If you have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or basically any form of social media, you probably saw numerous posts and hashtags with the phrase #MeToo covering your timelines last week.
The hashtag first appeared Sunday, on the Twitter page belonging to actress Alyssa Milano, calling for everyone who had experienced sexual assault to post #MeToo on their social medias to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” According to the New York Times, tens of thousands of people responded to her post, including famous celebrities, women and men.
The use of social media as a platform for this movement is an attempt to bring to light how frequently sexual harassment occurs. It awakens a group of people who may not have acknowledged or taken part in the movement. If someone did not realize the severity or number of those affected, they are shocked into reality by thousands of online posts. Through a form of communication that almost everyone uses, messages can be spread on a larger scale.
Putting these issues onto the internet and allowing individuals to collectively mass produce the #MeToo message suddenly holds the entire public accountable. If all Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds are covered with #MeToo and stories of sexual harassment, the movement is not something that goes unnoticed and becomes hard to downplay. Those viewing the hashtags, reading or even posting the stories become accountable for whether they want to attempt to make a change. Personal stories of friends and family members that were previously untold pluck on heart strings and bring an untold issue that felt far away to an individual’s reality.
However, just like all social movements, it did not occur without resistance. Some have spoken out in opposition to the differences in harassment levels. The stories shared by the victims of harassment vary from catcalling to violent rape — and this caused some to believe that excessive amounts of posts have watered down the severity of some sexual harassment cases. But the reasoning behind that argument is a large part of what allows the issue of sexual harassment to continue today.
This is an institutionalized problem where people do not believe that a man purposely lifting a woman’s skirt or asking to see her breasts is not as “real” as the problem of rape. While these incidents do occur on different levels of aggression, it does not mean that aggressors should be allowed to get away with inappropriate actions.
Collectively speaking out with stories of sexual harassment is beneficial to our society because it creates a community for victims to witness that they are not alone. The global outreach of social media can unite a single person with thousands of others. When a victim goes from feeling isolated to seeing thousands of others posting in solidarity, a network of support is developed. Suddenly, any person that has suffered isn’t so alone in the world.