From the Daily: The importance of #MeToo

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 5:59pm

#MeToo has been tweeted over 800,000 times since Alyssa Milano brought it to the forefront of Twitter in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations. This movement originated with activist Tarana Burke over 10 years ago through her foundation Just Be Inc., with the aim of raising awareness of the magnitude of sexual assault. This gives survivors a community of support, and the reach of a social media campaign that has the ability to flood people’s timelines can effectively demonstrate the extent of the issue. The Michigan Daily Editorial Board believes that #MeToo functions as a strong solidarity movement, and though this campaign will not solve the serious problem of sexual assault, it is a reminder to be supportive of all survivors. 

As Facebook reported, within 24 hours of its resurfacing, #MeToo has started appearing on the social media feeds of nearly everyone in the nation, with approximately 4.7 million people posting, commenting and reacting over 12 million times. This range of visibility is reaching the breadth of even the most successful social media movements, including the similar #YesAllWomen, which gave women a space to discuss instances of misogyny and violence. #YesAllWomen has produced over a million tweets on its thread since beginning in 2014, and #MeToo has quickly accumulated similar attention in only a few weeks.

Even further, this movement has sparked conversations among all generations. As an Editorial Board, we noticed posts not only from our college-aged peers, but also from those we know in generations above us, like our parents and former teachers. Seeing attention being given to #MeToo by all generations frames the issue in context: Sexual harassment and assault has affected, and still affects, people of all ages. And, by talking about the problem, we are giving it much-needed attention and providing crucial support for survivors.

#MeToo has been so successful in part because it allows people to recount their stories in a manner that necessitates very little detail. Experiencing sexual misconduct is traumatizing, and having to relive these moments can be very painful. Furthermore, the sheer volume of #MeToo posts provides survivors with a space where they know they are not alone in their experiences. In this sphere, survivors know that they are understood, supported and, most importantly, believed, because they see that there are so many others who have experienced similar traumas. Survivors can support one another and remind each other that they’re not alone. It is difficult to talk about sexual harassment and assault, but survivors feel more comfortable among others who truly understand.

Though #MeToo began to gain attention due to the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, it has persisted as a strong movement because of the thousands of survivors who saw it as a good platform to discuss sexual misconduct. In the media, these issues can be presented with “storybook villains” like Harvey Weinstein — painting a picture of sexual assaults as isolated instances. Often, discussions of sexual assault concerning public figures are easier to rally around than instances of assault that involve everyday people in our lives who are not in the public eye. While it’s easy to rally against someone whom we do not have personal connection to, we must remember most perpetrators are not famous figures; rather, they can be anyone, perhaps even people we are close to.

It’s important we stand by and believe survivors of sexual assault and harassment regardless of the fame of the perpetrator. This is especially important considering only 310 out of every 1,000 people who have experienced sexual assault report it to the police, illustrating the silence that is associated with assault in our society. #MeToo brings attention to, and solidarity with, those who have experienced assault and is a step toward breaking this silence.

#MeToo is a strong reminder that survivors are everywhere, and we must listen, understand and believe them. As an editorial board, we agree that sexual harassment and assault won’t end through a social media movement, but #MeToo is an important step in educating the public on the magnitude and effect of this issue. #MeToo provides a space for solidarity among survivors and sparks a conversation that we all need to be a part of.

Do you love to debate today’s important issues? Do you want your voice heard? We hold twice-weekly Editorial Board meetings at our newsroom at 420 Maynard St. in Ann Arbor, where we discuss local, state and national issues relevant to campus. We meet Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.

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