I wrote a blog last week on the largely negative impacts that social media has had and continues to have on politics here in Vermont. And then the Harvey Weinstein story broke and actress Alyssa Milano called on all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write ‘Me Too’ on social media. That was Sunday night. By Monday night her tweet had over 53,000 comments and the hashtag had been shared nearly 500,000 times. So I shelved the blog on social media and its negative impact on politics and somewhat ironically am focusing instead on the positive power of the #MeToo social media campaign.
It took me days to post those two little words, Me Too, on Facebook. Not because I haven’t faced sexual harassment, what woman hasn’t?!
I didn’t post Me Too for days after the campaign started to trend because I wrestled with the fact that while I have faced sexual harassment I have never been sexually abused or assaulted. I wondered if posting Me Too because I have faced sexual harassment in the workplace would somehow diminish the horrific experiences of women who have been sexually abused and assaulted. And then I came to the stark realization that sexual harassment is something that women have gotten so used to experiencing that we shrug it off as if its no big deal. In fact we’ve gotten so used to it that no matter how badly it makes us feel we don’t speak about it. We view it as just a part of our society, as the price we pay for being in the workforce, walking down the street or just being in public.
And that, unfortunately, is part of the problem. So, Me Too.
There are so many reasons why women stay silent about sexual harassment and sexual abuse. They are legitimate, real reasons that should be respected. But unfortunately there is no denying that having millions of women stay silent only contributes to the problem. It helps foster the misogynist culture we all live in today where many men feel it is okay to bully women, get paid more than women, be violent towards women, and sexually assault, abuse and harass women. I have read and heard the arguments over the last few days that the #MeToo campaign won’t change anything because many men don’t even know they are participating in this misogynist behavior, it is just another social media campaign that will be forgotten in days when we move onto the next trend or it is meaningless since we are only talking about it because it has to do with attractive celebrities. I can see some truth in all of these arguments but they all miss the point.
The #MeToo campaign is powerful because it shows how pervasive a problem sexual harassment and abuse is in our society. This week, no man can get on social media and not be faced with the uncomfortable reality that almost every woman they know faces this in her life. But even more importantly, the power in the #MeToo campaign is that it gives women and the millions of victims out there a voice. It turns the conversation away from Harvey Weinstein and the other predators and puts the attention on the women and the victims. And that’s exactly where it should be if we are going to begin to solve this problem.