We live in a time where something like a hashtag can truly change the world. Social media is a tool to bring things into the light quickly, which can be good and bad. The #MeToo Movement is a perfect example of social media being used well to bring truth to light.
On October 5, 2017, Ashley Judd publicly accused famous movie producer Harvey Weinstein of unwanted sexual advances. The world watched as over the next few days, close to 80 more women found their voices and came forward with their own allegations against Weinstein. And now a year later, with a ruined reputation, Weinstein has lost his fame and influence. His true colors have been shown to the world. He wears a tracking ankle bracelet due to his crimes, and works as a paralegal for his own attorney after paying his bail of $1 million.
On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano, inspired by the women coming forward, tweeted out for women around the world to use the hashtag “#MeToo” if they had ever experienced sexual assault or harassment. There were about 48 million tweets that hit the internet in the next week by people telling their stories. A movement began, many more perpetrators have been brought to light and we as a society have gotten a little closer to being comfortable talking about sexual assault and harassment.
But what most people don’t know is that the phrase “Me Too” was coined much earlier than 2017. Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist, began using the phrase “me too” in 2006 to address the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society, especially among women of color. Women like Tarana Burke have been doing this work for a lot longer than the simple hashtag, and they’re the ones that deserve real credit.
The #MeToo movement has radically changed how we as a society view sexual assault and harassment, in an open way that I’d argue is better than the past. But our ability to use a hashtag does not mean that our work is done.
A movement must go beyond a hashtag, and there have been a multitude of tweets with no action. As Tarana Burke said, “This is bigger than me… This is about survivors.” We as a community need to be actively engaging in hard conversations beyond social media about sexual assault and harassment in the Abilene community and on campus. Additionally, the focus should be on survivors: hearing their stories, providing real support, and educating others for prevention.
I hope that as we reflect on the anniversary of #MeToo, we can be proud of where we came from but even more excited for the progress we’ll continue to make in the future.