Questions answered in this summary (5 – minute read)
- What is the #MeToo movement about?
- What started #MeToo?
- Who was involved?
- How did it affect American society?
1: What is this movement about?
As stated on the MeToo website, the The #MeToo movement served to help victims of sexual violence “find pathways to healing.” They accomplish this by sharing with each other their stories of assault, which inspires other women and men to bring the people who have raped or assaulted them to justice.
2: What started #MeToo?
The MeToo movement formally began in 2006 by Tarana Burke, an activist from Bronx, New York, but it has received greater publicity since 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
Within just a day after her tweet, thousands of women and men from around the world replied with their stories of sexual harassment. Among these individuals are celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Viola Davis, Javier Muñoz, and Evan Rachel Wood. Among the accused men were dozens of male celebrities who have not been held accountable for their actions for decades.
The most prominent of these men are discussed the next section.
3: Who was involved?
A question with a shorter answer is who wasn’t involved. Since 2017, according to the New York Times, over 200 men with high positions have lost their jobs because of sexual harassment accusations, and some have even gone to jail. Some of the landmark trials and people are described below.
Harvey Weinstein: On October 5, 2017, actress Ashley Judd and multiple Weinstein Company workers accuse Weinstein of sexual assault in an article by New York Times. After a week, at least a hundred more women reported him as well (here’s a link if you’re interested about who accused Weinstein).
Just three days after the accusations began, Weinstein was fired from his co-founded production company, the Weinstein Company. As of March 11, 2020, 67-year-old Weinstein was convicted to 23 years in prison. The 3-year process of accusations, made from lower-rank Weinstein Company workers to award-winning actresses, brought much more publicity to #MeToo, for the number of accusations and the actresses’ popularity garnered worldwide attention to the movement.
Brett Kavanaugh: A Republican Supreme Court nominee at the time, Kavanaugh was accused in 2018 of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford. She claimed that when they both were at a high school party in 1980, he, who was very drunk, pinned her down and molested her in front of his friends. Of course, Republican lawmakers blamed the timing and credibility of her account to be a Democratic ploy to remove Kavanaugh as a potential candidate for the position, but Ford says she “believes it is my (Ford’s) civic duty to tell you what happened.”
After Ford, two more women came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault, but their compelling testimonies failed to stop his election as a Justice of the Supreme Court with a vote of 51-49 (he, being a Republican, won largely due to rigid Senate party lines). Their failed attempt was one of the few unsuccessful stories of the #MeToo movement.
Larry Nassar: From 2017 through 2018, once revered Olympian gymnastics doctor Nassar was charged by 332 female gymnasts and their families for sexual assault , giving him a 40-125 year prison sentence. They claim he utilized his fame and credibility to sexually assault and record his victims, who are often underage. In total, investigators found at least 37,000 images or videos of child pornography. Today, Nassar serves his time at the Coleman II US Penitentiary in Orlando, Florida, and he will likely be there for the rest of his life.
If you want to see other exposed cases of sexual misconduct against men of power, here’s a link to a NYT article which lists all of them so far.
4: How did it affect American society?
This movement didn’t just affect American female celebrities: it affected carpenters, secretaries, business executives, flight attendants, teachers. It empower everyone, especially people who aren’t famous enough to gain worldwide support when confessing the truth. It gave voice to the anger of everyday women and men who stayed quiet after being sexually harassed because they were told that their job would be at risk, their own reputations would be tainted, and the prominent person will likely not be charged either way.
A movement like this one forever altered interactions in the workplace, for it forces men to be more aware about whether they are offending or harassing their female counterparts.
The movement changed the stigma around sexual consent, for men can no longer say they didn’t know of the implications behind consent. They cannot claim they “thought it was okay” or “she/he didn’t say no.”
And finally, this movement changed the culture around sexual misconduct. Previously, the public blamed female victims who had the courage to press charges against men of power as wanting attention, chasing money from a lawsuit, or wanting to get back at an ex-boyfriend. Due to this, less women felt prompted to report sexual assault at all. However, #MeToo empowered victims by reminding them that they are not alone, and it showed the public that the accusers rarely fabricate accusations.
Although lots of ground have been covered, it prompted questions about the technicality of it all. Does any universal line of consent exist, aside from verbal agreement? Should verbal or physical agreement given when the victim is intoxicated equate to consent? Should men be held accountable for sexual misconduct while drunk?
The main 4 things to know about the #MeToo movement:
- #MeToo is a movement, popularized in 2017, that empowers women and men to share their accounts of sexual assault.
- The landmark trial of the #MeToo movement is of Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by over 80 women, ranging from lower-rank workers at his company to Academy Award-winning actresses. He was convicted in March 2020.
- Other major trials include Brett Kavanaugh (then a Supreme Court Justice nominee), R.Kelly (famous singer-songwriter), Larry Nassar (doctor for the USA Olympic gymnastics team), and Bill Cosby (famous comedian).
- #MeToo forced men to reconsider how to treat women in the workplace, and called for a national conversation around consent.
Featured photo: Lucy Nicholson, Reuters