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Me Too: The Movement that Sparked The Debate About Sexual Abuse

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Words: 2847 |

Pages: 6|

15 min read

Published: May 31, 2021

Words: 2847|Pages: 6|15 min read

Published: May 31, 2021

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The origin and evolution of the MeToo movement
  3. The main aim of the movement
  4. The life cycle of the movement
  5. Conclusion

Introduction

The MeToo movement, a formidable social initiative, strives to combat sexual violence and sexual assault inflicted upon individuals. Its success lies in challenging the objectification of people. This movement is dedicated to assisting survivors of sexual assault, violence, and harassment, particularly those who face systemic disadvantages, such as people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and young women from low-income backgrounds, by offering them pathways to healing. Within the context of social movements, various social groups hold differing statuses, and regrettably, some wield more power and privilege than others.

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Levchak (2019) illuminates the distinction between advantaged and disadvantaged groups, with advantaged groups enjoying greater access to social power and privilege based on their social status, while disadvantaged groups encounter limited or denied access due to their lack of membership. It is within this context that individuals from disadvantaged groups are more susceptible to becoming targets, as they often lack access to resources, live in fear, and are frequently overlooked. This vulnerability becomes especially pronounced when they fall prey to individuals in positions of power who possess greater wealth and the means to access resources (Levchak 2019: 1).

However, it is essential for survivors to recognize that they are not alone. The primary objective of the MeToo movement is to extend a helping hand to survivors by providing resources that may have been previously unavailable to them, enabling them to continue their lives and thrive despite their traumatic experiences. The movement offers a diverse array of resources, including healing practices and toolkits, as well as the establishment of safe spaces at local and national levels where survivors of sexual violence can find support. Moreover, the movement aspires to empower survivors, emphasizing that being a survivor does not define one's entire identity. Survivors are not alone; they have a community of individuals ready to provide support. In an effort to raise awareness and educate others, the movement is driven by a "community of advocates driven by survivors" (Burke 2017: Me Too Movement).

Survivors have triumphed over tremendous adversity, and their stories carry profound meaning that can inspire and assist others. If survivors feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and narratives, the movement welcomes their contributions as they bring people together. Burke (2017) contends that "sexual violence is usually caused by someone the woman knows, so people should be educated from a young age that they have the right to say no to sexual contact from any person, even after repeat solicitations from an authority or spouse, and to report predatory behavior" (Burke 2017: Me Too Movement). Consequently, the movement advocates for changes to laws and policies, recognizing the imperative need for an evolving legal framework that adapts to societal transformations.

These proposed legal alterations will be implemented in educational institutions, workplaces, and throughout society at large, holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. The MeToo movement seeks to establish these changes as enduring goals, encompassing initiatives such as processing all untested rape kits, revisiting local school policies, enhancing the screening process for teachers, and updating sexual harassment policies. Additionally, individuals working with students will be required to undergo fingerprint analysis and background checks before being permitted to work (Walker, 2019: Everyday Democracy).

The origin and evolution of the MeToo movement

The inception of the MeToo movement traces back to 2006 when Tarana Burke, in the era of MySpace's social media dominance, frequently posted the phrase "me too." She employed this phrase to shed light on her personal experiences as a survivor of sexual harassment, utilizing it as a means to reach out and connect with others grappling with similar struggles. At its inception, her primary objective was to raise awareness about the alarming prevalence of sexual harassment, particularly within the context of multiple black women being targeted without any effective recourse.

However, the movement gained significant media attention and popularity in October 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano adopted Burke's phrase and introduced the hashtag #metoo on Twitter. With this hashtag, Milano urged individuals who had experienced sexual harassment or assault to respond with "me too" to her tweet, thus facilitating the dissemination of the message. Subsequently, she discovered that the hashtag had originally been introduced by Tarana Burke. Milano acknowledged this and stated, "I was just made aware of an earlier #MeToo movement, and the origin story is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring" (NBC News, 2018). The #metoo movement swiftly spread worldwide, becoming an international voice for survivors. Within just 24 hours of its emergence, Facebook recorded over 12 million posts, comments, and reactions (Khomami, 2017).

The movement's evolution led to its establishment as an organization, with a central online presence serving as a repository for legislative information, toolkits, and advocacy resources aimed at aiding survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Despite its digital core, the movement also conducts speaking engagements and sensitivity training sessions to enhance the safety of women in school and workplace environments (Me Too, 2017). The catalyst for this movement's rapid growth was the surge of allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Alyssa Milano, a prominent figure, was among those critical of the way Hollywood was handling such issues. She believed that she could not be the only one facing these challenges. Hollywood had become notorious for downplaying aggression toward women, with the historical expectation that actresses should endure their male counterparts' actions, no matter how hostile or offensive those interactions might be. This movement employed testimonials of traumatic experiences involving individuals like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Louis CK to illustrate that such exploitation transcended the confines of the movie-making industry, occurring at various levels within society (Khomami, 2017).

The MeToo movement has made significant strides in promoting progressive changes. For instance, several states have enacted bans on Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) that had previously protected perpetrators in cases of sexual harassment allegations. This development provides financial relief to women who may have previously grappled with the dilemma of choosing between selling their silence or standing up for themselves. Additionally, the movement has garnered momentum in its campaign to abolish the tipped minimum wage, a practice in place since 1966, stemming from the economic conditions during the Vietnam War. The tipped minimum wage system is detrimental to the working class, as it hinges on the company adage "the customer is always right." However, when individuals experience harassment or exploitation by customers, they may hesitate to report such incidents, fearing the loss of their opportunity to earn a living wage.

The main aim of the movement

The MeToo movement's aim is to address unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances, differentiating between sexual violence and sexual harassment. Sexual violence encompasses various forms of non-consensual sexual activity, including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, unwanted touching, attempted rape, and completed rape. On the other hand, sexual harassment pertains to unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual behavior, or any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature (Sepulveres, 2017).

This issue is increasingly recognized as a social problem, with a rising number of victims, not limited to women and children but also impacting members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019), alarming statistics reveal that a significant percentage of lesbians, bisexual women, gay men, bisexual men, and transgender individuals have experienced sexual violence or harassment in their lifetime.

The problem extends beyond local and national boundaries, with instances of sexual violence and harassment occurring internationally. In Nigeria, for example, nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram, leading to the reorientation of the #metoo movement into #bringbackourgirls. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) successfully negotiated the return of approximately 100 of these girls (Matfess, 2017).

Predatory behavior knows no bounds, targeting individuals at work, school, and in public spaces. Perpetrators may not fit the stereotypical criminal profile and often wield power and privilege, preying on those who may share a similar social class, gender, or race. Intersectionality theory, as discussed by Levchak (2019), underscores the interplay of a person's identity factors—such as gender, race, class, and sexuality—in creating disadvantages. Privilege and oppression are intertwined concepts, with privilege affording unearned access to resources available to some, while oppression represents a system maintaining advantage and disadvantage based on social group membership (Levchak, 2019).

The MeToo movement has called upon men to actively address and combat inappropriate behavior, emphasizing the importance of not being bystanders. Evans (2019) highlights the significance of the bystander effect and the need for individuals to intervene effectively to prevent violence and change harmful social norms. It is crucial to become allies with oppressed groups, including women, children, and the LGBTQ+ community, recognizing that their lives matter regardless of personal experiences. Collective action, as discussed by Levchak (2019), involves working together to achieve common goals. Former NFL player turned activist, Wade Davis, aptly stated that the #metoo movement is about addressing the collective inconsideration of an entire gender (Salam, 2018).

The movement has inspired various organizations and follow-up movements, including #howiwillchange and #Ididthat, both founded by men seeking to bridge the gender gap and be allies in the fight for women's rights. These initiatives acknowledge that even if men are not directly affected, their actions and attitudes play a significant role in creating a safe and equitable environment for women (Salam, 2018).

The life cycle of the movement

The MeToo movement owes its existence to the dedicated individuals who have rallied behind its cause, embodying the essence of activism. Activists are individuals who identify a social change they believe in, devoting their time and energy to advance that cause, often placing their personal lives, careers, and even families on hold to shift their focus towards the welfare of others (Oliver, 1992). The crux of their activism lies in effecting social change that benefits individuals or groups beyond themselves. Successful activists possess a clear understanding of their goals and the tools required to achieve them, meticulously planning and organizing every facet of their movement (Oliver, 1992).

The life cycle of a social movement unfolds in four stages: emergence, coalescence, bureaucratization, and decline. The first stage, emergence, marks the inception of a movement, where the initial idea takes root (Christensen, 1). In the case of the MeToo movement, this genesis can be traced back to Tarana Burke's MySpace post and gained momentum when actress Alyssa Milano drew media attention to the cause. The second stage, coalescence, is pivotal, as movements encounter obstacles and must navigate around them. It is during this phase that leadership emerges and strategies for success are formulated (Christensen, 3). The MeToo movement has unequivocally defined its objectives: combating sexual assault and violence against marginalized groups, including women, children, and the LGBTQ+ community. Supporters have mobilized in significant numbers, harnessing the power of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, thereby amplifying the movement's reach and raising awareness.

The third stage, bureaucratization, represents a movement's consolidation after overcoming obstacles and gaining prominence. In this phase, movements must leverage their newfound visibility to advance their agenda, networking and executing larger-scale initiatives (Christensen, 3). The MeToo movement has established itself with a robust online presence, offering resources to survivors, safe havens, training, and toolkits. Furthermore, the movement conducts events, including presentations at colleges and universities, to educate students on the bystander effect and the services available. For instance, in April 2019, they embarked on a presentation tour visiting historically black colleges, featuring survivors as guest speakers who shared their stories (Me Too, 2017).

The final stage, decline, is not necessarily negative; it can denote both the end of a movement or its successful culmination and transition to new endeavors. In this stage, there are four possible outcomes. Repression occurs when authorities or agents use force, such as riot control or arrests, to quell a movement. Co-optation transpires when movement leaders become too entrenched in their cause, compromising their broad appeal. Success signifies the attainment of movement goals, marking a triumphant conclusion. Lastly, a decline may occur due to internal or external factors, leading to a movement's fading away (Christensen, 4). In the case of the MeToo movement, it appears to be in a state of progression rather than decline. While the future remains bright, the movement is yet to reach its culmination. It is poised for success, buoyed by international support and celebrity endorsements, paving the way for continued progress and accomplishment of its objectives.

Conclusion

To sum up, the MeToo movement has emerged as a powerful force in our society, championing the cause of survivors of sexual violence and harassment. Originating from the grassroots efforts of Tarana Burke and gaining significant momentum with Alyssa Milano's influential hashtag, #metoo, this movement has evolved into a global phenomenon.

Throughout this essay, we have delved into the MeToo movement's objectives, its historical development, and its profound impact on raising awareness about the issues of sexual violence and harassment. We have examined the movement's response to the nuances of sexual violence and harassment, recognizing that both are grave offenses that must be addressed.

Moreover, this essay has underscored the importance of intersectionality theory, emphasizing how aspects of identity—such as gender, race, class, and sexuality—intersect to create disadvantages and privileges within society. Women, children, and members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to be disproportionately affected, often targeted by those who wield power and privilege.

The MeToo movement has called upon society to actively combat inappropriate behavior, urging men to stand up against harassment and violence. It highlights the bystander effect, stressing the necessity of intervention to prevent harm and alter harmful social norms. The movement has fostered solidarity and collective action, inspiring individuals and organizations worldwide to join forces in the pursuit of gender equality and justice.

As we contemplate the future of the MeToo movement, one thing remains clear: it is not in decline but in a state of progression. With its continued dedication and the support of international communities and celebrities, the movement is poised to achieve its goals and pave the way for a safer, more equitable world.

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In a world where the voices of survivors are being heard and amplified, the MeToo movement stands as a testament to the power of collective action, allyship, and unwavering determination. It reminds us that every individual has a role to play in creating a society free from sexual violence and harassment—a society where every person is treated with dignity, respect, and empathy.

References:

  1. Burke, T. (2019). Unbound: My story of liberation and the birth of the MeToo movement. Flatiron Books.
  2. Sepulveres, L. A. (2017). #MeToo: The truth behind the hashtag. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/metoo-the-truth-behind-the-hashtag/2017/11/01/c1f615b4-be7f-11e7-959c-fe2b598d8c00_story.html
  3. CDC. (2019). Intimate partner violence and sexual violence victimization assessment instruments for use in healthcare settings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/ipv/ipvandsvscreening.pdf
  4. Matfess, H. (2017). Boko Haram and the Kidnapping of the Chibok Schoolgirls. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/boko-haram-and-kidnapping-chibok-schoolgirls
  5. Evans, S. (2019). Bystander interventions for sexual assault prevention: An evaluation of the Green Dot program on college campuses. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 34(1), 152-173.
  6. Levchak, M. (2019). Intersectionality theory. In S. R. Thompson (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice. Rowman & Littlefield.
  7. Salam, M. (2018). Wade Davis: NFL Player to Activist. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/us/wade-davis-nfl-player-to-activist.html
  8. Christensen, R. K. (2019). Social movements, 1768-2018. Routledge.
  9. Me Too Movement. (2017). About Us. https://metoomvmt.org/about-us/
  10. NBC News. (2018). Alyssa Milano on Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement: ‘We are going to heal together.’ https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/pop-culture-news/alyssa-milano-tarana-burke-s-metoo-movement-we-are-going-n814096
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Me Too: The Movement That Sparked The Debate About Sexual Abuse. (2021, May 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/me-too-the-movement-that-sparked-the-debate-about-sexual-abuse/
“Me Too: The Movement That Sparked The Debate About Sexual Abuse.” GradesFixer, 31 May 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/me-too-the-movement-that-sparked-the-debate-about-sexual-abuse/
Me Too: The Movement That Sparked The Debate About Sexual Abuse. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/me-too-the-movement-that-sparked-the-debate-about-sexual-abuse/> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Me Too: The Movement That Sparked The Debate About Sexual Abuse [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 May 31 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/me-too-the-movement-that-sparked-the-debate-about-sexual-abuse/
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