By Sarah Gianni ’18
On Thursday October 5, New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Towhey exposed two sexual assault allegations that were made against film producer and former film studio executive Harvey Weinstein.
Almost immediately after the initial story was published, more women began to come forward with accusations of sexual assault and harassment against Weinstein. Some of these woman included high profile actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Lupita Nyong’o.
The stories told by these women serve as a reminder that sexual harassment and assault continue to be prevalent, both historically and in today’s society. In response to the Weinstein case, thousands of women, and some men, have taken to social media to share their personal stories of harassment or assault.
The hashtag “#MeToo” caught fire on a variety of social media platforms; these two simple words represent an individual’s personal experience with this type of abuse. The online momentum was set into motion when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted about it, encouraging women to reply “me too” as a reply to this tweet, suggested by a friend: “If all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of magnitude of the problem.”
Milano also noted that the original “me too” was started by activist Tarana Burke over a decade ago, in order to unify sexual assault victims. According to CNN, “#MeToo” was used 825,000 times as of mid-October.
Facebook also reported staggering numbers of users utilizing the hashtag. Within less than 24 hours, about 4.7 million Facebook users had engaged in the “Me too” conversation. Additionally, over 45 percent of users were friends with someone who posted a message with the words “Me too.”
While “#MeToo” has been described as both liberating and empowering, it also carries a sense of discomfort. Some argue that there is pressure to share such a personal experience in the public sphere of social media, which some victims may not be ready for or willing to do. However, for those who do not feel comfortable, or may have never had this experience, there is still a valuable lesson to take away.
The “#MeToo” movement is a chance for light to be shown on stories that society is uncomfortable and even ashamed to talk about. However, it provides an opportunity to reflect and heal, determining how we will move forward to create real change.