Over the last few days, tens of thousands of women across the globe have been posting two simple words to Twitter and Facebook: #MeToo.
The words have become a rallying cry to shine a light — to stand up and fight back against sexual violence, harassment and assault.
The #MeToo movement was started by actress Alyssa Milano, following the recent revelation of decades of sexual assault and misconduct committed by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Milano, who starred in the TV series Charmed, tweeted a note that read “Suggested by a friend: 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.”
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 she tweeted the message, the prominent hashtag #MeToo has been used over 200,000 times since Sunday night.
The idea behind the message is a simple yet powerful one. Sexual assault and violence is not something that happens only in Hollywood. It’s not something that happens to a few unlucky women, committed by a few evil men. It runs rampant. It’s an epidemic. It happens across the globe to women of all ages, races and sexual orientations.
Through writing #MeToo and being brave enough to share their stories, these women are helping to not only destigmatize being a victim of sexual assault, but are pushing the blame from the victims to the assaulters, where the responsibility should sit.
Since its inception, many gay and bisexual men have been joining the movement by posting #MeToo to their social media platforms as well.
According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.
Some have been mixed in their response to men joining the campaign.
Many are in favor. One individual, Cortney Ann Budney, wrote on Facebook, “…[L]et’s not forget the men and boys. Their ‘me too’s are equally important and often quite hidden. Working with trauma I have found far more men are victims of childhood sexual abuse than we realize.”
Those opposed to men participating in the #MeToo campaign don’t deny that male sexual assault can occur and the serious negative mental health ramifications from experiencing sexual violence, but rather don’t want to see men co-opt a movement meant to empower women. They feel men should be supporting and acknowledging women who’ve experienced sexual assault, not making this a conversation about them (as men are often wont to do).
Those against men co-opting the movement believe this conversation isn’t a general one about sexual assault, as it was in direct response to the allegations against Weinstein. He was a man who abused his power and his social status with women. Thus, this movement is specifically discussing how men systematically abuse their male privilege in a sexist society, how men go unpunished for doing so, and how it’s swept under the rug — or how the blame and responsibility is shifted to the female victim as opposed to the male assaulter.
Milano retweeted a post by Charles Clymer, which was originally posted to Facebook.
Charles wrote, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out that there’s a specific misogynistic component to rape culture, from harassment to assault. I would never claim folks shouldn’t talk about their experiences, but I think it’s okay to have the #MeToo conversation directly address the misogyny inherent in rape culture and what just about every woman has experienced, to some degree, over her lifetime. I don’t think that’s excluding folks but simply amplifying a specific experience. We should never shy away from taking a step back and amplifying.”
Regarding boys and men as rape survivors:
— Charles Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) October 15, 2017
Some men have taken to using the hashtag #IBelieveYou instead of #MeToo.
Featured image by diego_cervo via iStock