#MeToo: A Movement to Combat Sexual Harassment and Assault

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In many societies certain objects, practices, and beliefs dominate particular periods in history. People in varied cultures thus share or differ culturally in various aspects yet everywhere, it is an identity, a sketch that a society follows. Typically, individuals strictly follow their communal code in religion, dressing, and music, among others (Fiske). Culture is therefore grouped based on its focus as either material or non-material. Since it is learned, social, adaptive, variable, shared and continuous, individuals who demonstrate laxity in it may be considered lacking (Fiske). The #MeToo Movement is one such dominant force that has emerged in the recent past to combat sexual harassment and assault. The movement has enabled people to express their stories openly in society because it is acceptable, has a wide scope gained through media and other social domains, and because sexual harassment affects all genders.

Sexual harassment affects all genders

Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual conduct often stereotyped to affect, but is not limited to, women. Anyone regardless of social status is vulnerable, and particularly individuals from underprivileged communities (Solotoff, and Kramer). In itself, it demeans, upsets, and threatens victims. It can occur vocally, physically, in a written form, online, or personally (Solotoff, and Kramer). It occurs in many forms, including physical contact without consent, sexual gestures, comments or jokes, indecent exposure, staring, insults, assault, display of offensive material and questions on sexual life among others (Solotoff, and Kramer). Ultimately, affected individuals may become withdrawn, stressed, unproductive, and sick. If occurring at work, this is worse since such a place is supposed to be free from harassment, discrimination, and violence, and such behavior is illegal (Solotoff, and Kramer). Despite efforts by victims to ‘move on’, many have continued to suffer in silence.

The emergence and impact of the #MeToo movement

The #MeToo movement emerged as a cultural force mainly focused on the plight of sexual harassment and assault victims. Indeed, this problem has gained significant notoriety, yet it appears as though too little is being done about it. Alysa Milano, an American actress, popularized the movement through a hashtag on Twitter, in October 2017, though it began earlier in 2006 by Tarana Burke, a community organizer, hand social activist also a victim of such violence (Valbrune). Sexual misconduct by the movie producer Harvey Weinstein galvanized and emboldened other voices like Milano, Michael Baker, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Jenifer Lawrence and others to speak against this problem (Hudak). The rejuvenated phrase #MeToo movement in 2017 not only attracted and told the story of those many who were otherwise voiceless, but also became a culture that has broken barriers and entered new frontiers.

The expansion of the #MeToo movement across various domains

The #MeToo movement has through the media and other social domains expanded its scope. The church, music, finance, military, medicine, political class and government, media and fashion, education and sports have embraced this call in different ways thus spreading the cause, (Valbrune). Many churches have victims who have endured sexual abuse that has embarrassed and attracted negative perception. Hashtags on Twitter like #ChurchToo in November 2017 and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual in January 2018 started by Emily Joy and Hannah Paasch have outlined the need for a more aggressive approach in dealing with sexual harassment as an abuse of human rights, (Valbrune). The live-streamed admission by Pastor Andy Savage that he molested a teenage girl as a youth pastor has reinforced this movement.

The impact of the #MeToo movement in the military, music, and other fields

The military, musicians, and bands have also utilized the #MeToo hashtag to convey their displeasure with sexual harassment. The hashtag #MeTooMilitary tells of servicemen and women who have endured this problem, (Perkins). In 2016, the Pentagon revealed that up to fifteen thousand soldiers were affected with many cases unreported. In music and poetry, James Toback, Olympic athlete doctor Larry Nassar and Ethan Kath are abusers whose offenses against women have been exposed online and through poetry. Among medical staff, research shows up to 30% of women and 4% of men have been sexually harassed and those who complain have faced negative outcomes in their careers (Beard). The Weinstein scandal also allowed individuals in politics and government to open up on their own harassment. United States senators, like Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren, have spoken over their experiences. Subsequently, a process has been started to ensure faster reporting of such ills within various statehouses. Likewise, sexually suggestive messages from Mayor Michael Hancock to police detective Michael Hancock in 2012 surfaced after the MeToo initiative, (Hudak).

The global influence of the #MeToo movement

The MeToo pop culture has taken advantage of its acceptability to permeate society and global culture. Consequently, there has been an awakening among new groups of consumers who otherwise would be uninterested. Globally, movements such as this have created a unity of purpose and have enabled people to speak in one language with regard to given issues. Outcomes have included increased awareness, review of social norms, changes in policies and laws, reforms in schools, discussions on the role of men and increased media coverage (Perkins). According to Burke, many women have faced harassment, yet the perpetrators go unpunished. Since the violence is normally done by familiar persons, the magnitude of shame places a huge burden and emotionally drains on the victim (Solotoff, and Kramer). Increased awareness allows men to take an active role in discouraging this vice, women to understand their rights, and for society to stand in solidarity with those who have been hurt.

The impact of the #MeToo movement on social norms and education

Many social norms have faced new scrutiny as the #MeToo movement confronts threats at the workplace. Clarity on what entails harassment as well as how to determine truth when sexual harassment has been reported has come to fore. It has been realized that children have to be included in the process so that as they grow, they are familiar with what sexual harassment entails (Solotoff, and Kramer). In education, the movement has highlighted sexual misconduct online and in person. Up to 40% boys and 56% of girls in a survey in 2011 reported being harassed #MeTooK12, (Valbrune). Ultimately, policies on training to educators on how to prevent and respond to sexual abuse have been developed.

The importance of men in the #MeToo movement

Men too have faced harassment and the #MeToo movement has sought to address their concerns. Burke feels that men should call out misbehavior when they see it. Since some men have problems distinguishing what is appropriate or not, current discussions dwell on how best they can participate in the conversation and appreciate what is considered inappropriate, (Perkins). Although harassment often has female victims with men accused, their silence on this portends future danger if they are not adequately involved (Hudak).

The role of the media in the #MeToo movement

Overall, the #MeToo movement has resulted in increased discussions on the role of the media on sexual abuse and how to respond to it. Currently, individuals who report harassment are often victimized with no action taken against perpetrators. Power imbalances also mean that many can use the media both to blackmail and harass innocent individuals through sharing lists of romantic partners or recording them in order to force payment on demand (Solotoff, and Kramer). Effective reporting, therefore, must dwell on verification of claims through reporting to unions, maintaining hotlines and developing apps that can collate abuse claims.

Criticisms and challenges faced by the #MeToo movement

Although movements like #MeToo by Burke have achieved phenomenal success, there are claims that the hype in such pop culture has problems. Some of the issues in contention include overcorrection whereby extreme punishment to minor offenses hinders progress as offenders first reaction is denial. Victims too may be traumatized due to the responsibility to publicize their own suffering, (Perkins). Further, the unclear purposes within such movements make all men appear as perpetrators which numbs many of to the problem. The exclusion of minorities especially women of color is a barrier since they are more affected than their white counterparts (Solotoff, and Kramer). The emphasis on specific high profile cases often means that regular people remain unheard.

The global impact of the #MeToo movement

Nonetheless, the movement has spread globally across continents in Asia, Africa, and Europe. In Kenya for instance, the issue of women being raped at Kenyatta National Hospital received considerable coverage that resulted in dismissals and improved policies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the role of celebs in influencing our lives through pop culture has both positive and negative corollaries. It is important for society to embraces movements like #MeToo to promote proper conduct and improved relations among the sexes and other good causes. Challenges that exist therein should be addressed continually since culture is dynamic.

References

Beard, Mary. Women & Power. 1st ed., Profile Books Ltd., 2018.

Fiske, John. Understanding Popular Culture. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2010.

Hudak, Heather C. #Metoo Movement. 1st ed., Crabtree Publishing Company, 2017.

Perkins, Lori. #Metoo: Essays about how and why this happened, what it means and how to make sure it never happens again. Riverdale Avenue Books LLC, 2017.

Solotoff, Lawrence, and Henry S. Kramer. Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Work Place. 1st ed., Law Journal Press, 2018.

Valbrune, Mirande. #Metoo. 1st ed., Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018.

August 21, 2023
Number of pages

6

Number of words

1535

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39

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