As a sign of solidarity focused on victims of sexual harassment, the “Me Too” movement can be considered an excellent opportunity to increase awareness in terms of this problem. Initially created in 2006, this hashtag has been used by millions of people on different social media platforms. Even though changing federal laws is the primary measure that should be taken to reduce the impact of sexual violence on the well-being of many people, the “Me Too” movement is tremendously effective in the context of promoting social change.
As a result, victims of unwelcome sexual behavior do not experience the shame of being involved in this kind of situation. Globally known celebrities, such as Tarana Burke and Alissa Milano, have supported this Internet initiative, thereby demonstrating the example of how this problem should be addressed. Thus, considering a long history of struggles for gender equality, people should be able to spread awareness about harassment with the help of different directions, including the hashtag “Me Too”.
History of Sexual Harassment and Assault
When it comes to the US, the first cases of sexual violence have been noticed since the 18th century. Most frequently, slaves were the victims of this problem, as they were not protected by the law. The vast magnitude of this issue was finally noticed by the government in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was signed by Lyndon Johnson (Keplinger et al., 2019). As a result, any discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or ethnic background was forbidden. In 1974, the term sexual harassment was introduced and discussed for the first time. The last quarter of the 20th century was characterized by a variety of high-profile cases related to inappropriate sexual behavior in different environments.
For instance, one of the most widely known cases took place in 1991 when Anita Hill accused the Supreme Court nominee of workplace harassment (Keplinger et al., 2019). In turn, the election of Donald Trump as a president in 2016 spurred a women’s movement resulting in protests across the country.
General Information and Statistics
From the perspective of the “Me Too” movement, activists aim to attract attention to both sexual harassment and assault. Despite the fact that these terms differ in meaning, they relate to inappropriate behavior towards the other person (Rihal et al., 2020). It is crucial to note that sexual assault is a form of harassment, although there are cases of this kind of harassment that are not perceived as assault. Presently, this problem can occur in different settings, even though the workplace is the area where this problem is noticed at high frequency. For example, if a certain employee makes repeated unwanted sexual advances toward another one, it can be considered workplace harassment. Furthermore, it is a common practice in the US when a boss asks for sexual favors by offering certain job benefits. People involved in similar cases are protected by the Civil Rights Act.
Statistics demonstrate that the majority of Americans have faced an episode of sexual violence during their lifetime at least once. For instance, based on the information from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, approximately 81% of women and 43% of men were affected by this problem at some point in their lives. Even though women are more likely to suffer from this problem, men are still at high risk of facing this issue in different areas of life. Moreover, African American women are three times more likely to suffer from the consequences of inappropriate behavior focused on them than representatives of the white race (Victims of Sexual Violence, 2021). Therefore, sexual violence is strongly associated with racial discrimination as well. In order to address the problem, the US spends around $127 billion each year (Bondestam and Lundqvist, 2020). Simultaneously, it is still not enough to minimize the rates of harassment in the country.
Development of the “Me Too Movement”
The vast number of sexual harassment cases was the reason that influencers and celebrities paid attention to this problem. Even though the hashtag #MeToo was used by Tarana Burke for the first time in 2006, it was not tremendously popular (Modrek and Chakalov, 2019). The majority of Internet users took this hashtag into account in 2017 when Alissa Milano started popularizing this movement. In order to create awareness for the issue, the actress began encouraging victims of sexual violence to use the hashtag #MeToo on social media. As a result, numerous celebrities received the opportunity to share their own experience, thereby demonstrating to other women that they should not blame themselves for being involved in the case of harassment.
For example, many women shared their stories of being under the influence of the American former movie producer Harvey Weinstein. He was the first person accused of sexual harassment, assault, and rape after the development of the “Me Too” movement. In total, this man was convicted of sex crimes based on inappropriate behavior (Modrek and Chakalov, 2019). Therefore, the hashtag has helped prosecute multiple offenders. In addition, this internet movement has played an essential role in the process of the adoption of new legal standards. Some states banned non-disclosure agreements requiring victims to keep silent in terms of the crimes based on sexual violence (Friborg et al., 2017). In general, the vast spread of this hashtag has contributed to the increased compassion for survivors, as well as the transformation of existing policies and laws.
High-Profile Cases of Sexual Violence
The vast spread of the “MeToo” movement has helped not only Americans but also women from other continents. For example, Zhou Xiaoxuan, a Chinese intern at the state broadcaster, accused a former host of one of the local TV programs of groping and forcibly kissing her (Hernandez, 2019).
This case has received huge media coverage in the country, as it is a tremendously rare practice in China when women speak about inappropriate behavior in public. In spite of the fact that law regulations support women’s rights in the country, many females still experience fear and shame as victims of sexual harassment. In turn, the combination of China’s first civil code and the Internet “MeToo” initiative has encouraged Zhou to share her experience with others. Even though the former intern had doubts regarding launching the case, she still did it to spread awareness of this problem. Consequently, the woman won this case and inspired other females.
Another considerable example of the power that is associated with the “MeToo” movement is demonstrated in the case of Keith Raniere. In 2019, this person was sentenced to 120 years in prison due to sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child, and possession of child pornography (Grigoriadis, 2019). In order to achieve his goals, this person was using starvation, blackmail, and manipulation over the victims. The vast spread of the hashtag #Me has played an essential role in this case, as it helped bring much-needed attention to accusations of abuse.
Connection of #MeToo with Cultural Theories
Despite the fact that this movement is mostly about sexual harassment, it is strongly associated with feminism. In addition to punishing offenders, this internet initiative is based on the idea to increase the level of awareness of gender inequalities and support the rights of women in various areas of life. In fact, the “MeToo” movement is based on radical feminism, as this theory supports the belief that gender inequality is the result of the system of patriarchy where males have power over females as a group.
Supporters of this Internet initiative highlight that it is essential to change society radically and eliminate male superiority in the social and economic fields. Initially, this movement developed in the late 1960s when issues, such as rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment, reached their peak in terms of affecting the lives of women (Storey, 2018). Currently, various laws and policies are implemented in order to reduce the impact of this problem on society, although millions of people still experience harassment in different parts of the world. As a result, supporters of the “MeToo” movement aim to take appropriate measures to eliminate male superiority. Taking into consideration that the Internet initiative is an effective tool to spread awareness of this social issue, it is expected that the hashtag will not lose its relevance in the next several years.
Subsequently, the development of the “MeToo” movement has had a significant impact on the problem of sexual harassment. At present time, numerous individuals, regardless of their age and gender, are able to share their experiences in the context of this issue on various social media platforms. In spite of the fact that this hashtag has been used for over 14 years, it is still tremendously popular. The considerable popularity of this Internet movement can be explained by its intention to improve the quality of life by giving people the opportunity to ask for help and share personal stories.
Bondestam, F. and Lundqvist, M., 2020. Sexual harassment in higher education – a systematic review. European Journal of Higher Education, 10(4), pp. 397-419.
Friborg, M., Hansen, J., Aldrich, P., Folker, A., Kjær, S., Nielsen, M., Rugulies, R. and Madsen, I., 2017. Workplace sexual harassment and depressive symptoms: a cross-sectional multilevel analysis comparing harassment from clients or customers to harassment from other employees amongst 7603 Danish employees from 1041 organizations. BMC Public Health, 17(1), pp.1-15.
Grigoriadis, V., 2019. Epstein, R. Kelly, and the post-#MeToo weapon against bad men. Vanity Fair. Web.
Hernandez, J., 2019. She’s on a #MeToo mission in China, battling censors and lawsuits. The New York Times. Web.
Keplinger, K., Johnson, S., Kirk, J. and Barnes, L., 2019. Women at work: changes in sexual harassment between September 2016 and September 2018. Plus One, 14(7), p.e0218313.
Rihal, C., Baker, N., Bunkers, B., Buskirk, S., Caviness, J., Collins, E., Copa, J., Hayes, S., Hubert, S., Reed, D., Wendorff, S., Fraser, C., Farrugia, G. and Noseworthy, J., 2020. Addressing sexual harassment in the #MeToo era: an institutional approach. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 95(4), pp. 749-757.
RAINN. 2021. Victims of sexual violence: statistics. Web.
Storey, J., 2018. Cultural theory and popular culture: an introduction. 8th ed. Routledge.