Me too. Most likely we all read these two words in our newsfeed several times over the weekend, or even posted them ourselves. Family, friends, colleagues and celebrities spoke up online to be counted as victims of sexual assault and/or harassment. For women, of course, that meant nearly everyone.
The movement started in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal with the hope to create awareness about the magnitude of sexual harassment and abuse that exists everywhere. But the question is, who did not know the magnitude of the problem?
There are still people out there who are surprised by the number of individuals posting “me too’s” in social media. If there are people who have not grasped the magnitude of this problem and who need to see posts like these in order to recognize that sexual harassment and assault are rampant, it’s because they have not been paying attention to the world outside their bubble.
Almost every woman has experienced at the very least some kind of verbal harassment. We know men can be victims as well and of course let’s not forget to include the LGBTQ+ community who are among the most vulnerable to sexual violence.
So, who is it exactly who did not know that the problem was this bad? Turns out, it’s mostly men. Not all of men of course. There’s a lot of awesome men standing up for sexual violence victims and plenty more are realizing now how bad this issue is. But the truth is that #MeToo hasn’t revealed a secret. It hasn’t ‘exposed’ how widespread sexual violence is, except for people who were ignoring it till now.
So how do we take the #MeToo movement to the next level?
#MeToo testimonies are brave. They have the power to shake those who deliberately choose to enable a culture that silences and shames victims. When a new individual on your timeline is voicing their assault and abuse, you can no longer turn around and say, “oh, I didn’t know it was so bad.”
We stand along with all victims of sexual assault and harassment who have shared their experiences and joined the “me too” movement. We applaud that these posts are generating solidarity among survivors and sending a clear “You are not alone” message to everyone who needs it.
What this movement is failing to do is to communicate a clear call to action. Stories of sexual violence have been shared before. And this is why we need a shift in the way we discuss sexual assault. Victims don’t “get raped”, perpetrators rape. As people have pointed out, for every #MeToo story there is a corresponding #IDidThat.
It shouldn’t be the responsibility of survivors to raise awareness of this issue. Some people don’t realize that sharing these stories can open the door to traumatic memories. We are so proud of everyone who has done it and we understand the courage it takes to come forward. But now that we recognize this issue; allies, supporters and advocates can be catalysts of change by triggering an UPstander culture.
If #MeToo has to change anything, people will need to listen and examine the ways in which they are complicit with the culture that created this problem. Men with their bro codes, their silence, their rape jokes. Women slut-shaming other women and contributing to rape culture with harmful language. People reinforcing gender stereotypes. People denying their own privilege. If we don’t start creating a new culture of respect a new generation of women will still be tweeting #MeToo years from now. We can be better than that.
Let’s raise our kids to understand and value consent and respect, instead of teaching how not to get raped. It’s about prevention education and not risk reduction. Let’s realize that our language and actions have an impact in others. Me too. You too. Us too. Them too. Even if we don’t identify as survivors we are all affected by sexual violence one way or another. Until we are able to recognize that as a society, that’s when true change will start to happen.
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