This Is Why Your Social Media Is Filled With #MeToo

feminism, phone
With the growth of the #MeToo hashtag, women everywhere are bringing awareness to the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. (Image: @Leo via Twenty20)

As the conversation surrounding sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood continues in the wake of the sexual harassment accusations against Harvey Weinstein, people on social media are using a new hashtag to make it very thing clear that the problem extends far beyond Hollywood.

Encouraged by actress Alyssa Milano — who urged women to use #MeToo if they have been sexually harassed or assaulted — women and men from all walks of life inundated the major social media platforms with their experiences. The idea is that by indicating their harassments and assaults, survivors can “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” To date, the call to action was retweeted more than 17,000 times and liked more than 33,000 times.

Celebrities including Evan Rachel Wood, Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Rosario Dawson and Gabrielle Union joined the conversation, with Union drawing from her personal assault story to criticize victim blaming in a series of tweets. “Reminder. I got raped at work at a Payless Shoe Store. I had on a long tunic & leggings,” she writes, condemning the “dress modestly” argument.

While Milano spearheaded #MeToo’s social media growth, according to journalist Britni Danielle, the movement was actually started 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke. Burke’s initial goal for Me Too was aiding sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities by “empowerment through empathy.”

“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” Burke told Ebony. “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

While actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie continue to come forth with their stories and allegations against Weinstein, such industries as modeling and academia no longer have the luxury of staying silent as the public begins to zero in on their handling of these matters.

The revived conversation surrounding sexual harassment and assault is well warranted, as recent research from Harvard University shows that this behavior is alive and well. The study, called The Talk, surveyed high school students and young adults ages 18 to 25 and discovered that 87 percent of young women had been sexually harassed.

From men’s perspective, research suggests that harassment may be a form of entertainment or even a misguided attempt at making women feel sexually liberated. As Slate explains in its sexual assault coverage, “concerned men propose that some women like the attention, and because there’s no way to know which women will appreciate a catcall or take it as a threat, stopping men from catcalling will deprive some women of sexual affirmation.”

Thanks, guys. But, believe it or not, we will survive without that “affirmation.”

Ultimately, the #MeToo hashtag is not only showcasing that there’s strength in numbers, but also unmasking the discrepancies in how sexual harassment is viewed by each sex. Across the social media universe, women are screaming a resounding “no” when it comes to being objectified. As a society, we need to take these experiences in and start a much-needed conversation around how we can create safer spaces for 50 percent of the world’s population that is continuously being underserved and unfairly blamed for their harassment.

What Do YOU Think?

Has the #MeToo hashtag altered your perception of sexual harassment and assault? How so? Were you aware of the magnitude of sexual harassment and assault within our society? Let us know in the comments below.

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