The origins of the #MeToo movement

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The hashtag #MeToo went viral on social media in October 2017. The movement was initiated against American producer Harvey Weinstein after more than 80 women came forward and accused him of sexual misconduct. The term was founded by social activist Tarana Burke in 2006 as part of a grassroots campaign. Burke initially started using the hashtag to empower women of color through shared sexual abuse tragedy. She came up with it after a 13-year-old told her that she was sexually abused and Burke wished she had responded with a simple, “Me too.”

“For too long, survivors of sexual assault and harassment have been in the shadows. We have been afraid to speak up, to say ‘me too’ and seek accountability. For many the consequence of doing so have been devastating,” said Burke.

The hashtag became popular after actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to use it to take the issue of sexual assault to the extent it deserves. In response to her encouragement, thousands of people in at least 85 countries used the hashtag, including several high profile celebrities. During the 2018 Golden Globes, celebrities wore black dresses to support the movement.

The movement’s original aim was to spread empathy among those who have experienced sexual assault. However after it went viral the movement has expanded to include several other meanings. It now aims to spread awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault around the world that reportedly affects one-third of women globally. It also aims to stand with the victims of sexual assault to make them feel strong and unashamed.

“#MeToo helps society understand the magnitude of the problem. It stands in solidarity to all those who have been hurt,” said Milano.

It also aims to provide useful resources for victims and change law and policy regarding sexual assault.

The movement has had a positive impact around the country. The Presidents Club Charitable Trust was shut down after several sexual misconducts were reported against it earlier this month. Congresswoman Jackie Speier recently introduced a bill that makes it easier for women to report sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics national team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University, was sentenced to prison after more than 150 women came forward to report sexual misconduct. A hotline called “#MeToo Tales” has been created to help victims of sexual assault. The hotline was founded by Eva Shang and aims to provide legal advice and other resources to victims.

“Sexual harassment is endemic not just to the entertainment industry, but to every industry, whether you’re a software engineer or a European model or a receptionist. If women don’t have the resources to file a lawsuit, men in power will never feel the consequences of their actions,” said Shang.

To join the #MeToo movement, access more information or make donations, visit their website

Cover photo courtesy of Newsweek.

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