Friday, December 29, 2017

6 Ways the “Me Too” Movement Brightened a Year of Darkness [Contributor: Rebecca Clark]

For a lot of people, 2017 was a difficult year. As a nation, we saw a lot of political and social steps backward; as individuals, some of us experienced personal losses, some of us felt our identities were invalidated, and some of us experienced financial difficulties. Seemingly more than ever, people are looking forward to a new year, a fresh start, and an opportunity to begin anew.

But for all of its hardships, 2017 brought with it some really beautiful moments of revolution and empowerment, especially for women. At the forefront of this movement was the “Me Too” hashtag. Created by Tarana Burke in 2006, #MeToo went viral earlier this year when actresses such as Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan took to Twitter to denounce Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood hotshot who had made inappropriate comments to and actions towards a large pool of actresses. Shortly after, Alyssa Milano tweeted the phrase, where it picked up steam, and everyday women began using the hashtag to detail their instances of sexual assault and harassment. Many men, such as Kevin Spacey, were fired from their networks and pulled from current and future projects as a result of people coming forward to share their #MeToo stories.

Here are six ways the “Me Too” movement served as a light in an otherwise dark year:

1. Empowered women to come together and share their stories. 

Similar to the #YesAllWomen hashtag that went viral a few years ago, #MeToo displayed just how prevalent sexual assault and harassment are, inside and outside of the workplace. #MeToo created a space for women, men, and folks of other genders who have survived sexual assault to come forward and talk about their experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

2. Gave male rape/sexual assault survivors a platform. 

Terry Crews amplified male survivors’ voices when he shared his #MeToo moment in a series of tweets. Anthony Rapp followed shortly after, detailing an experience he had with Kevin Spacey when he was a minor. Too often, our society’s obsession with masculinity and toughness shames male survivors of sexual assault into silence, and #MeToo gave these survivors a chance to have their stories heard, listened to, and taken seriously.

3. Made sexual assault and harassment impossible to ignore. 

You couldn’t ignore #MeToo stories. They flooded social media, hit the covers of every magazine, showed up on every major news site, and were named Time’s Person of the Year. Everywhere you looked, someone else was coming forward and bravely sharing their story.

4. Brought attention to daily sexist microaggressions. 

When we think of violence against women, we often think of rape or sexual assault/abuse. But violence also takes it shape in words. #MeToo stories included instances of catcalling, bosses making inappropriate comments to their female employees, and feeling objectified and uncomfortable due to sad attempts at “compliments” regarding appearances.

5. Finally held men accountable for their actions. 

Brock Turner is the epitome of white male privilege: regardless of photographic evidence and tons of witnesses testifying against him, Brock was given a mere few months in jail (he didn’t even serve the whole sentence) when it came to being convicting of raping his classmate behind a dumpster. Time and time again, we see men being let off easy for sex crimes; however, with the #MeToo movement, men were held accountable. Kevin Spacey and Louis CK were let go from their contracts with Netflix. Matt Lauer was released from The Today Show. Harvey Weinstein was fired. Men who are guilty of sexual misconduct are (rightfully) scared, wondering when they’ll be next.

6. Forced society to take women (and women in pop culture) seriously.

So often, survivors who come forward are accused of lying, seeking attention, or looking for money. #MeToo has taught society to believe women who come forward. Actresses, artists, and musicians in pop culture are so often dismissed as people and not taken seriously, but #MeToo has forced the American public to take a hard look at gendered violence and what we can do as a society to do better for our women.

It’s unfortunate that it took such a dangerous and SOMETHING political climate to spearhead this conversation, and it’s even more unfortunate that so many women (and men and folks of other genders) have been affected by sexual assault and harassment, but there is power in numbers.

2017 has proven that women are a force with which to be reckoned, that we’re serious about affecting change and promoting the feminist agenda, and that we’ll stop at nothing to provide folks with safe and inclusive environments.


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