On January 21, 2017, millions of women gathered together and marched. Not just in Washington, D.C., but all over the world. These women were fed up with the status quo. Women are continued to be paid less than their male counterparts. They are continually finding their access to women’s health providers blocked. And they are just plain fed up with being treated as second class citizens. What the women who organized these marches couldn’t see was the ripple effect that it caused. This one march, on one day, lit a match, and that match ignited a movement.
In October of 2017, a hashtag started popping up over social media. Women began sharing their stories of sexual assault, all with the hashtag: #metoo. Activist Tarana Burke is the creator of the hashtag, and has been using it for years. However, on October 15, 2017, Alyssa Milano boosted the hashtag’s reach when she tweeted about it. It caught fire. Soon, millions of women were tweeting and posting on Facebook their #metoo stories. Seeing other women talking about it allowed women who hadn’t had the courage to speak up about their experience before, to boldly broadcast it to their followers. A movement was born.
The #metoo movement became so significant that people started feeling like they could speak out about men in power positions who had abused them in the past. Men like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and more. It seemed that every day people were coming out, and feeling like they had a voice and could be heard. It was so powerful that in December, Time Magazine named these women (and a few men) their Person of the Year, dubbing them “Silence Breakers.” Finally, women who have been abused were given a voice.
It seems like every day we’re watching as another person in power is being called out for their behavior, and instead of lashing out at the victims, people were lashing out at the perpetrators. We watched as these powerful men were fired from their jobs. Taken out of these positions of power. And this was just what was happening in the spotlight. What about in the private sector? These everyday women? I would like to think that they too have found their voice. That they saw the publicity and got the courage to speak up about the abuse in their lives. That they are now brave enough to have their voices heard.
The Time’s Up movement is another offshoot in the year of the Women’s March. This movement is much newer, only being founded in the beginning of 2018. This movement not only focuses on stopping the abuse and harassment of women in the workplace but also pay equality in the workplace. You may have seen a lot about this movement in the news lately, as it’s mostly been started out of Hollywood in response to the Harvey Weinstein allegations. During the Golden Globes, everyone, men and women alike, wore black in order to signify support of the movement. And during the recent Grammy Awards, people in support of the movement wore white or white roses.
The difference between the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements is there is a legal defense fund set up for Time’s Up. You can visit their website and get help if you have been sexually harassed or abused in the workplace. They will connect you with a lawyer, even if you don’t have the funds. If you haven’t been sexually harassed or abused in the workplace, but want to help, you can donate to the fund on the website as well.
The Future of the Movement
While this movement is still new, there has already been backlash toward it. As every day more and more men who are in power positions are outed for their abuse of these powers, people are starting to lash out against it. Recently with the revelation of Aziz Ansari having a questionable encounter with a woman, people have started questioning how far is too far. Where do we draw the line? People like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer are repeat offenders who have done horrendous things to women (and men and underage boys in Spacey’s case). Ansari had one encounter (that we know about) where the lines of consent were blurry, but crossed. Do we put them in the same group? These are things that need to be addressed. It’s great that women are speaking out against their harassers, but do we, as the public, need to categorize them in the same levels? And what can we do to prevent things like this from happening?
I think instead of lashing out against the movement, we need to focus on better sexual education courses in school that teach the nuances of consent. We need to make sure everyone is aware that the definition of consent isn’t the absence of a no, but the presence of a yes. If consent is taught better, if there is more education in general, then I think there will be a decrease in these behaviors. In addition to consent being talked about in school, we should see it more in the media we consume.
Same thing with women in power positions. We need to see the representation of women getting equal to men. We have seen recently in the last week the story out of the Grammy’s. The awards this year were male dominated. The official response? Women need to step up. That is an unacceptable response. Organizations need to do better. People need to do better.
Right now, PBS is airing a series titled: “Me Too, Now What.” This series will explore how we can bring this movement into the real world, and what we can do moving forward. You can watch the series on PBS’s website, for free. If you’re having a hard time trying to figure out what you can do to help move the movement forward from here, this series will give you several good ideas.
Hopefully, this next year we will see people doing better. I hope that there is a shift. A shift from only outing the people who have done wrong to what we can do to make things better. How can we prevent these things from continually happening? There needs to be more actions that just wearing clothing in solidarity. We are fighting against an administration that the head of says he’s not a feminist. We are fighting an uphill battle as long as the current administration is in power. We need to tighten our laces on our walking shoes. It’s going to be a long road ahead.