BY SAVIKA SHIRLEEN
The #MeToo movement, with a large variety of related local or international names, is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. The phrase “Me Too” was initially used on social media in 2006, on Myspace, by American sexual harassment survivor and activist Tarana Burke.
On October 15, 2017, American actress Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” saying that she got the idea from a friend. Since then, a number of high-profile posts and responses from American celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd Jennifer Lawrence and Uma Thurman, among others, soon followed. Widespread media coverage and discussion of sexual harassment, focusing on Hollywood, and in particular allegations of sexual assault (Many since then proven in February 2020.) Against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein led to high-profile firings, as well as criticism and backlash, particular in the film, music, fashion and arts arena.
The growth of the #MeToo movement
After millions of people started using the phrase, and it spread to dozens of other languages, the purpose changed and expanded, and as a result, it has come to mean different things to different people. Tarana Burke accepts the title of “leader” of the movement, but has stated that she considers herself more a “worker.” Burke has stated that this movement has grown to include both men and women of all colors and ages, as it continues to support marginalized people in marginalized communities There have also been movements by men aimed at changing the culture through personal reflection and future action, including Awareness and empathy.
Analysis of the movement often point to the prevalence of sexual violence, which has been estimated by the World Health Organization to affect one-third of all women worldwide. Burke said that #MeToo declares sexual violence sufferers are not alone and should not be ashamed. Burke says 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 advises men to talk to each other about consent, call out demeaning.
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
What does the #MeToo movement seek to accomplish – Long term?
Burke has stated the current purpose of the movement is to give people the resources to have access to healing, and to advocate for changes to laws and policies. Burke has highlighted goals such as processing all untested rape kits, re-examining local school policies, improving the vetting of teachers, and updating sexual harassment policies.
She has called for initiatives such as all professionals who work with children to be fingerprinted and subjected to a background check before being cleared to start work. Alyssa Milano states that a priority for #MeToo is changing the laws surrounding sexual harassment and assault, for example instituting protocols that give sufferers in all industries the ability to file complaints without retaliation. She supports legislation making it difficult for publicly traded companies to hide cover-up payments from their stockholders and would like to make it illegal for employers to require new workers to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of employment. Others have suggested that barriers to employment must be removed, such as the job requirement by some employers to sign non-disclosure agreements or other agreements that prevent an employee from talking about their employment publicly, or taking disputes (including sexual harassment claims) to arbitration rather than to legal proceedings. It’s been suggested that legislation should be passed that bans these types of mandatory pre-employment agreements.
Analysis of the #MeToo Movement often points to the prevalence of sexual violence, which has been estimated by the World Health Organization to affect one-third of all women worldwide.
The #MeToo movement in Canada
To date, the #MeToo hashtag has trended in at least 85 countries, including India, Pakistan, and Europe. Asia, the Americas and Middle East. In Canada, #MeToo and its French equivalent, #MoiAussi, have amplified the voices of victims and changed the conversation pertaining to rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence, harassment and misconduct. The Movement has had implications not only for survivors, but also for support service providers, educators, law enforcement, employers, and the government. As just one example, there has been a sizeable increase in demand on Canada’s sexual violence support services; calls to the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre increased 100% during the last year alone.
In a 2020 interview with Laura Brown of Instyle magazine, Tarana Burke said,” I am proud of the work I’ve done in coalition and collaboration with these other badass women over the past couple of years. It is not an accident that people are still talking about #MeToo. We continue to make sure we are building on the momentum that started in 2017 so it doesn’t get lost. It takes vision and leadership to do that, and I’m fine with accepting that. With all humility”.
Sources #MeToo.org, Metoomvmt.org, Canadian Woman’s Federation, World Health Organization, instylemagazine.com. Moi Aussi.