As we look back at the year in its final days, what is the one thing that made the most impact around the world? Getting sexual harassment encounters off women and men’s chests, courtesy the social media movement that ended up becoming a rallying cry against sexual harassment in two simple words #MeToo! Taking cognizance of the social impact that the social media movement had, Time magazine announced its Person of the Year, and it’s ‘The Silence Breakers’, those men and women who spoke up during the #MeToo movement.
The magazine tracked down not only the well-known voices who spoke up during the past two months, but others from every walk of life who were emboldened by the movement to speak up and speak out. The decision – which is being universally lauded – has put the spotlight on how the movement brought about a huge wave of awareness regarding the vicious cycle of sexual assaults prevalent in our society – irrespective of class, race, country or even gender.
It all started with the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal that dominated headlines globally, and slowly took many other powerful names down in the process. Featuring women and men who gave a voice to the drive — the cover story sheds light on activist Tarana Burke, who started the hashtag 10 years ago.
— TIME (@TIME) December 6, 2017
On October 15, Charmed actor Alyssa Milano tweeted a note saying, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Along with the tweet, she added, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” This opened a floodgate of response that has now spread across the world. Not only did celebrities respond to her tweet, but women and men from around the world joined in. Here’s the tweet that helped bring it to a wider audience.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Soon thousands joined in with their personal stories. At the time of writing, the hashtag had more than 200,000 tweets. While some talked about being groped on the bus or on a busy street, other spoke up about being sexually abused by family members and ‘friends’.
Among the ones who were interviewed for the magazine along with Burke and Milano were actors Ashley Judd, Selma Blair, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, artist and activist Rose McGowan, actor Terry Crews, state senator Sara Gelser and director Blaise Godbe Lipman.
#MeToo soon branched out to other similar movements in the form of #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman, #HerToo, #WithHer, among others. But as Time’s article says, “#MeToo…has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it.”
Sexual harassment has always been a glaring and disturbing reality – in India and the world. Nevertheless, the hashtag showed how two simple words on social media could help create a revolution by unburdening millions of women, men and transgenders of the secret they had withheld. The sheer scale of #MeToo and the way it has united an apparently disparate crowd deserves our attention. It is perhaps because they are sharing a narrative they were conditioned not to, or maybe because they are finally coming to terms with the fact that it was not their fault.