerman wrote.
How Me Too actually began
Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist from Harlem, New York, created the Me Too Movement on her MySpace page in 2006, according to the movement’s official website. It began as a grassroots organization to help survivors of sexual violence, especially young women of color in underprivileged communities, heal and know that they are not alone.
The campaign to promote “empowerment through empathy” began after a young girl at an Alabama youth camp revealed to Burke that she had been sexually assaulted, Abby Ohlheiser wrote in a Oct. 19 Washington Post article. Speechless, Burke, also a survivor of sexual violence, directed the girl to a different counselor, feeling guilty for not saying “me too.”
More than 10 years later, Milano enabled the hashtag to go viral and later credited Burke after realizing the movement had already been created. When her movement’s purpose first expanded, Burke said she was worried it would undo everything she had worked for at a time when so much more work needed to be done. She was concerned that those behind the hashtag were unprepared for what to do next, Ohlheiser wrote.
However, Burke said she feels honored to accept the title of Me Too’s leader and feels hopeful that the larger platform has made it more possible to discuss the prevalence of sexual violence and its impact, Ohlheiser wrote.
“It’s beyond a hashtag,” Burke tweeted the day Milano helped #MeToo go viral. “It’s the start of a larger conversation and a movement for radical community healing.”
Burke encourages survivors to join organizations, volunteer at sexual violence hotlines or donate to charities, but also acknowledges that survivors should not feel pressured into sharing their stories, Ohlheiser wrote.
The power of social media
The week after Milano’s initial post, the hashtag had been used in 1.7 million tweets and had reached 85 countries, Sintia Radu wrote in a Oct. 25 US News article. #MeToo spread from Twitter to Instagram and Facebook, representing a global revolution by giving marginalized voices the opportunity to speak out and enabling women around the world to connect with one another.
Social media campaigns are effective because the ideas and power that women have gained from from the movement will last long after it fades, Radu wrote. In response to #MeToo, men have created their own campaigns such as #IHave, #IDidThat, and #IWill, promoting accountability and action in relation to sexual harassment.
The #MeToo movement, which was predominantly propelled by celebrities, is uniquely viral from other social media campaigns in both volume, reach and sustained interest, Ohlheiser wrote in a Jan. 22 Washington Post article. It has dramatically contributed to an increase in conversation about sexual harassment.
“The #MeToo movement is an effective way to publicize the prevalence of sexual assault within our global community and is a way for victims of sexual assault to know they are not alone,” said Abby LaPine, a freshman political science major at Pepperdine.
“The #MeToo movement is an effective way to publicize the prevalence of sexual assault… and (tell) victims… they are not alone.”
Opposing viewpoints to the movement
Although most women find the #MeToo Movement empowering and believe the increased discussion and awareness is crucial in achieving social change, the movement also has its critics.
Kathy Davis and Dubravka Zarkov wrote in a Jan. 15 European Journal of Women’s Studies article that they are concerned awareness will be mistaken for a solution to sexual violence. Rather than focusing on moralizing dialogue, individuals should change the institutions that allow women to be harmed. Mirroring Trump’s recent comment, Zarkov and Davis also dislike that the movement allows the media to act as a judicial system, publicly condemning men to severe ramifications before they can defend themselves.
Many women are disturbed by having to continuously relive the accounts of other sexual assault victims and believe the movement places the burden on female survivors while removing the blame from male perpetrators.
“Women can turn the whole internet into a list of ‘Me toos,’ but it won’t make a difference until men ― all men ― acknowledge how they perpetuate misogyny and commit to making a change,” Angelina Chapin wrote in a Oct. 16 Huffington Post article. “No woman should feel pressure to tell painful stories about being violated, but every man should feel a responsibility to stop behavior that leads to sexual harassment and assault.”