By Stella Vasileiadou,
Many people tend to think of sexual harassment rather as a topical issue, but they couldn’t be more wrong. The thing is that sexual harassment has always existed, but what’s different is that more and more victims decide not to keep silent and talk about it. On the other hand, not quite a few people think that this is only about the pretext of getting men fired. Is this true? Absolutely not. In the U.S.A., 81% of women and 43% of men claimed having experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime, according to a 2018 study, conducted by the University of California and the non-profit organization, Stop Street Harassment.
But what is #MeToo all about?
The #MeToo Movement is practically an effort for social change and actually stands for raising awareness and helping people understand the impact of sexual violence. The hope is that tolerance for it will decrease and support for victims will rise. It was founded in 2006, but it gained significant attention in late 2017 when several famous actresses decided to open up about their experiences with sexual harassment in the film industry.
The story behind the #MeToo Movement
American activist Tarana Burke was the founder of the #MeToo Movement (in 2006, as mentioned before). Burke began using “Me Too” to help other African-American women, especially teenagers, with severe and extreme experiences of rape, physical and verbal violence, and sexual harassment, in order to give them the strength they needed to defend themselves and protest publicly. As for the record, Burke is a survivor of repeated sexual abuse.
Is sexual assault a women’s issue only?
The truth is that, although most victims are women, men do experience sexual harassment as well. Sexual violence against men is completely ignored, while victims prefer not to speak about what they have gone through, due to the fear of being called “unmasculine” or not “men enough”.
Advocating for a non-sexist culture, in which women can live safely without being exposed to fear of violence, is a top unifying goal for the feminist movement (as voting has been in the past). What’s completely new about the #MeToo Movement is that it concerns and affects the whole world. Something that has been really innovative in the history of feminism. It’s about everyone: women and men as well. Since the vast majority of women have experienced some form of violence, it makes sense for many men to wonder: “Have I ever been aggressive?” “Have I ever harmed anyone?”.
Although it’s worth mentioning that almost every country in the world has had its own #MeToo Moment, including countries whose ideology or religious doctrine have been trying to prevent and avoid open conversations about sexual assault, we still have a long road ahead in preventing gender-based violence and achieving the ultimate genuine gender equality in public and private spheres. However, there is no doubt that there are some promising signs of real social change and, with the power of social media, everything can be achieved.
- Me Too founder Tarana Burke: Movement is not over, BBC, Available here
- Me Too movement, Wikipedia, Available here