Written by Harley Tummond, Diversity Editor
If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve probably seen a sprinkle of headlines about the new women’s movement. On the day after President Trump’s inauguration back in 2017, more than 2 million people of all walks of life joined together in the Women’s March (www.usatoday.com). Ever since, there has been a growing global awareness of the issues that are faced by women, people of color, and all other oppressed groups in the United States and elsewhere. Along with both the 2017 and 2018 women’s marches (the latter striving to be more intersectionality inclusive than the former), there was a very prominent movement this year that focused on workplace sexual harassment and assault, especially in the entertainment business.
The #metoo movement was created in 2006 by Tarana Burke (www.metoomvmt.org), however in recent months it has gained overwhelming strength. In late 2017, the hashtag spread like wildfire through social media, and people shared their stories of sexual assault and harassment on platforms such as Twitter. Although the Me Too Movement was initially founded to help provide support to vulnerable women, it has now spread to including men, women, and non-binary people in all classes, communities, and from all racial and ethnic groups. The TIME person of the year is usually a single person who made a big impact in one way or another, but in 2017, there was more than one person of the year. The Silence Breakers: TIME’s people of the year were composed of “dozens of people representing at least as many industries, all of whom had summoned extraordinary personal courage to speak out about sexual harassment at their jobs” (www.time.com). This representation of workplace assault in the media allowed for the movement to become far more widespread than it ever was before.
The Weinstein Effect is such a global trend that it has its very own wikipedia page (yes, I know that anybody can make a wikipedia page– it is just a sign of prominence). Harvey Weinstein is, or was, a well known movie producer who had over 80 women come out against him with claims of sexual assault (www.usatoday.com) These claims lead to a watershed of women coming out with claims against very powerful men in the entertainment industry, from Louis C.K. to Ben Affleck, and led to a widespread conversation about men abusing their power over women in the workplace. It was shown that many women trying to break into the entertainment industry were sexually assaulted or pressured into sexual acts by men who had power within the industry. This power difference between men and women in all industries is beginning to get a high degree of attention in the mainstream media, and has resulted in the outing of many powerful men who have abused their power by abusing women.
The outing of abusers and harassers in the media is not without its critics. NY Times contributor Bret Stephens in a piece titled “When #MeToo Goes Too Far” explained that in the case of Stephen Henderson, a Detroit Free Press Editor who made several passes and attempted sexual conversations with women in the workplace, “It will not serve the interests of women if #MeToo becomes a movement that does as much to wreck the careers of people like Henderson as it does to bring down the Weinsteins of the world. Nor will it do much to convince men that #MeToo is a movement that is ultimately for them if every sexual transgression, great or small, vile, crass or mostly clumsy, is judged according to the same Procrustean standard”. Although it can be argued that there are differences between people who rape and sexually assault a large number of women— and people who make passes at coworkers, many women who are sharing stories of harassment believe that the problem isn’t the severity of what is committed upon the victims. The problem lies within power differences between men in power and women.
As 2018 continues to progress, it is undeniable that there will be a stronger fight than ever for the equality of women both in and out of the workplace. From celebrities to average American employees, there is a new flow of stories and tales of assault and harassment that is finally receiving long deserved attention in the major media outlets. Whether criticizing or praising the #MeToo movement and the Women’s Marches of 2017 and 2018, there is a new public awareness amongst Americans and those of other nations in regards to the suffering faced by many women living in the current age.