History of Me Too Movement
The Me Too movement was conceptualized by Tarana Burke. It became a media sensation when an exposé was aired against Harvey Weinstein on countless allegations. Following the expose publication, more than 50 women have come out stating that Weinstein sexually assaulted them (Evans, 2018). Alyssa Milano, an actor and vocal critic of Weinstein came out on social media on October 15, 2017, with a call for people to tweet “me too” as a status to give magnitude to the matter. The result of that tweet led to women opening up about their personal stories of sexual abuse. Women used social media to disclose their harassment and abuse. They included public figures and celebrities like Olympic Gymnast McKayla Maroney. It led to a conversation about the imbalance of power and men’s behavior. Me Too raised over 12m posts on Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat and other social media platforms as people reacted to the # me too challenge(Onwuachi-Willig, 2018). This paper will expound on the Me Too movement by discussing its conception, objectives, and dangers it poses to the societal establishment.
#MeToo came to existence before the emergence of Social media when Tarana Burke formed the campaign as a means to reach sexual assault survivors in a poor neighborhood. Tarana Burke formed the movement in 2006 after listening to a young girl’s harrowing tale of rape by her mother’s boyfriend. She was moved into taking action to help communities that lacked rape crisis centers and sexual assault workers.
Tarana Burke is a survivor of sexual violence having been raped at the age of six and molested by a neighborhood teenager for several years. She was also raped as an adult and harassed in the street. Burke knows the importance of seeking healing after such an encounter and has committed her life to helping women of color to find healing. She coined the phrase “Me Too” in 2006 when she formed Just Be Inc. a Non- Profit Company geared toward helping women of color. After a while, the company began to help support marginalized people in marginalized communities. Although the Me Too movement has become a sensation on the social media, it differs from the true purpose of the movement which is to support sexual assault survivors and not call out perpetrators as it is happening and holding them accountable. Tarana Burke has worked with several women to speak out against sexual abuse and harassment. In collaboration with Taylor Swift and Ashley Judd, she formed a group dubbed ‘The silence breakers’ that is a voice for the voiceless. In 2017, Times Magazine recognized the group by awarding it the Person of the Year award.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual conduct that offends, humiliates or intimidates an individual (Dionisi and Barling, 2015). It also involves a situation where a person is asked to participate in sexual activity in order to receive employment. Sexual harassment can include one or more actions showcasing physical, non-verbal and verbal. Physical conduct consists of unwelcome behavior such as stroking, kissing, patting, hugging or inappropriate touching. It can also include physical violence, and job-related threats to solicit sexual favors. Verbal conduct consists of commenting on someone’s appearance, private life or age. It also consists of sexual comments or jokes, sexual advances, unwanted social invitations for physical intimacy or dates among others. Non-Verbal Conduct includes whistling, leering or sexually -suggestive gestures. Any person can be a victim of sexual harassment regardless of their sex or that of their harasser. However, as long as the sexual conduct is regarded as unwanted or unwelcome by the person the conduct is directed at, it remains a sexual abuse or harassment.
Purpose of the Me Too Movement
The movement came out to give people the resources they needed to find healing and advocate for changes to laws and policies. Some states have changed legislation to extend the statute of limitations allowing victims to file a civil lawsuit to bring their abusers to justice. Some victims could not get justice after failing to report the incident several years after it took place. States are now improving the law by extending the time frame that victims have to file a lawsuit against their perpetrators. An example is being derived from the recent revelations involving the Catholic Church whereby people who were abused as children are coming out to talk about their harrowing experience. State legislatures have begun to police themselves after several of their colleagues have resigned following accusations of sexual harassment. Additionally, most states have a written policy that guards against inappropriate sexual behavior especially with skewed power dynamics they are now paying attention to this policy. Legislators are now involving lobbyists to critically examine sexual harassment in their own industry.
Most of the children who are sexually abused will not tell anyone about it and might keep it as a secret the whole of their lives. Sexual abusers are usually people they know too well and love, making it difficult for children to report them. The closer the relationship, the harder it becomes for them to open up. Children will always give vague hints about what is happening to them, it is essential for the parents to look out for the warning signs. Parents are now empowered by the Me Too movement to support their children and show them the love they deserve so that it can be easier for them to open up. They have begun to teach them how to detect people with predatory behavior and how to avoid them. Parents have learned how to speak up once they discover that their children have been sexually abused and bring their perpetrators to justice.
Sexual harassment figures continue to rise in the workplace even after some refuse to report it. Sexual harassment in the work environment was illegalized in 1964 after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII barring employment discrimination (Fitzgerald and Cortina, 2017). However, sexual abuse cases continue to be reported. After the uproar of #me too movement, employers have stepped up to put in place anti-harassment policies that seek to protect employees from harassment. They are conducting anti-harassment training to educate their employees on what to do if someone abuses them and where to report. Sexual harassment training is regarded as an effective mechanism for avoiding sexual harassment and mitigating its effects as it educates employees on their responsibilities, appropriate behavior and increases employee’s sensitivity to sexual harassment issues (Bainbridge, Perry, and Kulik, 2018). To prevent future harassment, more employers are taking up stern measures against offenders by firing perpetrators of abuse. Business executives are publicly communicating about inappropriate behavior not being tolerated in the workplace since sexual harassment affects the people negatively in their productivity, morale and employee turnover. McDonald, Charlesworth, and Graham (2015) indicate that sexual harassment has contributed to occupational stress, team conflict, absenteeism, and reduced workforce morale.
Managers have also resulted in employing a counselor who can listen to the dilemmas and pertinent issues involving their employees. Some of the sanctions managers have introduced a penalty for sexual misconduct in the workplace include a verbal or written warning, reduction of wages, transfers or suspension and demotion.
Serial sexual harassers have over the years used nondisclosure agreements to continue abusing their victims. For instance, Movie Producer Harvey Weinstein and other politicians have used nondisclosure agreements to harass multiple victims. In many instances, the agreements have been transformed into financial settlements with the aim of compensating the victims and barring them from speaking about sexual abuse or harassment. However, many states including Arizona, New York, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, and Tennessee have come out to tweak nondisclosure agreements to limit how they ought to be used in harassment claims.
In Washington, state lawmakers have passed bills that target NDAs especially those that cover sexual abuse. Employers in this state will be barred from forcing employees to sign them as a prerequisite for employment. In Arizona, the agreement cannot bar victims from participating in Criminal proceedings and stops employers from using them as a condition for employment. The law also prohibits sexual harassment agreements agreed by public officials from incorporating a non-disclosure agreement in case the victim is paid with tax dollars.
Dangers of Me Too Movement
The disadvantage of the Me Too Movement is that it threatens sexual freedom. Some men are being accused and forced to confess to crimes they have not committed. Women are also being forced to come out and talk about their experiences and those who don’t are regarded as traitors. Due to the prevalence of the Me Too challenge, some men are unwilling to work with women for fear of being falsely accused of sexual harassment. There is also the worry that punishment for less sexual misconduct could be considered as that of severe offenses. It could lead to serious legal actions by people who have been accused falsely for having been perpetrators of sexual abuse.
Some men are bound to lose their careers over sexual harassment with senior managers afraid to interact with their subordinates. The movement will lead to less networking and promotions for the women in the workplaces. Women will start being regarded as liabilities and will not be mentored limiting their ability to rise up in ranks. Sexual harassment’s effects are long term for women especially in the workplace; it undermines their workplace authority and lowers them to sexual objects (McLaughlin, H., Uggen and Blackstone, 2017).
In the case of Weinstein who prompted the “me too” challenge he has faced several setbacks following the sexual abuse as he got fired from his company, his wife left him and received an expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Some celebrities have also not been spared severe personal and professional repercussions following allegations of sexual misconduct. They include Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, and Roger Ailes. Some have gone unscathed even after grave allegations have been rallied against them. They include Woody Allen, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, and R.Kelly among others.
Every institution will be called upon to calculate the gender and race ratio before they hire or promote anyone. For instance, at the Oscar Awards, John Bailey who is the President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences stated that the nominations would seek to balance race, gender and, religion come 2020. Managers who are forced to attain gender and race equity when selecting employees are apprehensive about this stating that the repercussion would be to employ less qualified employees. Financial institutions and banks are equally facing pressure from their shareholders to release data on the female employees at their upper ranks which could raise more questions about the balance between male and female employees. STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) departments have been under pressure to observe gender and race when hiring employees. Despite the efforts of governments, foundations, and companies to sponsor an increase in the number of females in STEM, gender proportions have not improved over the years. It is attributed to the differences in interests and aptitude witnessed in both sexes. Female career choice is way different than that of their male counterparts.
It takes a lot of energy for women to come out and talk about sexual abuse and harassment that has happened to them. Majority of the women who come out are afraid that they will be partly blamed for it. They are not sure whether they will receive support from their friends and family once they come out. Some are afraid that they will lose their jobs once their stories come to light. As much as many people come out and speak about their experiences, some vulnerable people may not feel they have the liberty to speak out. LGBT women, undocumented women, and women of color are facing exceptional risks each day and might be discouraged from speaking about their experiences. Regulska (2018) states that women vary in many ways from their diverse race to ethnicities and their intersecting identity markings makes it possible for some women to be more vulnerable than others.
The government is getting involved in the Me Too conversation by discussing the possibility of expanding Title VII protections. At the moment, the civil rights act statute applies to employees who are harassed at the workplace with independent contractors not protected by Title VII. There is a need to have strong and comprehensive anti-harassment policies and training at work. Employers can create a public website whereby employees who have been sexually abused or harassed can anonymously report incidents at the workplace to a third party who can bring the matter t the employer for action.
Legal accessible avenues are available, but they should not be stagnant proceedings that do not help victims. There ought to be a due process prior to an adverse action being taken. There is the culture of people dragging their feet or sweeping things under the carpet which needs to stop. Sexual predators should be barred from running for office in the political realm and confess to having engaged or supported harassment or violence. Additionally, people ought to know their rights and the protections that are in place so that they can feel empowered to speak about their abuse. There ought to be a grassroots movement in every state, community, and workplace where victims can receive first-hand assistance towards healing. There ought to be counseling areas where they can speak to a counselor.
The Me Too movement was established with the aim of bringing a voice to marginalized people, but has moved on to help millions of people to speak out about sexual abuse and harassment. As much as the conversation has been continued elsewhere, a lot needs to be done as the movement has sparked more dangers than it anticipated. The conversation still lingers on how to verify sexual abuse several years after it has happened with legislatures moving in to amend the law. Women are being looked at differently in the workplace due to the Me Too challenge while others have reservations whether speaking out is the best course of action. Tarana Burke coined the term “Me Too” to provide a reprieve to women that have faced sexual harassment, there should be a way to offer healing to these individuals without people just shaming the perpetrators in the social media.
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