Although the #MeToo movement took over the internet in 2017, few know that it has been 12 years since its establishment. Today, the #MeToo movement remains in limbo, still waiting for its future path to be carved.
Photo: Mihai Surdu on Unsplash
#MeToo was created in 2006, not as a viral hashtag, but as a simple phrase. It was the brainchild of civil rights activist Tarana Burke who was inspired by the story of a 13-year-old sexual assault survivor. Burke decided to turn her own experiences and those of millions of other people around the world into a campaign with the goal of bringing an end to sexual harassment. #MeToo began as a relatively small movement that resulted in a huge impact, but the origin of sexual assault activism does not start here; recorded activism against sexual assault began in America around the period of the Civil War and likely existed throughout the world before this time. But despite all the efforts, 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men are still victims today.
Within the past year, #MeToo has brought together men and women across 85 countries to finally share their stories and end the silence that had fallen over this taboo topic. Sexual assault remains to be the crime least reported by victims – for fear of stigma and retaliation. #MeToo revolutionized the way individuals perceived sexual assault with the power of words and narratives, thus empowering others to open up about their experience. Since then, stories of executives, actors, and politicians, which would not have otherwise been discovered, have gained attention and response.
It has been 11 months since the first #MeToo-inspired allegation against Harvey Weinstein, but #MeToo is now floating in a limbo. Harvey Weinstein still remains on trial, along with numerous other alleged perpetrators. As the PBS show poses, “#MeToo, Now What?” As allegations coming from the entertainment industry have begun to slow down, the accused have slowly begun to return to the industry. Just months back, comedian Louis CK, who admitted to sexual misconduct, returned to the stage to receive the applause and laughter of his audience.
Unfortunately, opposition has risen against the #MeToo movement. Just this week, comedian Norm MacDonald told reporters that he was “happy [that] the #MeToo movement has slowed down.” He defended his friend Louis CK and his return to comedy, despite CK’s proven guilt. Just as quickly as his statements swarmed the media, MacDonald’s visit to the Tonight Show was canceled. Yet, there is some truth to it. As MacDonald states, the #MeToo movement may have begun to lose its momentum, and like all other viral sensations, it may soon fade away from headlines.
But we must not let sexual assault awareness similarly disappear. We cannot afford to see #MeToo become #MeStill twelve years from now. The power of narratives and awareness in this movement is unmatched, and as Chicago Tribune states in its interview with Tarana Burke, “‘Me Too’ is a strategy, one that has been around before the hashtag, and one that will be there after #MeToo fades away.” Hopefully someday, with the help of this movement, no individual will ever have to say #MeToo to sexual harassment.
Uma Menon is a high school student from Winter Park, Florida. She has enjoyed writing from a young age; her poetry and articles have been featured in various national magazines. Uma is a nationally-ranked debater at Winter Park High School. She is also an activist for net neutrality, gun control, and education as a human right, among other issues.