The Backlash of #MeToo: Why It Is No Longer Discussed in the Media?
© Illustration by INJECTION - Mia Hatch
Sexual harassment is still a commonplace occurrence in our society, so why aren’t our news headlines filled with constant stories and ‘#MeToo’ content.
2017 filled our headlines with such content so why is this conversation not continued? The #MeToo campaign can be defined as a social movement that draws attention to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and abuses of authority within social institutions. Most commonly, #MeToo recognises female experiences with such, however, the movement is not exclusive to women and recognises sexual abuse to a larger extent. Initially, the MeToo phrase was coined by activist Tarana Burke in 2006 as an empathetic response to survivors of abuse. The phrase then gained frequency in 2017 on Twitter when actress Alyssa Milano asked users to reply ‘Me Too’ if they too had been victims of unwanted sexual harassment. The astounding number of responses to this tweet provoked a media reaction with much of society shocked by the magnitude of women that have experienced this type of harassment. This media hysteria meant that #MeToo filled media outlets for the final months of 2017 and triggered a discussion on the power imbalances within society regarding sexual assault. At the forefront of the media’s hysteria to the #MeToo campaign was the number of high-level perpetrators who were highly influential men in the media industry. The campaign saw high-powered media men like Harvey Weinstein jailed, the launch of ‘Time’s up’- a charity which helps women who have been a victim of sexual assault, as well as a societal discussion on sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances.
Did #MeToo receive any backlash?
The media'smedias portrayal of #MeToo received backlash for its overt focus on white cisgender females which is commonplace in the media industry, yet this cannot be faulted to the core values of Me Too. The MeToo movement was originally intended to help young black women or women of colour from low wealth communities, to find pathways to healing. Research showed that most of the New York Times reporting on the MeToo campaign to be predominantly on the experiences of white women (70.3% to be exact) which doesn’t align with real-life statistics and experiences given that sexual violence “disproportionately impacts women of colour, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+, and disabled women”. This criticism is not to devalue the experiences of white women because as we know, a high proportion of women experience examples of sexual violence and harassment in their lifetime. The main criticism here is how the media’s coverage of #MeToo still suited the press’ notion of what is deemed newsworthy and its overall agenda. To tackle sexual violence, all voices must be heard. Perhaps this explains why after being at the forefront of the media’s agenda, the campaign's coverage began to slow yet this did not mean sexual harassment has stopped. Nonetheless, Me Too ignited a discussion on sexual harassment which is an absolute necessity. In addition to this form of backlash, a counteraction from males within the workplace and in general has also arisen as a result of #MeToo. Research has shown that men now feel a sort of reluctance to work with women of fear they will be accused of sexual harassment. The Harvard Business Review conducted a study post the MeToo campaign about its potential ‘backlash’. The studies uncovered that 16% of men would be more reluctant to hire attractive women, 44% of women felt that the more women that come forward about sexual harassment, the more likely men will be to blame women as the problem- as well as 15% of men claiming they will be more reluctant to hire women for jobs that require interpersonal relationships. Such backlash can however be faulted to the fear mongering tactics used by the media, particularly by men who have spoken out against the campaign such as US president at the time, Donald Trump. Once again, coverage of Trumps' retaliations to the ‘Me Too’ movement was plentious due to him being a paramount and highly reported political figure- but this too takes away the spotlight from the core issue of Me Too: unwanted sexual harassment.
What are the positive outcomes of the #MeToo campaign?
There is no doubt that the ‘Me Too’ campaign was an opportunity for positive change but what changes came about after it? Undoubtedly, the imprisonment of Harvey Weinstein was a monumental outcome of the movement, particularly because Weinstein was a significant antagonist of the campaign. In the United States, higher-powered sexual predators could no user use ‘non-disclosure’ agreements as a weapon to avoid anyone finding out about their exploits as several laws were passed that illegalised the use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual misconduct. In addition to this, the ‘Time’s Up’ legal defence fund has protected over 3600 people seeking justice that may not have been able to afford legal protection in the US which helps protect a wider range of victims to speak out without fear of being shut down. The 2017 uproar regarding the ‘Me Too’ movement most significantly triggered a viral conversation on sexual harassment as well as a sort of community for those who have experienced it, and once felt alone. Shared experiences are important for healing and the liberation of thousands of women (and men) who have undergone sexual violence is vital for tackling this misconduct.
So, where is #MeToo at now?
There is no deceit that #MeToo has lost currency within the media and in society, but this does not mean the conversation should stop. Sexual misconduct still happens and daily, multitudes of people are affected by it. In the UK, only this year we have seen examples of women being unlawfully and innocently abused and murdered by men in positions of power (such as Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa). The campaign website for Me Too (I intend on linking this here) is up and running and full of vital information which shows that #MeToo is far from ‘over’.
If you have been a victim of or seeking help from any of the issues discussed in this article then attached are some links to helplines and websites which may provide additional support.