Shining A Light On The Me Too Movement

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The ‘Me Too Movement’ is rooted in a dark place in founder, Tarana Burke’s soul that can be described as traumatic. She was a youth worker where she interacted with predominantly African American children and other children of color. These children told their traumatic stories ranging from broken homes to abuse or even the neglect of their own parents. One girl, in particular, was special to Tarana Burke and one who she could never forget, Heaven. One day at an all-girls bonding session, stories were told and tears were shared. Like any other time she listened, understood, comforted, and reached out to girls that needed someone to talk to. The day after Heaven, who had attended the session, wanted a private conversation with Tarana. Heaven’s personality was gentle but the anger-filled behavior that she projected showed that she was suppressing some hurt feelings. As she began to talk, she seemed as if she was about to cry out for help and confess but didn’t know how to say it, and at this moment Tarana knew she didn’t want any parts of her story.

Later that day, Heaven begged for Tarana to listen to her story that she needed to desperately get off her chest. While explaining she had a hard time opening up, about how her ‘stepdaddy’, was physically abusing her growing body. Minutes within Heaven telling her story, Tarana was lost for words and couldn’t take hearing anymore. Tarana decided to direct her to a female counselor she described could, “help her better.” The look on Heaven’s face showed so much hurt..she opened up and was ultimately rejected.

Tarana could not face the fact that she genuinely understood, could connect, and felt her pain. She simply could not help provide Heaven with comfort and let her know that none of what happened to her was her fault. Tarana describes the moment, ‘with Heaven wanting to take it all back and walking away putting her mask back on, to go back into the world alone.’ All she could conjure up to want to say is..me too.

Many women and men who have endured sexual harassment, assault, and violence have been made to feel they have to keep quiet and not speak their truth. They were made to feel as if they were alone and it was only happening to them, and the feeling haunted them every day. Resulting from their trauma, many experience pain, both emotional and physical, lasting for days to years. For others, the pain never goes away. That was until the #MeToo movement came about in 2006, helping to bring justice to these victims. Harassers and predators ranged in various fields from media, to schools, to the army. This movement has shocked women across the world, leading to many finally speaking out about sexual mistreatment that they have endured in their workplace. A lot of the women that are leading or participating in the movement are well-known actresses and stars in different forms of media. The bravery of these inspirational individuals has caused women, and in the LGBT community, to look up to them and admire them enough to share their own personal stories. With their stories shown, many of the men in media today that we all have grown to know, have lost or resigned from their jobs due to cases against them about sexual misconduct in their workplace. The cases made were in form of rape or repeatedly unwanted touching that many women found offensive. Some cases are still happening today because this problem has been covered up for so long. The #MeToo shines in terms of global learning through media and peaceful protest to prevent sexual harassment of any kind.

The peak year of the movement was in 2017 when the movement really started to showcase some stories. Many stories in forms of protest to TV show personals were being broadcasted. On January 21, 2017 millions of people participated in the Women’s March on Washington, which caught lots of attention because it supported gender equality and civil rights. On February 19, 2017, an Uber employee named Susan Fowler wrote an essay describing her very uncomfortable workplace where sexual harassment occurred frequently. After the publication of this essay, the Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick resigned and 20 employees were fired. On April 1, 2017, a man proved the idea that any man in power can influence horrible allegations whether being true or not. Five women reported Fox News anchor Billy O’Reilly in terms of sexual harassment and misconduct. President Trump publicly believed Billy did nothing wrong and as a result, Billy O’Reilly was fired from his position. On October 5, 2017, Weinstein Company employee, Ashley Judd along with other actresses reported sexual harassment from Weinstein. The company issued a public apology and related it to rules being different, in terms of professional touching in the workplace, in the past versus now in recent years because most women took no offense or never said something if they were uncomfortable. Due to this public apology, over 100 more women had made reports. The biggest shift of this year happened on October 16, 2017: the #MeToo hashtag went viral on Twitter all thanks to Alyssa Milano. She posted a tweet that encouraged any person to share their story of sexual harassment and abuse. This tweet quickly spread internationally, bringing forth stories of women in different countries. International hashtags that went viral included France #BalanceTonPorc and Arab #Ana_kaman. Just this small gesture from Alyssa Milano opened up a whole new insight for people around the world to realize they are not alone and let the public see that if we all fight for the right thing then the impact is much greater. This was just the beginning.

The movement is still growing strong today, 2 years later, in the year 2019. Politically sexual harassment is still an issue and has frequently increased. The year started tragically with one of our well-known musical prodigies R. Kelly. On January 3, 2019, the documentary ‘Surviving R.Kelly’ was released through 6 episodes. The public’s reaction soared from good to bad very quickly. In this documentary new survivors and existing ones come forward to share their stories about the singer. RCA Records decided to exile him after years of accusations and protests against him, as a result, he denies these claims and remains innocent of any charges. On February 5, 2019, Pope Francis spoke to a reporter and admits to sexual abuse of nuns by different priests which included nuns acting as sex slaves. This issue has gone on for thousands of years, according to the Associated Press(Gonzales, pg 2). On March 29, 2019, Lucy Flores’s published an essay ‘An Awkward Kiss Changed How I Saw Joe Biden’, she explains how she encountered unwanted touching from the former Vice President and how she was not the only one. A total of nine women came forward to validate her story and in return, Biden apologized in a video online and said he would respect personal space. He claims he didn’t see anything wrong. On April 24, 2019, over 200 former Boy Scouts reported new sexual abuse claims and it unmasked 150 pedophiles, the organization goes on to be against these accusations and does not support child abuse. On May 2, 2019, the US military reported a 47% increase in unwanted sexual contact since 2017(Sonne, Lamothe, pg 1). The statistics show that 1 out of every 16 military women had reported sexual harassment claims just in this year. Patrick M. Shanahan goes on to deny these numbers and says that they were not recent reports. He says the plan is to change how the tracking of officers works. There are so many more stories of sexual harassment, abuse, accusations, etc., that should be talked about because they matter just as much. The reason we are finally seeing these disgusting acts come to light is not that the predator initiated these stories because they are scared of embarrassment or they are scared of going to jail. It is solely because of one movement the #MeToo movement, these victims aren’t afraid anymore, they aren’t alone. They are finally able to open up and express this anger of hurt inside them. This has completely reshaped the way men, women, sex, and power are thought of.

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For our youth, today, simply on popular social media sites like Instagram and Twitter are an advanced search of trending hashtags like #MeTooMovement and #WeToo. When we search, the results are undeniably overwhelming of people sharing their stories. When I searched, it was about 3 weeks ago and the number of posts under that hashtag was at 9.8K. Today when I searched again the number has gone up to 10.2K posts. People use social media as an escape from the real world. Searching through, this is not just a hashtag for people to discuss their business with thousands of other faces behind screens, these hashtags also act as a therapy for others to face adversity without really having to physically speak. Counselors and therapists use these tags to reach out to people struggling with opening up in person, and this allows for powerful inspirational words and images to be said and seen. Posts I’ve seen include words like,” The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.” This quote is specifically targeting individuals to change the negativity in the world and just start with small acts of positivity and kindness. These hashtags are even more influential on the images and some seen include women’s words being much heavier than a man in cases such as sexual harassment, and how a woman’s private areas should be treated as a token it is her womanhood and should not be taken advantage of, and lastly, I’ve seen quite a few images showcasing that all it takes is one person to believe they are telling the truth.

In numerous cases, the federal system is dismissing these women and men’s experiences, and questions should raise in the public. Should we be nationally educating others? How do we get this issue into a better understanding for our youth? How can we build upon the #MeToo movement to cause cultural and global understanding? Can we fight our federal system into making harsher punishments for such acts? In a discussion I had, a few of these questions were given an answer to and different points of view on this topic. As we discussed, emotions leaned towards abruptly stopping sexual assault acts but the steps to taking these actions differed.

In a TED Talk, Tarana Burke, “Me Too is a movement, not a Moment” highlighted that taking hold over the move diminished the end of this change entirely. “This Me Too movement is about personal healing and people healing,” she said. “Personal healing is possible so community healing will take place.” “Today, she urged, is that time for survivors to go together. People, whether they are survivors or not, also have a part in making people.” “If we look for families to go and keep us, it’ll never happen,” said Burke. You remember this famous quote, “we are the things that we’ve been looking for? That is it. It’s us.” She urged the people to consider what they would do to push back against sexual aggression by determining their part and their way. No action or work is too little, according to Burke; any mind would be the following to alter the time of sexual violence.

The idea of the movement is not just targeted at women, it targets men as well because sexual harassment carries no gender. There has been reported that 1 in 6 men actually have gone through sexual harassment of some sort and they too find it hard to share their stories(North, pg 6). The hashtag #HimToo started to trend along with the movement. The movement encourages men to speak out when they see harassment of any kind, but the resulting answer from most men is to just keep their distance from many women because they don’t know what they do that might be looked at as or feel inappropriate. As the Me Too movement started to trend a lot of men felt as if their opinions and conversations regarding the movement would be looked at as negative based on consequences that could happen to them. The Him Too hashtag originally was related to politics and communication back in 2016 but when the movement took off in 2017 there were 2 very different new meanings to it. Some people used the hashtag to showcase the victims of sexual harassment and abuse that were male, and other people used it to showcase the male predators that were horribly performing these acts. In 2018, more specifically, September and October there were allegations raised against Brett Kavanaugh during his nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court. This was when the #HimToo movement sparked and was used heavily used by his supporters, they believed these allegations against him were false, and then many people started to use it for other males they felt were falsely accused. The hashtag then developed and turned into a broad use as protection against false assault charges. #HimToo was the antithesis to #MeToo as justice towards men within sexual assault hearings begins, protecting men from being falsely punished before being charged. False accusations are just as bad as actual sexual harassment and abuse because they can ultimately ruin an innocent man’s life and reputation.

Burke has made it clear that the purpose of the movement is simply to give actual victims peace of mind and to heal, in doing so changes to laws and different policies in the federal system should also come about. Changes she has recommended included reexamining all untested rape kits, taking a look deeper into different school codes and procedures, giving better and critical examination of teachers, and most importantly creating and adding to sexual harassment laws and policies. People whose jobs are to work with children should also be fingerprinted and included in a background check before they can start working. Sex education should definitely be taught to children early on so they know how to report sexual predatory and protect themselves. Tarana Burke stands behind the #MeToo bill that the US Congress has passed. The bill changes the old law that requires people in the federal government and beyond to go through a period of calming down, such as meditation and counseling, before they can file sexual harassment complaints against one another. The new bill ensures that any future complaints can be no more than 180 days in the filing system and also victims could transfer to different jobs or duties to be away from their harasser. Companies could no longer keep settlements a secret and they had to be publicly documented. Alyssa Milano supports that the laws around sexual harassment and assault must be changed, including providing protocols in all industries that victims who file complaints won’t have any retaliation against them. There is strong support behind legislation making it harder for companies to hide covered-up payments to workers and making it illegal for new workers to sign certain agreements to start. Companies and different industries of such should be strongly held accountable for any sexual misconduct that happens in any of their facilities because they should be made to be safe and treated fairly.

The #MeToo movement is bringing long-overdue attention to sex-based interactions in many well-known workplaces. Allegations and stories of this behavior have people speaking up more and more every day. It is a positive pattern that is emerging, as one victim tells their story, others feel empowered and safe to tell their story as well. Whereas in the past this mentality that “enough is enough”, would not be so. We are on the track to inspiring and changing our society for the better. Day by day it takes just one brave person to speak their truth to shift from a survivor to a hero. This emerging #MeToo movement goes deeper than just telling stories of sexual assault, it is the strength of reopening a wound that has been suppressed. The goal is to never make someone feel alone or helpless again.   

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