2017 in Review: #MeToo, the revolution has begun
In 2017, I’ve closely followed the national and international stories about powerful male figures and their alleged involvement in sexual harassment. I’ve followed thousands of women from around the world tweeting the hashtag #MeToo to demonstrate the magnitude of sexual harassment. I’ve watched many stories of sexism and discrimination. These stories have suddenly changed their status from confidential disclosures between friends to national news headlines.
When the hashtag caught fire around social media, I came across the EU-wide study on sexual harassment (2014), which was based on interviews with 42,000 women, in 28 Member States. The results were horrifying. It showed that between 45% and 55% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment since the age of 15. It also revealed that only 6% of women report serious sexual harassment to colleagues, only 4% contacted the police, and less than 1% spoke to a lawyer.
When social media highlights a hidden cultural problem
I’ve analysed my life and I’ve spoken with other women about theirs. Sadly the hashtag is trending because most women have been through some form of sexual harassment and they have a story to tell. We’ve all been silent when we shouldn’t have been, and the hashtag finally gave people the sense of a problem. Reading the stories of friends, colleagues, women I follow, women I respect, is upsetting because I know. You know. We all know how serious a cultural problem this is.
#MeToo is now beyond hashtag activism. It costs some prominent men their livelihood. Women are realizing they have the power to speak out without fear and to be supportive of each other. But this isn’t about women. This is about male violence. This is about patriarchal control. And until we get clear on that, a new generation of women will still be tweeting #MeToo years from now.
The Silence Breakers; the people behind the hashtag
The Times person of the year in 2017 was not one person. It was a group of women called the Silence Breakers. They created the hashtag #MeToo. A hashtag that, as highlighted above, has helped women and men in all walks of life speak out about sexual harassment.
It all began when actor Alyssa Milano, who was one of the first women to make allegations against the film director Harvey Weinstein, asked anyone who had been the victim of sexual harassment to write “me too” as their status. The idea was to show the magnitude of the issue; and it had the desired effect. Within 24 hours 30,000 people had shared their experiences on social media.
Around the same time the stories broke that Kevin Spacey had been accused of sexual harassment whilst working at the Old Vic in London. The accusers were male, showing that this is not just a female issue.
In a survey by the BBC it was found that older women were less likely to report sexual harassment. It is clear that the hashtag has helped empower people young and old, male and female and from all walks of life to speak out to show that this behaviour is not ok.
What does the future hold
The problem is not going away. Recent reports show that in three years 5,500 sexual offences against pupils have been reported to police. This harrowing story of a 10 year old girl sexually harassed at school over a period of time highlights the fact something needs to be done to change attitudes from an early age.
I will end with this that rings so true. As the band Idles sang:
Sexual violence doesn’t start and end with rape
It starts in our books and behind our school gates
Men are scared women will laugh in their face
Whereas women are scared it’s their lives men will take
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.