Catherine Otero - Teen Aspect - May 16th, 2022
The #MeToo movement originated earlier than most think. It all started in 2006 when Tarana Burke utilized the phrase “Me Too” to raise awareness toward women who have been abused. This sentiment was only recognized by some at the time, yet as society started to develop and others became more understanding, it received global attention when actress, Alyssa Milano accused Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual assault. The catalyst to all of this began with a tweet by Milano urging those who have experienced the same trauma-inducing experiences as she has, to reply with “Me Too.” The #MeToo movement sparked a period of enlightenment in Hollywood, opening everyone’s eyes to the dark truth behind a red-carpet smile.
Five years later, some can’t help but ask what happened?
What happened to this era where women used their voices and were heard? What happened to the inevitable debts that big producers were, finally, paying? Well, women can only get so much screentime. The Me-Too movement became a phase that has fizzled out of existence. A big cause of this is the media and the time period. Moments after actresses started using their voices to speak up about their experiences with sexual violence in the film industry and speak out against those behind these experiences, contrasting headlines started to emerge. Headlines such as “Has the #MeToo Movement Gone Too Far?” subconsciously silenced women when they have just gotten their turn to speak. There is a myriad of reasons as to why these headlines started to emerge, yet fear was the most common. Men may have expressed more hostility toward women “complaining” about said matters due in part to a perceived sense of threat that a claim of misconduct might be alleged against them. They may have also responded to this threat by downplaying or refusing to believe #MeToo stories (Oxford Academic, 2021). It even became common throughout Wall Street to “avoid women at all costs” (Bloomberg). This ideology has coined the term The Gender-Polarization Hypothesis. This hypothesis states that women became less sexist over time while men became more sexist as the events of the 2016 election and #MeToo unfolded (Oxford Academic, 2021). The impeccable timing of the 2016 election occurring while this movement was reaching its peak only added more fuel to the hypothesis.
It can be said that another reason why the #MeToo movement gained so much attention yet lost all of it in a millisecond could be due to the 2016 election. Candidates used this movement as an excuse for campaigning and gaining more votes based on whether they supported it or chastised it. This ideology is supported by, yet again, another hypothesis: The Partisan-Polarization Hypothesis which states that Democrats became less sexist over time while Republicans became more sexist as the events of the 2016 election and #MeToo unfolded (Oxford Academic, 2021). What used to be a safe haven for women to relieve themselves of years of holding in a life-shattering secret, then became a public crusade for those striving for a presidential title. Once the election was over, so was a politician’s crusade.
Now, it is clear that the demise of this movement came hand in hand with the counterarguments of the media and the false sympathy of politicians. Yet, Tarana Burke, the creator of the movement, maybe in favor of this demise. The movement Burke had created—a movement that had been, from the beginning, about the survivors of sexual violence, particularly girls and women of color from low-wealth communities—soon stretched, in its new purview, far beyond sexual harassment and assault (The Atlantic). This simple phrase has become an umbrella over topics expanding from its initial purpose of spreading awareness of sexual violence. It has now become a segway into topics such as reproductive rights, pay disparities, and power structures. These are all topics that deserve equally as much attention as the topic of sexual violence, yet this straying from the task at hand has led to a disappointed Burke. The question is then, does being about everything, though, mean that the movement runs the risk of being about nothing? (The Atlantic). Burke agrees.
Yet, here’s a new question: Would it be so wrong?
Would it be so wrong that women are taking the opportunity they are being heard to talk about an array of other issues that have been affecting their marginalized community? This should be celebrated; this should be encouraged. Burke notes that the #MeToo movement was not intended to be about pay equity, representation in the workplace, or power dynamics in a misogynistic culture … but about sexual violence, full stop (Aspen Ideas Festival, 2018). While Burke’s wishes are understandable, it’s upsetting that she allows conversations surrounding other topics that correspond with this movement to be frowned upon. This leads to, ironically, the silencing of women from the woman who encouraged women to use their voices. Why be limited to spreading awareness about only one of the many issues that women in society face every day? It has been mentioned that the 2016 election and the media played a big role in the collapse of the #MeToo movement, yet Burke casted the final blow.
The #MeToo movement was, indeed, short-lived. Yet, that does not mean it has come to an end. Granted, the movement rapidly declined in popularity, but its cultivation opened the eyes of the once ignorant. Even men who were fearful of being blamed next acknowledged sexual violence in the film industry, among others, was real with their fear as proof. Producers, although not as many as before, are being held accountable for their actions. The movement has fallen from its peak, but its legacy still lives on.
Archer, A. (2021, March 12). Public Opinion Quarterly. Oxford Academic. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://academic.oup.com/poq/article/84/4/813/6168682?guestAccessKey=e693ce34-ec96-4103-8f3a-95883c353d21
Tan, G., & Porzecanski, K. (2018, December 3). Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women At All Cost. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-03/a-wall-street-rule-for-the-metoo-era-avoid-women-at-all-cost
Garber, M. (2019, June 18). Is #MeToo too big? Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/07/is-metoo-too-big/564275/
Poo, A., Wagner, A., Traister, R., Burke, T., Gelser, S., & Parker, K. (2018). Deep dive: #MeToo - The Movement: Aspen Ideas. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.aspenideas.org/sessions/deep-dive-metoo-the-movement