“I’m a woman, and I have a story to tell…”
What does being a woman mean? Does it mean empowerment to the self? Does it mean a walking book of guidelines to society? Or does it mean, being merely objectified and looked at as a commodity by all those who frame and make this society?
The year 2017 saw a revolutionary change in what it meant to be a woman in the so-called “equal world.” The year stood as a testament to see women evolve as bold, outspoken, challenging norms, withstanding change in solidarity, and standing up for what was right and just. The year of 2017 saw a resurgence in what came to be known as the #MeToo Movement.
Coined in 2006 by the activist Tarana Burke, the movement has expanded and covers a lot more ground as compared to what it did at the start. Starting as a non-profit organization Just Be Inc., the words “Me Too” were coined after Burke spoke to an innocent-faced girl named Heaven who had been facing sexual abuse at the hand of her mother’s boyfriend. Overwhelmed by her story, Burke had to direct her to another female counselor for she could not find the strength in her to give solace and comfort to that young child. Instead, the only words that kept running through her mind, were Me Too.
The movement in 2006 began as a platform to give voices to victims of sexual abuse, especially women and young girls with colored skin. However, after becoming rather silent for a few years, the movement sprang back up again on 15th October 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano used the #MeToo on Twitter to create awareness about sexual harassment and assault. This one tweet was a breakthrough for suppressed voices everywhere. Millions of stories came to light because of the use of this one hashtag.
These stories did not just give a voice to all those that were forced to stay quiet out of fear, embarrassment or shame, but it also brought the perpetrators to justice. Among the many assaulters, some were perceived to be as hidden in plain sight in the entertainment industry. Starting from Harvey Weinstein, a famous film producer in Hollywood, to Kevin Spacey from House of Cards, to Alok Nath and Nana Patekar from Bollywood—the list is endless. The realization that such offenders existed in the most glamorous of all working places led people to wonder and investigate similar such wrongdoers in other places of work as well. A step like this was akin to the opening of the pandora’s box for tens of thousands of such names poured out from the field of sports, politics, business and technology and media.
The movement was so powerful and widespread that even commoners, who unlike celebrities did not have the resources to back them up, spoke up against the assault that they had faced. It was considered so influential that for the first time, TIME Person of the Year, was not one person, but rather a group of people who were called the Silence Breakers. Among these, one could see Taylor Swift, Ashely Judd, Tarana Burke and Selma Blair. The movement also found resonance in popular culture and media. Many television shows dedicated episodes that bowed down to the strength and change the movement had initiated. Among them was Grey’s Anatomy, BoJack Horseman, Brooklyn 99, and many more.
More than anything, a breakthrough for the movement was the founding of the Time’s Up organization. The organization, having been founded by 300 of the most well-known actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives, aims to fight and bring an end to sexual harassment not just in the Hollywood but in what is called as the “blue-collar workplace” across the nation. The organization aims at giving legal aid to all the lesser privileged women, a move for a heavier presence of gender equality in Hollywood, legislation to punish companies that silence or deal with sexual harassment under the table, as well as a move to discourage the use of NDAs to suppress the voice of the victim. The organization had also urged all the women walking the Golden Globe Red Carpet 2018 to wear black in support of this initiative; the likes of which were seen on the Red Carpet and had an astounding effect on people everywhere.
The #MeToo movement, while giving a voice to many women who are assumed to be the first and only victims of sexual violence, also gave a platform for men to open-up about the assault that they faced and were scared to talk about for the fear of sounding or being treated as though they were emasculated. Some of the men who used this platform to speak up include Terry Crews, the actor we all know and love from Brooklyn 99, Michael Gaston from The Man in the High Castle, and several male models who spoke up about the assault they faced at the hands of powerful photographers.
While a movement like this has given voice to all those who used to cower in fear or embarrassment, it also needs to make people aware that victims of harassment and assault don’t stop at women—men and transgenders can be victims too. The movement in its unique way is attempting to create a non-gendered understanding of sexual violence. It is making everyone realize that women can be perpetrators too, that men can assault men and that transgenders are more susceptible to assault, discrimination and humiliation. The movement while can give voices and bring the offenders to justice can’t change how society is structured and how it thinks. A change like this comes from the grassroots level, a change like this starts from us and so let’s make a promise: to think differently and to join hands and work in the hope that no one, ever again, will have to utter the words Me Too.
For more information about the MeToo movement, kindly visit the website; https://metoomvmt.org/.