#MeToo Campaign Showed That Misogyny is a Deeply Cultural Issue. Here’s Why It Was Sorely Needed

Not only did the campaign address the fact that sexual harassment is an everyday occurrence for women, it also shifted the narrative away from the issue being purely a law and order problem.

In 2007, activist Tarana Burke founded a movement called ‘Me Too’ to support victims of sexual assault. On October 15, in light of the Harvey Weinstein case, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

Over the last week, social media platforms in several countries around the world trended with the hashtag #MeToo. The campaign gathered over 12 million posts and reactions on Facebook in the first 24 hours and was tweeted about nearly 1.6 million times within a span of a week.

It wasn’t long before people began including personal accounts of harassment with their status updates reflecting not just that sexual harassment is widespread but also that it occurs at various stages of a woman’s life – at the hands of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers alike and in different locales ranging from so-called ‘safe spaces’ like homes, schools and universities to unavoidable public spaces such as streets and on public transport.

Here’s why the #MeToo campaign should be looked at as an important moment reflecting a collective experience of trauma and injustice – one that implores us to reflect on its pattern, causes and potential remedies.

First, the widespread nature of the campaign drew attention to sexual harassment as a commonplace and everyday occurrence for women. Several people expressed dismay and shock at their social media feeds being flooded with female friends posting #MeToo, and admitted to it being more ubiquitous than they had previously realised.

Second, the nature of the confessions about assaulters being from within family and friend circles helped to shift the narrative away from sexual harassment being purely a law and order problem and towards misogyny as a deeply cultural issue. It poses an affront to the idea that actions, attire or precautions have any bearing on the incidence of sexual assault and challenges all forms of victim blaming that have thus far been a key narrative within discourses surrounding sexual harassment.

Third, even for those aware of the extent of sexual harassment, the campaign powerfully altered the form of that knowledge from an impersonal acceptance of it afflicting the unknown and nameless to a much more personal and jarring knowledge of several loved ones, family and friends being victims.

Finally, and the most important, the collective nature of the confessions allowed many to draw courage from solidarity and let go of long-held feelings of shame and guilt that had so far disallowed them from ‘coming out’ with their stories. This is an important step in reclaiming dignity and equal personhood.

While some men have expressed solidarity and deep regret for the reality that women have to live through, others have had divided responses. Some have questioned whether such ‘trendiness’ means anything and if ‘clicktivism’ counts as activism, while others have asked whether it is appropriate to share such personal accounts on a public forum.

While some campaigns involve the relaying of popular feelings and opinions, which raises questions of authenticity, the individuals posting #MeToo are sharing an individual, difficult set of facts. The barrier to participation is higher than normal, making the viral nature of the campaign even more significant. Writer Alexis Benveniste’s tweet reminding people of this was retweeted over 56,000 times, making it the most retweeted post from the campaign.

Read the full article on The Wire.

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