#MeToo is a movement against sexual harassment and assault. It started in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media to help reveal the widespread commonness of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
In 2006, Tarana Burke, a social activist began using the word “Me Too” on Myspace social network to promote ‘empowerment through empathy’. One of her real life incident inspired her to use the word ‘Me Too’. It was when a 13-year-old girl confessed to her that she had been sexually assaulted. At the moment, Burke was shocked that she was unable to respond to the little girl but she later wished she had simply told the girl “Me Too”.
Few years later in 2017, actress Alyssa Milano popularized the phrase in the form of hashtag through her Twitter. She encouraged the use of the #MeToo after charges against Harvey Weinstein [former American film producer] rose in 2017. When she learnt the origin story of ‘Tarana Burke and Me Too’ she commented that it was equal parts of heartbreak and inspiration.
The original purpose of “Me Too” used by Tarana Burke in 2006 was to empower women through empathy. Whereas in October 2017, Alyssa Milano encouraged using the phrase as a hashtag to help reveal the heights of problems with sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people have experienced these events themselves.
In Alyssa Milano’s words – “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 level of the problem”. She stated that #MeToo declares sexual violence sufferers are not alone and should not be ashamed and the success of it will require men to take a stand against behavior that objectifies women.
When posted on Twitter by Alyssa Milano, the response was pretty good. The response included posts from several celebrities including Patricia Arquette, Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, Rupi Kaur, Christina Perri, Elizabeth Warren, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, Viola Davis, Gwyneth Paltrow and Uma Thurman.
Within 24 hours after posting on Twitter, ‘Me Too’ was tweeted more than 500,000 times. The hashtag was also used on Facebook by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts within those 24 hours.
“ …. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.” – Oprah Winfrey.
With the quick rise of awareness in the West about Me Too; and the moving speech by Oprah Winfrey in the Golden Globes 2017 on receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, Me Too since then until now has spread massively across the continents.
It started in Hollywood but soon spread to countries like India, Japan, South Korea and many more.
The movement for women’s rights in India diverges sharply from that in the West. #MeToo campaign has encouraged women globally to reveal commonness of sexual harassment or rape. Many Indian women, though, are still fighting for basic human rights that are taken for granted elsewhere.
There is no doubt that a new, parallel feminism is emerging in India. It consist of younger women who are attempting to address the kind of issues that prompted the #MeToo movement, and using similar methods such as social media and public shaming. The question that these younger women encourage is “Why should women worry about going out or attracting the ‘wrong’ kind of attention?” They want to change the history of women being told to be more careful once she is harassed.
In the past few months, #MeToo movement was witnessed in Japan after women broke their silence. A Japanese lawyer named Kazuko Ito is speaking about the MeToo movement in Japan. She believes that Japan’s law against sexual exploitation is way behind other developed countries. Sex crime laws were amended last June after 110 years but for her the problem runs much deeper. “Japanese people are taught not to say NO” – Kazuko Ito, it is almost as if people are hardwired not to refuse unfair demands.
She wants women to have solidarity across industries and societies as that will encourage more people to speak up. On her Instagram account, Kiko Mizuhara posted “Models are not things. Women are not sex tools. We are all human. We should never forget sympathising each other.”
Hundreds of South Korean women have spoken out against sexual abuse in recent weeks. Surprisingly the Me Too movement arises in the socially conservative country and women are coming forward to confront social norms that have silenced them for decades.
At a marathon #MeToo protest in the center of Seoul, 193 women told their experiences of sexual harassment for 2018 minutes non-stop. Young employees at big companies are encouraged to go for drinks after work to network and help their chances of promotion. Most of them have stories about being sexually harassed by one of their superiors. President Moon Jae-in noted as he addressed the #MeToo movement that South Korea “cannot solve this through laws alone and we need to change our culture and attitude”.