Many women and men were sexually harassed. But they kept quiet. Actually, perhaps almost every woman has faced harassment, abuse, or even mere catcalling, at least once in her life. Agree? Without warning, though, the #MeToo wave has become a powerful voice of the victims. It proves that a movement towards truth and justice can start through a mere # on social media.
The explosion began from weeks ago. Actress Alyssa Milano finally came forward and spoke about the Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour. She in fact began a campaign on Twitter:
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Since which, about 68,000 people have replied to Milano’s tweet. The #MeToo hashtag occurred millions of times around the world. Many even came up with hashtags in their preferred languages, such as #YoTambien for Spanish speakers. It was astonishing that approximately 4.7 million people participated in the #MeToo movement within twenty-four hours.
In Malaysia, the hashtag #MeToo remained in the top ten Twitter trends for several days in October. Here, according to 2015 statistics, a rape happened every thirty-five minutes. Some faced sexual assault when they were little, but they had to keep on living, or surviving; and to not incriminate the perpetrators.
Most of the women and men could never really speak about it because of their fear; because of their status in their family and society. They had to stay silent, and hoped that things could someday go back to normal. In fact, many rapists were someone these victims had already known.
Worldwide, with the hashtag, many posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These mass platforms allowed victims to disclose some ugly and unfortunate situations, and to stress that they’ve also faced harassment and abuse.
Some posts were quite horrifying to read, nevertheless. It surely made a lot of us wonder whether it really did happen. These posts made it clear that women were told to keep their mouths tightly shut, simply because they might have become ‘impure’ or ‘imbecile’.
Yet, one way or another, this hashtag empowered the victims. Through this movement, users of the hashtag had been sharing the message to others, that they’re not alone in this situation. It’s a collective stance against sexual harassment, which shows that we ultimately should never feel ashamed or threatened to speak out loud against toxic culture and systems.
#MeToo among Western Celebrities
In 1997, black activist Tarana Burke actually started this #MeToo campaign, ages before the dominance of social media. She tried to unite all the survivors who faced harassment, but it didn’t go viral because she “had not received support over the years from prominent white feminists.” However, she mentioned that she was overwhelmed that her hashtag finally stands up to the bullies.
Brazilian feminist and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez pressed on. “I don’t think we [should] underestimate how much of an impact is being made by the way in which women can just speak out about their experiences, because we’re just not represented in the news media and films and literature,” said Caroline. “Until the internet came along, we just weren’t having these conversations about what it’s like to be a woman, what it’s like to walk down the street and be harassed and cat-called. We didn’t know about the idea of everyday sexism.”
Monica Lewinsky, however, became the reason behind a lot of raised eyebrows, by a tweet marking herself as a victim of sexual assault. Many know about the famous scandal on Bill Clinton. In fact, there was a number of sexual assault cases against Bill Clinton. Although he allegedly had a contentious affair with Monica, her recent tweet would say otherwise. Monica never came forward before, but she finally expressed herself over social media, after so many years. Thanks to the #MeToo power.
Better late than never Monica Lewinsky's ME TOO. I have always felt sad for you,but where were you when we needed you?
— Juanita Broaddrick (@atensnut) October 19, 2017
Quite a number of celebrities, male or female, followed on with the social media outcry, such as Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Björk, Rose McGowan, and Lysette Anthony. Athletes, such as McKayla Maroney, also joined the movement.
From all these posts and tweets, we can see that the Western entertainment industry – a site of transnational money, influence, fame, power, and pride – alone concealed a lot of harrowing stories.
Social Media and Activism
As the Internet provides a better equipment for people to share and investigate social issues, social media have made it possible for people to gather a strong front against abuse, harassment, and bully. Today, we own a powerful technology. We must use it wisely. Anyone all over the world should no longer keep quiet about any injustice against him or her. Some way or another, we should pass on the news to empower ourselves and others.
#MeToo became a symbol of collective resistance to misdemeanour. It gave women and men all around the world a rallying cry to demonstrate the magnitude of these problems.
The hashtag indeed doesn’t completely or instantly solve the problem of sexual assault in Malaysia and worldwide. But the world can be a better place, if there’s one less sexual perpetrator, or if one less human makes derogatory sex remarks and says it’s only a ‘joke’. By speaking up and out, we’re collectively changing the wheel of this vicious cycle, which previously pressured the victims into collective silence.
Written by Mirza Rayana Sanzana
Featured image from legalwatercoolerblog.com
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE.