By Parnia Mazhar
The hashtag “#MeToo” has spread rapidly as people across the globe come together sharing their experiences involving sexual harassment and sexual abuse. This movement has created awareness about the issue of sexual harassment, but this momentum must be utilized to encourage even more men and women to speak out about their encounters.
Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a message on Oct. 15 encouraging victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse to use #MeToo to speak out, either acknowledging their experiences or their stories of being victimized. According to the Huffington Post, within just a few hours, her tweet had received over 25,000 responses. The hashtag came in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Milano said in an interview with online magazine Variety, “I hope this is a shift in the way we look at each other and our coworkers. This is not just a Hollywood issue. This happens every day.”
People across the globe, in every shape, age and shade, have experienced their own version of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Thus, it is important that people recognize the necessary impact this movement can have, and use it to educate the youth on how to act moving forward.
However, I also strongly believe that the movement is not just about having a conversation, but rather having the right conversation.
During a leadership conference I recently attended, one of the panelists, a congresswoman, was asked to share her thoughts on sexual harassment. She confidently responded, “Sexual abusers always prey on the weak.” I immediately felt the mood of the whole room shift. The large portion of girls that had experienced this treatment were now being told that they were weak and that it was their fault for being harassed. The girls who had trouble speaking up now felt petrified that they could be next. Part of ending sexual harassment comes from women feeling confident enough to speak up against people who think it is okay.
If we do not provide the proper guidance and education to both men and women, then no true solution will be reached. Even more importantly, we should be educating each party that could be responsible for sexual harassment about the consequences of their actions and explaining how their actions are often perceived. These are the ways we can move forward and make a true impact.
Opponents of the movement believed that it put more responsibility and focus on the victims, rather than on the men and women committing the crimes and harassment. According to Toronto-based survivor and community support worker Jennai Bundock, any movement that puts pressure on the survivors to take responsibility and do the work is a major issue. While I do agree with this perspective and think it is unfair that the harassers are not taking responsibility, I do believe that the survivors speaking up and sharing their stories is an effective way to bring awareness to the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Thus, I think the movement is definitely a positive one overall.
In addition, it is important to note that sharing stories and coming together about shared experiences in regards to sexual harassment has shown victims that they are not alone. Now that the ball is rolling, it is important to continue that momentum in order to ensure that a true impact is made. The internet can help continue the momentum and can be utilized to make a change.
The #MeToo movement has given people across the globe a platform to share their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. It is now up to us to take monumental action and truly change.