What is the #MeToo Movement?
The #MeToo Movement is the brainchild of African American civil rights activist and sexual abuse survivor, Tarana Burke. Tarana, being born in the Bronx, a community so tight-knit and would readily defend those in it, grew aware of the injustice and sexual abuse at such a young age. The idea of the Me Too Movement started to germinate in her head after she talked to a 13-year-old girl who shared to her that she was being sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend back in the late 90’s. At the time, she wanted to tell the girl “me too” so badly but held back.
It was in 2006 that Tarana Burke started to use the phrase “me too” to capture the shared experiences of the millions of those who have experienced sexual abuse in particular, women. She wanted to help and give a voice to the survivors of sexual abuse – young people, LGBTQ+ community, Black females, and just about everyone under the spectrum. In the hope of rescuing sexual abuse victims, with a special focus on those belonging to minority groups, Tarana Burke laid the first stone of the Me Too Movement.
The widespread sexual misconduct towards women, and the tendency of many accusations to fall on deaf ears took on a new, torrential form with the #MeToo Movement. It took eleven years before the phrase “me too” morphed into a more powerful Twitter-driven #MeToo Movement. It was after American actress Alyssa Milano tweeted about it in October of 2017 that the phrase gained serious steam. It gained even more attention when the accusation of Alyssa Milano against Harvey Weinstein reached the newspapers and has led to both online and physical protests.
By the hundreds, sexually abused women everywhere came forward and started a movement that prompted other hitherto silent victims to follow suit and pinpoint their abusers. Nowhere is the effect of the #MeToo Movement more evident than in Hollywood, where a storm of allegations had since emerged against high-profile men, with the case of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein being the landmark one, culminating in a public scandal and in his dismissal from his own company.
The #MeToo Movement brought to public awareness the prevalence of sexual misconduct, harassment, and even rape carried out by people in powerful positions towards vulnerable, often helpless women the past few decades. While the #MeToo Movement has certainly empowered women not only in Hollywood but across the globe, appropriate collaborative action must be consistently undertaken to ensure no recurrences, and ideally, it should remain a movement and not simply a recurring moment, to eliminate the suppression and abuse of women on a worldwide scale.
Unsurprisingly, the #MeToo Movement is still sometimes unfairly perceived as the revolution that shot down sexually misbehaving Hollywood bigwigs, controverting its primary aim – putting an end to sexual abuse of women everywhere. Even more disappointing is the way interested people are easily swayed to the side of the accused and the emergence of the false-accusations trend.
Since the #MeToo Movement is more internet-based, it has become part of the internet-driven activism and has a wider reach. It didn’t take long for the sexually abused women to speak up, even though some didn’t use their main accounts to share their stories. There had been many accusations made towards personalities from showbiz to the gaming industries. But once the accused persons deny or present counterarguments, onlookers easily turn on the accusers.
What makes the #MeToo Movement important?
#MeToo Movements around the World
While it is definitely not late for the #MeToo Movement to serve its real purpose – to put an end to sexual abuse – the Hollywood incident spurred a fundamental progress in women’s rights, even in places where subjugation of women had been the norm. The story of Pakistani law student Khadja Siddiqi, who was viciously stabbed by a male classmate in 2016 after repelling his advances, was put on spotlight after the attacker was acquitted.
After a surge in both local and global support for Siddiqi’s quest for justice, the court sentenced the attacker to 7 years in prison for attempted murder. Truly, one may reasonably argue that the penalty meted out to Siddiqi’s attacker is paltry. But it must be understood that it still constitutes a dramatic shift in power in an ultra-religious, patriarchal nation, sending profound tremors to its social and political landscape. The future of women in Pakistan has been given new hope.
The aim of the #MeToo Movement is to eradicate all sexual abuse, suppression of any kind, to call forth accountability, and to force men to re-evaluate their behavior towards women. Farther east, the Philippines has consistently ranked as one of the more gender-equal countries in the world, having had two female heads of state, with many more currently holding prominent government posts. Still, in this nation whose qualities seem to be a mix of its matriarchal tendencies and patriarchal spurts, victim-blaming and shaming are still common behavior, even amongst women themselves.
The recent increase in feminist movements looked auspicious and exhibited courage, the likes of which even President Rodrigo Duterte was not spared of. The #BabaeAko, which can be literally translated to #IamAWoman, was launched in 2018 as response and call for President Duterte to hold himself accountable for sexist, misogynistic remarks and behavior he has unrepentantly repeated, even in press conferences and international meetings, since his term began.
Victims of sexual abuse are also mustering the bravery to post their experiences of sexual assault or misconduct on social media platforms, in an effort to make other victims come forward and speak out. While they often draw the ire of Filipinos who possess outdated views on sexuality, feminism, and equality, the cause persists. The past years have witnessed monumental progress; legislation has finally outlawed catcalling and other sorts of street harassment.
In Egypt, the CCTV video of young woman named Rania Fahmy fearlessly fending off her attacker reached viral status in 2018, prompting her to file charges with the video serving as evidence. Her action resulted a new legal precedent for women in Egypt and in a 3-year prison sentence for her attacker, making her one of the first few women to win court ruling on charges of sexual harassment. In the process, a message was sent to not only Egypt, but the region and the world in general.
Only recently, there has been a development in the #MeToo Movement proving that it withstands and will not end with the conviction of Harvey Weinstein. The hearing for sexual harassment has finally started 2 years after Zhou Xiaoxuan accused prominent TV personality Zhu Jun of groping and forcibly kissing her when she was just an intern back in 2014. China’s first civil code had just been passed and it is to the great joy of women because it has expanded the definition of sexual harassment.
Even though the trial is still on going and a win is not secured, Zhou remains hopeful as she knows that she and her supporters have made their mark. Several hundred supporters showed up outside the court holding #MeToo banners. This is a very big and brave step for someone to take in a very conservative country where victim-blaming is rampant. Zhou encourages that more women speak up even if there is an online censorship for the #MeToo in China.
The #MeToo Movement reached India and began an open conversation about sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior in workplaces. It forced the companies to constitute the law that protects women from such acts. Although it began as a silent retaliation, it seemed to pick up quite a large number of supporters who shared their experiences anonymously online. This empowerment of the women to speak up is such a big change in a country dominated by a patriarchal mindset.
The #MeToo Movement, despite the misnomer that it is solely a Hollywood movement because of its spectacular timing moment, is not confined to the workplace or any other arena. It is a movement that concerns not only the status of women in localities where it is in question, but a movement that must penetrate all corners of society. The #MeToo Movement does not stop with women who are championing a cause for it does not stop at all; it should always start in places removed from the public’s eyes, where women’s voices are gagged, where there are plenty of hushed spectators of injustice and cruelty towards women.
Fortunately, its progress remains unimpeded. The success can be measured in court rulings, in revamp of legislation, and paradoxically, in its vilification from archaic parties. The #MeToo Movement should not be confined to landmark moments, and the women behind it deserve statues, not silencing. And while it should not be known just for its individual victories, the fact that it made such an impact and change should be recognized. The #MeToo Movement even spurred the #TimesUp movement founded by Hollywood actresses to eliminate sexual harassment in all workplaces. The fight is an endless movement, and all concerned should serve as reinforcement.
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AFP. (2020, December 2). China's #MeToo movement gets its moment in court. Bangkok Post. https://www.bangkokpost.com/world/2028999/chinas-metoo-movement-gets-its-moment-in-court
Eltahawy, M. (2018, March 13). A #MeToo Moment for Egypt? Maybe. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/13/opinion/egypt-metoo-email-girl.html
Jain, J. (2020, February 3). India And Its #MeToo Movement In 2020: Where Are We Now?. Feminism in India. https://feminisminindia.com/2020/02/03/india-metoo-movement-2020/
Jayanetti, C. (2020, November 22). New equalities commissioner attacked ‘modern feminism’ and #MeToo. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/nov/22/new-equalities-commissioner-attacked-modern-feminism-and-metoo
Morris, K. (2020, November 15). Tarana Burke: 'If it weren’t for Black women, I would not have made it'. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/15/tarana-burke-if-it-werent-for-black-women-i-would-not-have-made-it
Tenbarge, K. (2020, June 24). A new #MeToo movement is erupting online as allegations of sexual misconduct hit celebrities, influencers, and streamers. Insider. https://www.insider.com/me-too-allegations-movement-a-list-celebs-streamers-bieber-tiktokers-2020-6