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Women’s rights have increasingly been a hot topic of debate over the years and as recently as 2006, a moment named MeToo surfaced with in the underbelly of the internet. It started as something small on Myspace, where the intended purpose was to raise awareness about a problem mainly women faced that involved with sexual harassment or assault. However, the movement truly become the juggernaut it is today after a social media campaign was started in response to the public sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. This brought a storm to Hollywood, the movement of MeToo to was at the forefront of every household in America. However, every movement has flaws and it’s important to remember that while social revolutions are regularly guided by minding, incredible, talented, and fortunate people, the terrors of history implies society doesn’t get to create perfect moments and execute them faultlessly. These things are generally chaotic, largely out-of-control movements that can easily sour if they stay without structure and become corrupted from the main intentions. The MeToo movement has implicated a mob mentality style, that has made the movement both incredible progressive yet a double edged sword that deems extremely dangerous consequences to those within the wrath of the movement.
Our affinity to being social was evolutionary wired because an outcast was more likely to be eaten by a predator or have a harder time foraging. In mob mentality, each individual diffuses responsibility thinking that someone else will likely have the courage to thin or act properly. Self-consciousness mixes and we begin to merge our identity with the group. Any antagonism or deviation is misinterpreted as a personal attack. Group thinking supplants our own critical skills and the flow of ideas becomes bona fide. This can be a psychological thing that many people in society face. In an article about how individuals in society confine to mob mentality, Megan Donley states, “ When in a large group, people tend to experience a diffusion of responsibility. Typically, the bigger a mob, the more its members lose self-awareness and become willing to engage in dangerous behavior.” (Donley) Now with social media, people are able to hide behind a screen and too often where a controversial video clip with a thousand comments beneath it where people voice their opinions of what has taken place without having any context or any supplemental information about the situation. There used to be a time when “jumping to conclusions” was optically discerned as an unintelligent and an uneducated move that was generally shunned by the general population. Now with the elevated use of social media, we have armed a culture of mob mentality where no one fact checks and simply bases opinions predicated upon what they superficially see instead of getting as many facts to formulate their own biases. Furthermore, news agencies used to be in charge of maintaining an impartial presentation of current events to apprise the public of events that were taking place in their worlds; however, everything is clickbait for ratings. Today it simply boils down to the fact that by framing a situation in the most polarizing way possible you get a better emotional reaction from people. This harshly affects how good social movements meet resistantence, further leading to our society’s regression as a whole. This sort of mob mentality has taken its toll on the MeToo moment giving a great cause a dark side.
People that post “#MeToo” say that I have either been sexually harassed or assaulted. It is meant to mean a sense of solidarity among victims of sexual abuse in order to make people feel comfortable talking about it and the ablilty to bring guilty acussers to justice. Nonetheless, I think the way in which the # Metoo movement has tried to achieve this goal has gone down a wrong path which contradicts the fundamental principle of believing people to be innocent until proven guilty in our culture. There is a general acknowledgment that there are considerable disparities in legal and societal norms, but the cornerstone of innocent until proven guilty has been firmly laid in the foundation of modern social justice philosophy. This movement has been subverted by the campaign by pushing the notion that victims are validated by simply coming forward. That ones word without evidence is to be believed, otherwise you are shamed as a victim-blamer, misogynist, or rape apologist. By no means should victims be blamed for presenting allegations, but in the past year or so, after claims came out and were confirmed then seeing many people rightfully stripped from their status in society by the societal construct of herd towards the accused without any factual evidence. Let’s be clear, no victim should ever be shamed; however, should these vast amounts of people ridiculing the accused be allowed to infringe on both the judicial process and personal lives. An article describes how public shaming incorrectly, without facts can be unjustified
“Because of the mob mentality that accompanies public shaming events, often there is very little information about the target, sometimes only a single tweet. Yet there is a presumption of guilt and swift move toward justice, with no process for ascertaining facts. Rather than remaining neutral and simply describing a public shaming, newsrooms are on firmer journalistic ground when they approach with a point of view, usually that shaming is unjustified.” (McBride)
So should societal opinion be the judge, jury and executioner? When it comes to society it’s quite concerning that people are unable to distinguish what sexual harassment and sexual assault are, or they use the energy to their personal gain instead of genuinely discussing the issue.
The pattern has also created a situation where people can have their lives upended by the public opinion before they can either confront their accuser or challenge the charges against them or have a full investigation into the case, whether illegal or administrative. The story of Aziz Ansari was by far the worst of the MeToo campaign and a great example of people misusing the campaign for personal reasons. Aziz Ansari accuser says that Ansari had repeatedly ‘forced’ her to have intercourse, which they have not had, and to have oral sex, which she claims they have done. But later said that she had just felt uncomfortable with the way Ansari was approaching her, hinting that he wanted to have sex. Now yes Ansari should learn from this and become a better person, which he did, but unfortunately along the process was labeled a rapist along the way. In a recent skit he did address the situation (NAME) reports “He talked about the aftermath of the allegation with sincerity and humility, explaining again that it made him “a better person”. But disappointingly, he stopped short of addressing any of the alleged behaviour, expressing regret at how the woman felt.”(NAME) This is something that has created a situation where people can have their life upended by the public opinion court before they can either confront their victim or challenge the charges against them or have a full investigation into the case, whether criminal or administrative. There have been situations where students were forced to leave the school because their experiences on campus were tainted by the public outcry, even with university research clearing their name. This mob mentality causes innocent people to be driven out of society for claims that are unverifiable, either because of the age of the accusation or lack of evidence, and because of the compulsion of the #MeToo movement to believe the victim, no questions asked these people’s lives are left in shambles.
The #MeToo movement though having its flaws, but it has shown how common sexual abuse is, because people who haven’t experienced it think it’s an isolated incident. I believe that the # Metoo movement has gone hand in hand with the recognition and acknowledgement of the many, many victims of sexual assault and violence out there, women and men alike. It is absolutely crucial initiative that exposes sexual abuse as a very personal issue, and it takes a lot of courage to stand up and admit that you have been raped, especially when the perpetrator is a figure of authority, a parent, or even someone they trusted. As a society that will keep validating victims out there, as we should; we should also continue seeking to provide services to return these survivors to a comfortable state. But the # MeToo movement has more to do than deter criminals. The campaign has allowed the victims to feel less alone, less ashamed, and more willing to come forward. While it is certainly true that an assumed innocent suspect may be adversely affected by the public opinion in trial, it may also adversely affect a truthful defendant. In almost every case, there are those who do not believe in the accuser and who will try to shame them, embarrass them or ruin their reputation and call them a liar. The campaign also helped alleviate some of the obstacles that stand in the way for truthful accusers, and as a result, more and more potential offenders have been detected. In addition, this movement has also helped identify ways our society can enable sexual assault to occur. This makes potential victims more alert and trained, while making potential predators think twice about what they can get away with. Society must know that the men who commit these assaults are not always the people you think they could be. They aren’t all creeps and predators, these people are a part of everyday society that has become a part of our culture. Lastly a Harvard study shows that this freight train of a movement has sparked other areas of inequality to rise up stating, “As the accusations continue to erupt through the burgeoning #MeToo social media movement, many observers are wondering if the nation is finally beginning to deal with gender inequity.” (Pazzanese, Walsh) So that being said we must do our absolute best to trend with caution in this movement. All eyes are on every step taken and while every victory is great, each mishap is twice the defeat for the movement. While it may seem unfair, it is the society we live in where the good must always hold the highroad.
I believe the # Metoo movement is a tremendous help for all victims of sexual assault and violence, but its intent has been corrupted from solidarity and courage to face your abuser to mob mentality that blindly takes out innocent people at times. Ideally, I believe that the #Metoo movement can bring real change by offering solidarity to the community of victims of assault as well as resources through which victims can take criminal or civil action against their abusers. I hope the point has been made and while it’s received quite a lot of attention, the movement has been responsible for some well-deserved accountability. Soon we have to judge whether more harm done than good will be done and this will result in your own ‘collateral damage’ judgement. As in, how many innocent people are allowed to be harmed by this before reconsideration is needed. It should be closely examined when someone reveals that they have been molested or assaulted after all the physical evidence has been thoroughly investigated. The victim should always be treated with respect and receive the help that they need. But we shouldn’t start to destroy the life of someone on the basis of arguments and circumstantial proof. If an innocent person is publicly shamed, berated, fired, and before due process turned into a pariah, then we have a problem, a serious, unconstitutional issue. Again this is not an argument against the victims in the #MeToo that have bravely come forth, but rather just some thoughts on how we should proceed before tainting a movement that has so much potential for good.
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