The allegations of sexual harassment made against Harvey Weinstein are just the tip of the iceberg for many victims of harassment everywhere. His lewd behaviour was an incentive for many people to investigate how Hollywood handles accusations of sexual abuse. Historically, they were often ‘swept under the rug’ and never spoken about again because the accused were often the people in power and the accusers in a position of vulnerability. Decades of unwarranted shame, guilt and stories of humiliation from harassment victims everywhere finally came to the surface with every #MeToo that was posted. At this moment, many people stand on the brink: ready to share their experiences, but not quite ready to name names. In response to the intense amount of allegations made against Weinstein, actor Alyssa Milano started a movement with the objective of encouraging harassment victims to come forward by using the phrase- #MeToo.
The horde of messages was triggered by a tweet from Milano. “If all the women who’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people the sense of the magnitude of the problem,” said Milano on Twitter. Just 24 hours after being posted, the hashtag had been used nearly half a million times. Now, over one million times. That number doesn’t properly account for the survivors who aren’t ready to tell their story, or physically can’t. The movement is not meant to force people to tell their stories, only to encourage them to come forward and say “it happened to me too.” Think of it as a virtual raising of hands. It hits close to home, which is why it became so popular in such a little amount of time. The movement also reveals that abuse doesn’t solely happen to women, and that women are not always the victims.
The latest accusation of a person abusing their power is actor Kevin Spacey. Actor Anthony Rapp alleges that Spacey made sexual advances on him in 1986 when Rapp was 14 years old. Spacey’s response consisted of apologizing for the alleged assault, and then using it as an ill-timed opportunity to come out as gay. His statement has had activists and journalists alike crying foul at the connection he made with being gay and sexual abuse of minors. The way he words it, it sounds as if they go hand in hand- which they do not. It was a feeble, yet somewhat calculated attempt to divert the attention away from the alleged assault, even though it occurred over 30 years ago. There is no denying that it was an odd time to apologize for a 30 year old sexual assault and out himself as gay. To some, his statement is an attempt to dodge blame. In later tweets, Spacey cited the virtual response to Weinstein’s allegations as an incentive for coming out, which seems misplaced.
Mayim Bialik is one of many Hollywood actors that came forward with a story explaining her opinion about Weinstein’s allegations. On October 13 2017, she published an editorial with the New York Times that detailed her opinion. She writes how she has managed to narrowly escape the problems that come with being a woman in Hollywood, by using methods such as ‘dressing modestly’ and ‘not provoking anything.’ Unfortunately, she framed the allegations of abuse against Weinstein as something that only happens to conventionally pretty girls. Since then, she has been the recipient of nasty comments from viewers who feel that she was ‘victim-blaming’ and ‘simply didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.’ She completely disregarded the emotions that follow being sexually harassed. Since then, she has apologized for her editorial.
The feeling of embarrassment and self-doubt can be crippling to deal with after going through sexual harassment. That’s the twisted thing about it- it makes a person feel like they are the only ones in the world that feel that way. Women are more likely to remain silent after experiencing sexual harassment because of the overwhelming fear or anxiety that their claims would be dismissed, or that they provoked the response in some way, as suggested by Bialiks editorial. It is important to keep in mind that there is nothing that protects a perpetrator more than silence does. With all of the change in how sexual harassment is discussed, it would be shame to see a movement that started with a hashtag- fail.
The objective of the #MeToo campaign is to voice any act that has made a person feel like their body or sexuality does not belong to them. Although women are the primary target of the tweet, people of all gender identities have begun speaking out, including men. It’s understandable why males are the least likely to report sexual harassment. There is a collective fear that reporting sexual assault would make any man an easy target for abuse. The rules of masculinity are tough, cold, and startlingly unforgiving. Anyone can be put into a position of vulnerability, regardless of gender. The #MeToo campaign encourages victims and survivors alike to share their story- so that the stigma that surrounds sexual assault and harassment will (hopefully) change.
By the way, me too.
1-800-668-6868 (Kid’s Help Phone)