Me Too (hashtag)
"Me Too" (or "#MeToo", with local alternatives in other languages) spread virally in October 2017 as a two-word hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
The phrase, long used by social activist Tarana Burke to help victims realize they are not alone, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to "give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem." Since then, the phrase has been posted online millions of times, often with an accompanying personal story of sexual harassment or assault. The response on Twitter included high-profile posts from several celebrities, and many stories of sexual violence were shared, including from Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, Terry Crews, Reese Witherspoon, Rosario Dawson, Viola Davis, Anna Paquin, Lady Gaga, Sheryl Crow, Björk, Sarah Hyland, Molly Ringwald, Uma Thurman, McKayla Maroney, Ellen DeGeneres and Simone Biles.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Purpose
- 3 Time's Up
- 4 Reach and impact
- 5 International response
- 6 #MeToo Congress bill
- 7 Criticism
- 8 See also
- 9 References
Several hashtags about sharing stories of sexual violence were in use before #MeToo became the most popular. #MyHarveyWeinstein, #YouOkSis, #WhatWereYouWearing and #SurvivorPrivilege, which The Washington Post noted were all started by black women, are prominent examples.
Social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke created the phrase "Me Too" on the Myspace social network in 2006 as part of a grassroots campaign to promote "empowerment through empathy" among women of color who have experienced sexual abuse, particularly within underprivileged communities. Burke, who is creating a documentary titled Me Too, has said she was inspired to use the phrase after being unable to respond to a 13-year-old girl who confided to her that she had been sexually assaulted. Burke later wished she had simply told the girl, "me too".
On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged spreading the phrase as part of an awareness campaign in order to reveal the ubiquity of the problem, tweeting: "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too.' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem." Milano later acknowledged earlier use of the phrase by Burke, writing on Twitter, "I was just made aware of an earlier #MeToo movement, and the origin story is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring".
The original purpose of #MeToo by creator Tarana Burke was to empower women through empathy, especially the experiences of young and vulnerable brown or black women. In October 2017, Alyssa Milano encouraged using the phrase to help reveal the extent of problems with sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people have experienced these events themselves.
However, after millions of people started using the phrase, and it spread to dozens of other languages, the purported purpose began to change and expand, and has come to mean different things for different people. Though creator Tarana Burke accepts the title of the leader of the movement, she has stated she considers herself a worker of something much bigger. She has stated that this movement has grown to include both men and women of all colors and ages, and supports marginalized people in marginalized communities. There have also been movements by men aimed at changing the culture through personal reflection and future action, including #IDidThat, #IHave, and #IWill.
Burke stated in an interview that the conversation has expanded, and now in addition to empathy there is also a focus on determining the best ways to hold perpetrators responsible and stop the cycle.
Awareness and empathy
Analyses of the movement often point to the prevalence of sexual violence, which has been estimated by the WHO to affect one third of all women worldwide. A 2017 poll by ABC News and The Washington Post also found that 54% of American women report receiving "unwanted and inappropriate" sexual advances with 95% saying that such behavior usually goes unpunished. #MeToo was partially started to help people realize the extent of the problem.
Burke said that #MeToo is a "bold declarative statement that 'I'm not ashamed' and 'I'm not alone.'" She has stressed the importance of community action and healing when it comes to stopping sexual violence, suggesting that simply listening and taking victims seriously is often what they need most.
Burke has emphasized the "gray areas" of consent and the right to say no to sexual contact from any person, including a family member or spouse, even after repeated solicitations. She has cautioned people against associating sexual assault with strangers, because it is usually committed by someone the victim knows. Burke stated that it's important to teach children to ask for permission before touching somebody and to report predatory behavior immediately. She has also stated she supports sex education because she thinks that changing how young people think of each other is the only way to actually change society.
While announcing her plan to release guides on having hard conversations, Burke advised men to talk to each other about consent as well as to quietly listen to victims. She also stated that #MeToo is designed to let victims teach society what is and isn't assault.
Alyssa Milano described the reach of #MeToo as helping society understand the "magnitude of the problem" and said "it's a standing in solidarity to all those who have been hurt." She stated that the success of #MeToo will require men to take a stand against behaviour that objectifies women.
In the Huffington Post, Angelina Chapin focused on the extent to which sexual harassment is enabled by traditional views of masculinity and wrote "if every woman you know has been harassed or assaulted, then every man you know has likely made a woman feel unsafe." She stated that #MeToo underscores the need for men to intervene when they see other men demeaning women.
Policies and laws
Burke has stated the current purpose of the movement is to give people the resources to have access to healing. She has advocated a change to "legitimate things like policies and laws", highlighting goals such as processing all untested rape kits, re-examining local school policies, improving the vetting of teachers, and updating sexual harassment policies. She has called for all teachers or paraprofessionals to be fingerprinted and subjected to a background check before being cleared to work with children. She believes in sex education. Burke supports the #MeToo Congress bill, which would remove the requirement that staffers of the federal government go through months of "cooling off" before being allowed to file a complaint against a Congressperson.
Milano has stated that there should be a universal code of conduct and a standard protocol across all industries so victims are able to file complaints and be taken seriously without fear of retaliation. She stated that a priority for #MeToo should be changing the laws surrounding sexual harassment and assault. She supports a legal framework that makes it harder for publicly traded companies to hide cover-up money from their stockholders and opposes the practice of requiring new employees sign NDAs (that would silence future victims from talking about what happened in the workplace) as a condition of their employment.
Anna North, the senior reporter of gender issues at Vox, said the public is realizing that #MeToo is about preventing sexual harassment at work and should be addressed as a labor issue, as opposed to an attempt to change public opinions about sex or romance. She pointed out that many victims are in low wage jobs and would be put at further economic disadvantage by reporting harassment. North wrote about suggestions for combating the underlying power imbalances including raising the tipped minimum wage and embracing innovations like the "portable panic buttons" that are mandated for hotel employees in Seattle.
Better options for reporting
In the coverage of #MeToo, there has been widespread discussion about the best ways for victims of sexual abuse or harassment to stop what's happening to them at work when regular channels aren't effective. There is general agreement that a lack of effective reporting options for victims is a major factor that drives unchecked sexual misconduct in the workplace.
For example, in France, a person who makes a sexual harassment complaint at work is reprimanded or fired 40% of the time, while the accused person is typically not investigated or punished. In the United States, a 2016 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that although 25-85% of women report sexual harassment at work, few ever report the incidents, most commonly due to fear of reprisal. There's evidence that in Japan, as few as 4% of rape victims report the crime, and the charges are dropped about half the time.
There is discussion on the best ways to handle "whisper networks," or private lists of "people to avoid" that are shared unofficially in nearly every major institution or industry, including government, media, news and academia. These lists used to be spread as an "oral history" from person to person, though some are now being shared on forums, in private groups on social media, and in spreadsheets, with the stated purpose of warning other workers in the industry of people known to harass at work. However, these lists can become "weaponized" and used to spread unsubstantiated gossip, which is being discussed widely in the media.
Some defenders say the lists help victims realize they're not alone so they can identify each other and speak out together. Sometimes these lists are kept for other reasons, for example a spreadsheet from the U.K. called "High Libido MPs" and dubbed "the spreadsheet of shame" was created by a group of male and female parliamentary researchers, and contained a list of allegations against nearly 40 Conservative MPs in the British Parliament. It's also rumored that party whips (who are in charge of getting members of Parliament to commit to votes) maintain a "black book" that contains allegations against several lawmakers that can be used for blackmail. When it's claimed a well-known person's sexual misconduct was an "open secret," these lists are often the source. Although these lists are widely criticized for unknown sourcing when shared outside private networks, women defend their right to maintain the lists by pointing out that victims need to be able to warn other people, and often the victims had already tried to report the behavior and were punished or ignored. In the wake of #MeToo, several private whisper network lists have been leaked to the public.
In India, a student shared a document with her friends on social media that contained a list of professors and academics in the Indian university system she said should be avoided. The authors alleged they had personally confirmed with each victim that the person on the list had sexually harassed or assaulted them. The anonymously sourced list went viral. In response to criticism in the media, the authors claimed they didn't realize the list would be shared so widely and defended themselves by saying that several victims from the list were poor students who had already tried to go through official channels without success. They claimed they had only shared the list to warn their friends so they didn't get have to go through the same thing. Moira Donegan, a former writer in the news industry, privately shared a crowd-sourced list of people to avoid in publishing and journalism, alongside allegations next to each name that ranged from minor transgressions to sexual assault. When the list was shared outside her private network, she received criticism in the media for the "Shitty Media Men List" and lost her job. Donegan said she was not trying to get any person prosecuted or fired, but was trying to warn fellow workers in the industry. She pointed out the list hadn't been seen by many people before it went public, for example, very few women of color received access to the list. She pointed to her own "privileges like whiteness, health, education, and class" that allowed her to take the risk of sharing the list and getting fired.
In the wake of #MeToo, many countries such as the U.S., India, France, China, Japan, and Italy, have seen discussion in the media on whether cultural norms need to be changed for sexual harassment to be eradicated in the workplace.
Anna North, senior editor on gender issues at Vox, proposed changing "the idea that men have more sexual desire than women" because it leads men "to believe that a lukewarm yes is all they're ever going to get, because women don't like sex that much anyway." She referred to a 2017 study which found that men who believe various stereotypes about sex and dating "were more likely to perceive women as consenting." North also states women are taught that rejecting romantic advances is "rude" and men must be let down easily to avoid hurting or embarrassing them, which can discourage women from speaking up more forcefully when they want an action to stop. She states one way to address #MeToo is to provide better sex education from a younger age that teaches children the importance of personal boundaries regardless of social pressure.
Alyssa Rosenberg on the Washington Post called for society to be careful of overreaching when trying to address social norms, and part of that is "being clear about what behavior is criminal, what behavior is legal but intolerable in a workplace, and what private intimate behavior is worthy of condemnation" but not part of the workplace discussion. She says discussion must include differences and distinctions, without suppressing the whole conversation. She believes "preserving the nuances" is more inclusive and helps society figure out the best and most realistic solutions to workplace harassment.
Milano announced in an interview with Rolling Stone that she and 300 other women in the film industry are now supporting Time's Up, an initiative that aims to help fight sexual violence and harassment in the workplace through lobbying and providing funding for victims to get legal help if they can't afford it. Time's Up started with $13 million in donations for its legal defense fund. The initiative aims to lobby for legislation that creates financial consequences for companies that regularly tolerate harassment without action. A working group from Time's Up helped create a Hollywood Commission that examines Sexual Harassment, which is led by Anita Hill. Another group is working towards legislation that would discourage the use of NDAs to keep victims from talking about sexual harassment they experienced.
Reach and impact
The phrase "Me too" was tweeted by Milano around noon on October 15, 2017 and had been used more than 200,000 times by the end of the day, and tweeted more than 500,000 times by October 16. On Facebook, the hashtag was used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. The platform reported that 45% of users in the United States had a friend who had posted using the term.
Tens of thousands of people replied to Milano's tweet, including:
- Asia Argento
- Patricia Arquette
- Ambra Battilana Gutierrez
- Thora Birch
- Gretchen Carlson
- Barry Crimmins
- Bethany Cosentino
- Sheryl Crow
- Vir Das
- Viola Davis
- Kimya Dawson
- Rosario Dawson
- Felicia Day
- Ellen DeGeneres
- Laura Dreyfuss
- Mallika Dua
- Nikki DuBose
- Sadie Dupuis
- America Ferrera
- Lady Gaga
- Ilana Glazer
- Heather Graham
- Sarah Hyland
- Rupi Kaur
- Marne Levine
- Monica Lewinsky
- Amber Liu
- Melanie Lynskey
- McKayla Maroney
- Marlee Matlin
- Debra Messing
- Lane Moore
- Javier Muñoz
- Ashleigh Murray
- Anna Paquin
- Pauley Perrette
- Christina Perri
- Busy Philipps
- Emily Ratajkowski
- Molly Ringwald
- Anika Noni Rose
- Jenny Slate
- Mira Sorvino
- Gabrielle Union
- Jessica Valenti
- Elizabeth Warren
- Evan Rachel Wood
- Reese Witherspoon
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Angelina Jolie
- Rosanna Arquette
- Angie Everhart
- Cara Delevingne
- Léa Seydoux
- Louisette Geiss
- Ashley Judd
- Amber Tamblyn
- Jennifer Lawrence
- Isa Dick Hackett
- Hilarie Burton
- Trace Lysette
- Charlyne Yi
- Maureen Ryan
- Janis Hirsch
- Laura Dern
- Anna Faris
- Jessica Barth
- Gabby Douglas
- Uma Thurman
- Terry Crews
- James Van Der Beek
Some men, such as actors Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek, have responded to the hashtag with their own experiences of harassment and abuse, while others have responded by acknowledging past behaviors against women, spawning the hashtag "HowIWillChange."
On November 12, 2017, in Hollywood, a few hundred men, women, and children participated in the "Take Back the Workplace March" and the "#MeToo Survivors March" to protest sexual abuse.
On November 16, 2017, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York specifically referred to "the 'Me Too' Movement" when asked about allegations of sexual misconduct by politicians such as President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, and Roy Moore.
On November 23, 2017, actress Uma Thurman posted a Thanksgiving Day message on her Instagram account accompanied by the #MeToo hashtag. She wrote, "I said I was angry recently, and I have a few reasons, #metoo, in case you couldn't tell by the look on my face."
In addition to Hollywood, "Me Too" declarations elicited discussion of sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry, sciences, academia, and politics. In the music industry, the band Veruca Salt used the #MeToo hashtag to air allegations of sexual harassment against James Toback, and Alice Glass used the hashtag to share a history of alleged sexual assault and other abuses by former Crystal Castles bandmate Ethan Kath.
Statehouses in California, Illinois, Oregon, and Rhode Island responded to allegations of sexual harassment surfaced by the campaign, and several women in politics spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment, including United States Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Mazie Hirono, Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced a bill aimed at making sexual harassment complaints easier to report on Capitol Hill.
The hashtag has trended in at least 85 countries, including India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The European Parliament convened a session directly in response to the Me Too campaign, after it gave rise to allegations of abuse in Parliament and in the European Union's offices in Brussels. Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, specifically cited the hashtag as the reason the meeting had been convened.
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- Arabic: أنا_كمان# (en: MeToo)
- Basque Country: #NiEre (en: MeToo)
- Canada, French-speaking areas: #MoiAussi (en: MeToo)
- Catalonia: #JoTambé (en: MeToo)
- China: #我也是 or #WoYeShi (en: MeToo)
- English-speaking countries: #MeToo
- Finland: #memyös (en: WeToo)
- France: #balanceTonPorc (en: DenounceYourPig)
- Iran: #من_هم_همینطور (en: MeToo)
- Italy: [#QuellaVoltaChe (en: TheTimeThat)
- Israel: גםאנחנו# (en: UsToo)
- Norway: #stilleforopptak (en: SilentForRecording)
- Russia: #Ятоже (en: MeToo)
- South Korea: #나도당했다 (en: MeToo)
- Spain: #YoTambién (en: MeToo)
- Vietnam: #TôiCũngVậy (en: MeToo)
In French-speaking parts of Canada, the campaign is done under the hashtag "#MoiAussi".
Some women in China have used the hashtag #WoYeShi in addition to #MeToo. It initially was used mostly at universities, but eventually began to spread to other industries. A recent study from a pair of professors from City University in Hong Kong indicated that about 80% of working women in China have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their career.
There were strong reactions of anger online following a report in the state-run China Daily which officially responded to #MeToo movement by alleging that there are almost no rapes occurring in China. The report stated that Chinese men are well educated and culturally set to protect women. The article has since been taken down. Activist Feng Yuan points out that China does not have federal laws prohibiting sexual harassment, and victims are rarely listened to, giving women few options to try to get the behavior to stop. She also points to a culture that states that women never comply with harassment or sexual assault except to manipulate or for personal gain.
Sophie Richardson, the Human Rights Watch director for China, stated that there is severe underreporting of rape in the country due to fear or retaliation, and women who do come forward are often censored by the government. She says the Chinese government is cracking down on discussion of women's rights. Richardson points to an incident in 2015 where Li Tingting and four other activists were arrested for planning to hand out stickers about the prevalence of women being sexually touched and harassed on public transportation. Some Chinese writers in American media have stated past actions like these indicate the Chinese government will not tolerate the widespread use of #MeToo.
Fincher says there is extreme censorship online in response to #MeToo because the majority-male communist party is worried about possible political repercussions. She's stated that the Chinese government is promoting traditional gender roles through state media by strongly and officially encouraging women to focus only on family relationships and to stay out of the public sphere. New laws recently made it illegal for television programming to contain images of a women's cleavage, sexual acts outside of marriage, or any topics that could be considered "admiration for Western lifestyles."
In Hong Kong, track and field athlete Vera Lui Lai-Yiu posted her own case of sex abuse with the hashtag on her Facebook fanpage on her 23rd birthday. She decided to reveal the case after similar action by the gymnast McKayla Maroney. Lui specifically used the "#metoo" hashtag and posted a picture of herself holding a piece of paper with the handwritten words "#metoo lly" (her initials). In January 2018, student Zheng Xi publicly started a campaign against sexual harassment in response to #MeToo.
Respected academic Dr. Luo Xixi shared a story of being sexually assaulted by a professor at Beihang University when she was in her 20s. Luo gave the institution extensive evidence of sexual wrongdoing she had gathered from other women who had been assaulted, including recordings, and waited until the professor was already suspended and under investigation by the university before she went public with the story. Her post was viewed over 3 million times within 24 hours. She said that #MeToo gave her the courage to speak up. She is now living in the USA.
Variants of the phrase trended in France, especially "BalanceTonPorc" (DenounceYourPig), which encouraged users to share the names of their alleged abusers. #BalanceTonPorc was first used by Sandra Muller. She was requested to take down her tweet by two lawyers. In France, 93% of complaints against criminal sexual harassment are dropped or never followed up on by law enforcement. Prosecutions are extremely rare, and only 65 of 1,048 sexual harassment lawsuits from 2014 actually led to a conviction. In 40% of workplace sexual violence cases, the person who makes the complaint is reprimanded or fired, while the accused person is typically not investigated or punished. There is no French equivalent to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which gives victims a place to report workplace sexual violence if the employer and/or law enforcement refuses to address the complaint.
Initially the hashtag went viral, but there was an almost immediate media backlash. Soon after, 100 high-profile French women, including actress Catherine Deneuve, porn star Brigitte Lahaie, feminist Caroline De Haas, and art critic Catherine Millet, signed an open letter by Abnousse Shalmani which criticized the #MeToo campaign. It's been noted the letter is poorly edited with several typos and unclear or clumsy passages.
The people who signed the letter, especially Deneuve and Millet, were criticized for saying men should have the "right to pester" women. The letter also told people not to be bothered by small amounts of sexual harassment, for example men who masturbate on public transportation by rubbing their genitals on unwilling women. The letter states women should "consider it as the expression of a great sexual misery, or even as a nonevent." French politician Marlène Schiappa said some aspects of the letter were "profoundly shocking" and "we have immense difficulty convincing young women that when a man rubs his genitals against a woman in the métro without her consent, it is an act of sexual assault that can lead to three years in prison and a 75,000 euro fine."
A week after it's publication, Deneuve publicly denounced the letter, saying although she signed her name she wants to clarify she does not condone sexual violence or harassment. She apologized to all victims who read the letter and said she believed there needs to be change in how France educates children and in workplace policies about sexual harassment.
Political commentator Anastasia Colosimo said older feminists in France desire to protect the sexual revolution. Though they admit that sexual harassment and assault in the workplace are problems that need to be dealt with, they are afraid to lose the ability to enjoy sex without guilt. However, millennials and younger women in France already accept sexual freedom as a given, and are focused on preventing sexual violence and abuse. As a result, the #MeToo movement is far more accepted among younger French women than those who came of age in the 1960s or before. Colosimo states that #MeToo is fighting a cultural idea of galanterie française (French gallantry), which indicates it's appropriate for men to forcefully express their desire, and women should feel empowered or flattered by a man who will not take no as an answer.
French politician Sandrine Rousseau said that #MeToo will continue in France, despite extensive pushback in the media, because French women have been silenced for too long. In response to a perceived lack of interest in #MeToo, alongside backsliding on laws against sexual misconduct from Emmanual Macron, a petition aimed at the president asking for sexual harassment to be taken more seriously in France received more than 100,000 signatures in 3 days. Legal professional Marilyn Baldeck noted that "when we give these people concrete examples of sexual harassment, they tend to change their minds and acknowledge how harmful some situations can be."
The use of the #MeToo hashtag on social media spread quickly in India, where it is well-established that rape and sexual assault are greatly under reported. There are also men using the hashtag #SoDoneChilling to say they hear the problem and want to do something to help. In response to #MeToo, there have been attempts to teach Indian women their workplace rights and how to safely report sexual misconduct.
Indian writer Pankaj Mishra said, "India's #Weinstein moment happened last year. Just that we choose to bury our head in sand. Heard of a man named Mahesh Murthy? #metoo."
Many have likened the #MeToo moment to a social movement which occurred in the wake of a particularly brutal gang rape in 2012 that caused mass protests in the streets of major cities and resulted in the government instituting harsher punishments for rapists. Despite that, there was a 227% rise in rape complaints between 2011 and 2016, though it's possible the increase is due to more people are coming forward. It is common for women to start getting harassed when they're children and government statistics of reported complaints indicate a woman is raped at least every 20 minutes.
Soon after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein went public, blogger Sheena Dabolkar accused pub owner Khodu Irani of chronic sexual harassment and abuse on Twitter. Her viral tweet resulted in the boycott of his popular Pune pub by several well-known performers. However, there was a backlash with several men saying they never saw anything, blaming Dabolkar for not coming forward sooner, calling her overly sensitive to people touching her, and accusing her of lying for publicity.
Raya Sarkar has said that caste plays a big role is protecting sexually violent men in India, with upper caste men being far more likely to get away with sexual violence.
Zehra Kazmi of the Hindustan Times has said there needs to be greater awareness among men about the scope of the problem, because "for every #MeToo story there is a corresponding #IDidThat." She believes there needs to be a shift away from focusing on the fact that women "get raped" and a greater focus on the fact that men are committing these crimes and need to be stopped. She believes the #MeToo movement can only be a success if men engage in the process of changing the culture around sexual violence.
Huizhong Wu from CNN speculated that there was already attention on the issue of sexual content in India because less than a month before #MeToo started trending, a rape conviction against filmmaker and writer Mahmood Farooqui was overturned in Delhi after it was ruled that a "feeble" no was not enough to revoke consent, and Farooqui probably had "no idea at all" that the victim was not willing. High Court Judge Ashutosh Kumar said it is normal for one sexual partner to be less willing, but there is assumed consent if the parties know each other and "a feeble 'no' may mean a 'yes.'" The victim's lawyer said she protested and struggled to keep her clothes on while saying no, but Farooqui was stronger and pinned her down. The case isbeing appealed to the Supreme Court.
Trends Desk of The Indian Express wrote about how many Indian men are speaking up as a part of #MeToo. He says some men have also been abused, while other men are having discussions about responsibility and reflecting on their own actions, as well as how society views consent.
Rina Chandran of Reuters has said #MeToo seems to be ignoring the most vulnerable, including trafficking victims, prostitutes and lower caste women. It's estimated that 16 million girls in India have been trafficked and are currently sex workers against their will. These girls are typically poor, and are often tricked into coming to a city for a job or good marriage, before being sold to a brothel where their family can't find them.
There were reports of mass sexual assaults during the 2018 New Years celebrations in Bangalore, and subsequent statements from officials about the widespread attacks received criticism for shifting blame to the women's clothing and "western values" as opposed to trying to find and stop the men who committed the crimes. The incidents were initially dismissed by the police until someone uploaded CCTV footage to social media showing the women being sexually assaulted. The Home Minister G. Parameshwara came under fire for saying that Bangalore is typically very safe, but sexual attacks are unavoidable on Christmas and New Years, indicating that Indian women should stay home during major celebrations if they want to avoid being raped. He later said those comments were taken out of context. Political leader Abu Azmi said a women's family is a fault if she gets raped, because they shouldn't allow her to go to parties.
Blank Noise, an organization dedicated to stopping sex and gender-based violence in India, began a project known as "I Never Ask For It" which shares stories of sexual harassment or assault along with images of a piece of clothing the woman was wearing at the time. Jasmeen Patheja, who runs Blank Noise, has said that #MeToo's power is in demonstrating that women in India will no longer be silent or ashamed about sexual violence, and the sheer number of stories demonstrates that India can no longer ignore what's happening.
Kaimini Jaiswal, a lawyer at the Supreme Court of India, has stressed the importance of teaching women how to read, especially in rural villages, because most women in these areas are illiterate and completely financially and emotionally dependent on a male relative. She has also stated that many women don't realize they have the right to complain about sexual violence and rape.
Several lists of alleged rapists and harassers started spreading on social media in India, including "The List" which initially included the names of about 60 highly respected academic men, and has continued to grow. The List was compiled by Indian activist Inji Pennu and posted by an Indian student in California named Raya Sarkar on October 24, 2017, alleging they personally spoke to every victim and corroborated their stories. This list has caused a strong blowback against #MeToo because the allegations were unverified before they started spreading on social media. However, some Indian women have pointed out that there is no place a woman could go even if they did want to report these men because they are socially and academically very powerful, and that women should be allowed to warn each other. Some of the victims from the list have come forward to explain they were ignored, mistreated or retaliated against when they tried to pursue action. Sarkar has defended The List, saying she only posted it to warn her friends about professors to avoid, and had no idea it could become so popular. The post said it was, "A list for students to be wary of professors, through first hand accounts of victims. No hearsay. It's to prevent further harassment." Many more women are coming forward about several people on the list with their own accounts of sexual abuse. A second list came out a week later that was made by women from lower caste background and included more names, bringing the total up to around 70. Only 3 of the 29 affected institutions have acted on the complaints.
Twelve prominent Indian feminists dismissed The List in a formal letter, saying they understand that the justice system is typically tilted against victims, but unverified claims make things harder for the feminist movement. Writers Rhea Dangwal and Namrata Gupta state that even though several victims from the list were poor students who tried to go through official channels without success, the women are now getting punished for not coming out the right way, and not coming out sooner. This leaves the victims no recourse. Dangwal and Gupta point out that every single man on the list has the ability to defend themselves socially and legally, while the victims have nothing to gain and most of them are risking everything to identify the person who harassed or assaulted them.
In Italy, women posted stories of assault and harassment under the hashtag #QuellaVoltaChe, which translates literally as "TheTimeThat." The phrase was launched by the journalist Giulia Blasi. Italian journalist Simona Siri wrote in the Washington Post about how the movement is playing out in Italy, which she says has a strong sexist culture with few female politicians in positions of power. She stated that there was a lot of online discussion the first week, but the movement was quickly buried. As a result, fewer women have come forward in Italy than many other countries, and few high-profile personalities have faced consequences even after it's become known they've committed sexual violence. For example, movie director Fausto Brizzi was accused of harassment by 10 women, yet there were no consequences except that Brizzi's name was removed from a movie poster that was in theaters that week, and discussion about the incidents has since ceased in the media. Another movie director, Giuseppe Tornatore, has been accused of sexual misconduct, yet hasn't experienced any consequences, further investigation or media scrutiny. She believes that Italian politician and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is recently becoming more popular despite currently fighting charges related to his role in wild parties (Bunga Bunga bacchanals) with underage women and prostitutes, has contributed to misogyny in Italy.
The New York Times has called the movement in Italy as "Meh" due to the lack of discussion and response in the country. Laura Boldrini, the president of the lower house of Parliament has declared that the movement can't touch Italy because although there is a lot of harassment, there's also a belief that "in our country, there are no harassers." She has stated that there is a strong prejudice in Italy against women coming forward about sexual violence, and victims are often silenced or ignored. It has been reported that nearly 70% of female university student have been sexually harassed, and it's widely accepted that Italy is behind other countries when it comes to gender rights. In response to #QuellaVoltaChe, one article from Libero was titled, "First they put out, then they whine and pretend to regret it."
Italian Fabrizio Lombardo, an employee and friend of Harvey Weinstein, was widely covered by the media after he was accused of allegations that he aided Weinstein in sexually harassing an Italian actress and a former model, though he denies all wrongdoing.
Italian actress Asia Argento, who came out with allegations of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein that were widely covered by the media in the USA, has said of Italy, "Nothing has changed." She has described her life after going public with the allegations as living a nightmare, and has made plans to leave Italy because she is afraid to leave her house due to attacks against her. Conservative news editor Alessandro Sallusti went on television to criticize Argento for being an accomplice to Weinstein because she did not report him immediately, while other conservative outlets and public figures including several politicians publicly questioned her innocence.
The "Non Una di Meno" group (Not One Woman Less) which is dedicated to stopping violence against women, wrote a letter in support of Argento and organised a protest in November 2017 where tens of thousands of people gathered in Rome. Blogger Abbatto i muri (I Break Down Walls), journalist Ida Dominijanni, Cagne sciolte, and author Michela Marzano also strongly supported Argento publicly.
Italian women's rights activitist Lorella Zanardo has stated that it's taken for granted than women must give or sell their body in order to get high-profile positions such as politics, film, and media.
Maria Elena Boschi, the undersecretary of state who has created governmental initiatives supporting women in Italy, has been targeted in the news and on social media for her support of women's issues and the #QuellaVoltaChe movement. In response to #QuellaVoltaChe, she has stated it's important for women to understand it's okay to say no to sexual advances. She has been impersonated in several fake interviews where the actresses portray Boschi in unflattering ways. She has been called an inflatable sex doll by a political opponent. She has been criticized for the color of her clothes, dressing in suits that are too manly, and wearing dresses that are too feminine. There are also photoshopped images of Boschi that have been shared widely on social media, including a doctored image with her underwear showing during her swearing-in ceremony, which never occurred. Francesca Puglisi, the chair of the Commission of Inquiry into Femicide in Italy, has said that one women is killed every two days on average by male violence, and the problem is severely under-reported. She has said that the #QuellaVoltaChe hashtag and the work by Boschi to change sexual harassment training in law enforcement positions may be making a positive difference, though further changes must be made to policies in schools and universities for the problem to go away.
Although the #MeToo movement started out relatively small in Japan, it appears to be picking up steam. There is evidence that just 4% of rape victims in Japan report the crime, and the charges are dropped about half the time. BuzzFeed Japan has started a #MeToo page featuring articles about the movement in Japan. Journalist and author Shiori Ito published an article in Politico about the state of #MeToo in Japan. She has stated, "It's not that victims haven't come forward; Japanese society wants them to stay silent." Two famous authors, Kyoko Nakajima and Mayumi Mori, have written in Asahi newspaper with criticism of Japan's silence on this matter. Takumi Harimaya wrote about the #MeToo movement in BuzzFeed Japan, stating she believes it could make a difference if the idea spreads, and sharing stories of victims including what happened to popular blogger Hakuo Au (née Haruka Ito) at the hands of Mr Kishi Yuki. Other writers such as Kirsten King and Akiko Kobayashi have shared their #MeToo stories to Japanese audiences.
Harimaya writes how the #MeToo movement has shown several women that they are not alone as they feared, and that many women are experiencing the same sexual violence and harassment. Keiko Kojima of Buzzfeed Japan says that #MeToo is needed in Japan because sexual harassment is baked into Japanese society, and the movement is about the fact that it's okay to say no to sexual violence. She said growing up that she felt getting molested on the train was an unavoidable as mosquito bites in the summer, and she hopes that #MeToo gives more victims the ability to find their voice, including male victims. She says that, despite how it's attacked in Japanese media, that #MeToo is not an "anti-man" campaign, it is simply about anti-violence and anti-harassment. She also believes it's extremely important for men to call out behaviors in others such as sexual harassment or having sex with someone who's unconscious. Therefore, every person who is not committing sexual violence is part of the #MeToo movement, whether they're male or female.
Shiori Ito notes that the word "rape" is taboo in Japan, and is typically described with less threatening words such as saying an underage victim was "tricked" or a woman was "violated" to describe what's happened, which Ito says contributes to the public not understanding the full extent of the problem. The legal age of consent in Japan is 13. She says women in Japan are regularly exposed to harassment from a young age, and recalls being groped by a man at a swimming pool when she was 10 only to be blamed herself for wearing a "cute bikini." She states that harassment on public transportation is commonplace, and she remembers dealing with it every day in high school.
As part of the #MeeToo movement, Shiori Ito went public about being raped by Noriyuki Yamaguchi, an admission she says was unthinkable for a woman to do in Japan. She said her experience with Japan's legal system showed her that victims of sex crimes were undermined and ignored. She called for the Japanese parliament to update Japan's laws regarding rape, which were over a century old. She explains how she couldn't get information on which hospital provides rape kits without going through a preliminary interview in person. When she went to the police, she was discouraged from filing a report, and informed her career would be ruined for no reason if she did this. She was told she didn't act like a victim, and had to be interviewed by several officers including one who made her reenact the rape with a dummy while he took pictures. Although they initially said they would arrest Yamaguchi, the case and charges were unexpectedly dropped. Ito then went to the media, but no one would take her story. When she spoke about the experience at a press conference, she made national news and immediately started receiving a negative backlash, hate mail, and threats.
Trond Giske, the deputy leader of the Norwegian Labour Party and a former cabinet minister in Norway, resigned from his political positions on 7 January 2018 after being accused of an extensive pattern of sexual assault and sexual harassment of young women, and of taking advantage of his political positions to make unwanted sexual advances. The accusations came in the context of the Me Too debate and dominated Norwegian media for several weeks from December 2017.
In the Philippines men and women shared their harrowing experiences with their offenders.
The Spanish-language counterpart is "#YoTambién". In Spain, on October 25 several Spanish actresses recognized in a report the existence of sexual harassment in Spanish cinema, among them Maru Valdivieso, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Carla Hidalgo, and Ana Gracia. Also explaining cases of harassment suffered by them were the actress, scriptwriter and film director Leticia Dolera and Bárbara Rey.
In Sweden, several women used the hashtag to confront television presenter Martin Timell, whose shows on TV4 were cancelled on October 20, 2017, and journalist Fredrik Virtanen's alleged abuse towards them. The king of Sweden said #MeToo is a positive movement that's good for society, and urged victims to come forward and share their stories.
In the UK, the Cabinet Office has launched an investigation in allegations that Parliament member Mark Garnier ordered a secretary to buy sex toys for his wife and mistress. In the wake of #MeToo, Labour activist Bex Bailey shared her 2011 story of being raped by a senior person in the Labour Party, but being warned that her career could be damaged if she reported the incident.
Roger Gale has said there is a "witch hunt" in the UK government, though Harriet Harman responded by saying the newfound scrutiny was "long overdue." John McDonnell called for new procedures regarding sexual harassment, noting that harassment has happened in all political parties.
#MeToo Congress bill
Jackie Speier and Kirsten Gillibrand proposed the Member and Employee Training and Oversight on Congress Act (ME TOO Congress) Act on November 15, 2017. The purpose of the bill is to change how the federal government treats sexual harassment complaints. Under the old system, complaints were channeled through the Office of Compliance, which required complete confidentially through the process and took months of counseling and mediation before a complaint could actually be filed. Any settlement payments were paid using federal taxes, and it was reported that within a decade, $15 million of tax money had been spent settling harassment and discrimination complaints. The bill would ensure future complaints could only take up to 180 days to be filed. The bill would also allow the staffers to transfer to a different department or otherwise work away from the presence of the alleged harasser without losing their jobs if they requested it. The bill would require Representatives and Senators to pay for their own harassment settlements. The Office of Compliance would no longer be allowed to keep settlements secret, and would be required to publicly publish the settlement amounts and the associated employing offices. For the first time, the same protections would also apply to unpaid workers, including pages, fellows and interns.
There has been discussion about whether the movement is meant to inspire change in all men or just a percentage of them, and what specific actions are the end goal of the movement. Other women have stated #MeToo should only be examining the worst types of abuse in order to prevent casting all men as perpetrators, or causing people to become numb to the problem.
Creator Tarana Burke has laid out specific goals for the #MeToo movement including: processing all untested rape kits in the US, investigating the vetting of teachers, better protecting children at school, updating sexual harassment policies, and improving training in workplaces, places of worship, and schools. She has stated that everyone in a community, including men and women, must take action in order to make the #MeToo movement a success. She also supports the #MeToo Congress bill and hopes it will inspire similar legal changes in other parts of the country.
There has been discussion on whether harsh consequences are warranted for particular examples of alleged misconduct. Author Rebecca Traister, while acknowledging the progress of #MeToo, has stated that "you can feel the backlash brewing. All it will take is one particularly lame allegation – and given the increasing depravity of the charges, the milder stuff looks lamer and lamer, no matter how awful the experience – to turn the tide."
Shikha Dalmia said #MeToo had "run amok", citing Stephen Henderson who was fired from the Detroit Free Press on the basis of an internal investigation that concluded Henderson had violated the company's code of conduct. Dalmia noted that the women themselves had not complained and that the firing went too far. Dalmia opined that the #MeToo movement should focus on only the worst offenses to prevent too many men from being thrown "under the bus." Heather Wilhelm of the Chicago Tribune wrote that she has personally never experienced sexual harassment going beyond a catcall, and wonders if the movement overstates the true prevalence of the problem. She also believes it trivializes sexual abuse by failing to "discriminate between a 'me too' for a catcall and a 'me too' for sexual assault" and says it casts all men as perpetrators and all women as victims.
Actor Catherine Deneuve criticized the #MeToo movement as "puritanical" and signed a statement with about one hundred other French media figures expressing their concern. The letter argued that some actions described as "talking about intimate subjects during professional dinners [or] sending sexually charged messages to women who did not return their attentions" should not have been targeted by the campaign. A week after its publication, Deneuve said the message was "distorted" and needed clarification. She apologized to the victims who read the letter and felt aggrieved but stated that she stood by her original statement because "nothing in the text claims that harassment is good." She said the real solution to sexual violence is to change workplace policies and educate young girls the same as boys. In a New York Times editorial, Daphne Merkin criticized the range of sexually charged acts that were being conflated and stated that #MeToo was "turning a bona fide moment of moral accountability into a series of ad hoc and sometimes unproven accusations." She further referred to the movement a "re-moralization of sex... via a legalistic, corporate consensus" and called into question the sincerity of some of its supporters. Cathy Young wrote that some recipients of accusations such as Roy Price and Leon Wieseltier were being punished excessively. She also condemned a tweet by Marian Call which expressed resentment toward flirting. Responding to these articles in The Guardian, Jessica Valenti referred to the backlash as coming from a "'not as bad as Weinstein' standard" and wrote that "the majority of outed abusers are being accused of rape, serial harassment and exposing their genitals to unwilling women." She defended #MeToo as a necessary effort to respect women "who have made it clear they're not interested" and those who have indicated that flirting is escalating to harassment.
Tarana Burke said in January 2018, "Those of us who do this work know that backlash is inevitable." While describing the backlash as carrying an underlying sentiment of fairness, she defended her movement as "not a witch hunt as people try to paint it." She stated that engaging with the cultural critique in #MeToo was more productive than calling for it to end or focusing on accused men who "haven't actually touched anybody." Ronan Farrow, who published the Weinstein expose in the New Yorker that helped start the #MeToo resurgence (alongside New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor), was asked in late December 2017 whether he thought the movement had "gone too far." Farrow called for a careful examination of each story to guard against false accusations but also recalled the sexual abuse his sister Dylann Farrow went through at the hands of his father Woody Allen. He stated that after decades of silence, "My feeling is that this is a net benefit to society and that all of the people, men, and women, pouring forward and saying 'me too' deserve this moment. I think you're right to say that we all have to be conscious of the risk of the pendulum swinging too far, but in general this is a very positive step."
Ijeoma Oluo spoke about how some Democrats have expressed regret over the resignation of Senator Al Franken due to allegations of sexual misconduct. She sympathized with them but stressed the importance of punishing misconduct regardless of whether the perpetrator is viewed as "a bad guy" overall. She wrote that "most abusers are more like Al Franken than Harvey Weinstein." The New York Times has called this discussion the "Louis C.K. Conundrum", referring to the admission by liberal comedian Louis C.K. that he committed sexual misconduct with five women, and the subsequent debate over whether any guilt should be associated with enjoyment of his work. Jennifer Wright of Bazaar has said that public fears of an overcorrection reflect the difficulty of accepting that "likeable men can abuse women too."
Possible trauma to victims
The hashtag has been criticized for putting the responsibility of publicizing sexual harassment and abuse on those who experienced it, which could be re-traumatizing. The hashtag has been criticized as inspiring fatigue and outrage, rather than emotionally dense communication.
There has been discussion about the extent to which accusers should be believed before fact-checking. Some have questioned whether the accused are being punished without due process confirming their guilt.
Many commentators have responded that the number of false reports is expected to be low, citing figures obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice and other organizations which estimate the number of false rape accusations to be around 2-10%. For example, Elle writer Sady Doyle discussed a detailed study by the British Home Office which found that from a set of 216 rape cases, later found to be false, only six led to arrests and only two involved charges being filed. She commented that another hashtag, #BelieveWomen, was not a threat to due process but a commitment to "recognize that false allegations are less common than real ones". Jennifer Wright of Bazaar proposed a similar definition of #BelieveWomen and pointed out the The Washington Post's ability to quickly identify a false accusation set up by Project Veritas. She also stated that only 52 rape convictions being overturned in the United States since 1989, as opposed to 790 for murder, was strong evidence that at least 90% of rape allegations are true. Michelle Malkin dissented from this citing the book False Allegations by Brent Turvey, John Savino and Aurelio Coronado Mares, which stated that published research about false rape accusations indicate that the number could be as high as 41%. She expressed a suspicion that many stories in the #MeToo movement would be exaggerated and accused news outlets of focusing on "hashtag trends spread by celebrities, anonymous claimants and bots."
Feminist actor Lena Dunham wrote a defence of her coworker Murray Miller, for which she later apologized, saying "our insider knowledge of Murray's situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year". Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune wrote that such a concern "deserves a hearing so that terms like "fairness" and "due process" still have meaning." He also stated that the most important next step is "for us to gain a better understanding of how the world looks to members of the opposite sex" instead of using the potential for false allegations to suppress discussion.
On November 21 2017, Teen Vogue columnist Emily Lindin posted a tweet which included "I'm actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations." She was criticized on conservative anchor Tucker Carlson's show and CNN journalist Carol Costello stated that the tweet was hurting the cause of #MeToo. On November 30 2017, Ijeoma Oluo revealed the contents of a request she received from USA Today, asking her to write a piece arguing that due process is unnecessary for sexual harassment allegations. She refused saying "of course I believe in due process" and wrote that it was disingenuous for the paper to ask her "to be their strawman".
Representation of women of color
The #MeToo creator Tarana Burke initially criticized the movement for ignoring the work of black women in creating dialogue addressing sexual assault. However, she did salute those who partook in the movement and credited Milano for acknowledging Burke's own similar movement.
- 2017 Westminster sexual scandals
- Girls for Gender Equity
- Hashtag activism
- Operation Yewtree
- Post-assault treatment of sexual assault victims
- Radical feminism
- Time's Up
- Weinstein effect
- We Said Enough
- Who Needs Feminism
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