A look back: six months into the #MeToo movement

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Graphic by Erika Siebring.

Weinstein. Nassar. Spacey. Franken.

Over the past six months, these names and others have been spotlighted in our news, our social media and our conversations.

In 2017, the first sparks of movement began. On Oct. 5, actress Ashley Judd first accused Harvey Weinstein, a famous media mogul, of sexual harassment which led to the exposure of his lewd decades long behavior towards women.

“Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly,” Judd said to the Times.

Three days after Judd’s statement, Weinstein was fired as an employee from The Weinstein Company, which he founded, and thereafter resigned from the board, due to the allegations he had received against him.

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While the news about women coming out against Weinstein was explosive, the wave of #MeToo shaped the lives of many for months.

Alyssa Milano on Oct. 15, tweeted the following:

“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.’”

She prompted Twitter users that, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

The prompt expanded beyond her tweet and onto different platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Responses came from celebrities and the public alike. The magnitude of the problem was clearer, in some senses.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest Network, “Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.”

The true scope of the problem witnessed in the #MeToo movement, upon reflection, has been limited.

UNC’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences Diversity Advisory Board hosted a “Perspectives on #MeToo” event in March with panelists. This included Greeley City Councilmember Rochelle Galindo; Larry Loften, UNC’s Title IX coordinator and equity officer; Angie Makomenaw, UNC’s assistant director for prevention education and advocacy services; and Chris Talbot, an associate professor and coordinator of gender studies.

The event provided unique criticism from local resources who thoroughly considered the implications this movement has brought up in terms of consent, rape culture and the voices that are dominant in this dialogue. Hearing from people in the Greeley and UNC community that are grounded the movement showed that the movement hasn’t only affected Hollywood.

Galindo said that this movement was a “long time coming.” Galindo described her experience as being openly gay and a millennial in politics as shaping the way she views the movement, such as seeing as this as an “aggressors and victims” dialogue rather than the typical “man versus woman” rhetoric.

“People are thinking twice about how they approach people, people are thinking twice about what they say, and how these conversations are being had,” Galindo said. “I think that’s going to bring more respect to the victims, to women, from this patriarchal society. Even myself, I sometimes have to think twice about how I am going to approach a woman now especially being in position of public service, being an elected official.”

Loften explained that the power of stories, allowing people to connect more than with a statistic, has helped people to confront the impact of these experiences on a more personal level.

“For a long time, we would say, one in four, one in five, one in three or one in six college women college experience sexual violence during their time as a student,” Loften said. “Which is much less powerful than the stories, the personal stories, that were shared during the #MeToo movement.”

The criticisms that the panelists brought up included who the voices are in the movement and their impact.

The #MeToo movement was not started by Milano with her tweet, but she did revive it. Activist Tarana Burke founded the movement in 2006, over a decade before Milano’s tweet. Milano, since her viral tweet, has publicly credited Burke as the founder of the movement.

“I think even looking at the history of #MeToo and kind of where it started versus where it took off… is really important, and that it echoes a lot of the voices that are present and getting attention,” Loften said.

Talbot, who teaches many gender studies classes, appreciates the movement itself but offered criticism on those who revived it.

“The ‘me’s’ that are sort of the face of this movement are wealthy, powerful, cisgender—too often white—women who don’t need anything from the men who are harassing them,” Talbot said.

Cisgender means “denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.” Talbot furthered this examination of the predominant voices involved from this perspective.

While, according to a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 47 percent of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime, Talbot pointed out that she has not seen any trans voices in the #MeToo movement.

“It communicates to people who are not wealthy, powerful, white, cis that they are not ‘me,’” Talbot said. “It’s kind of a problem that large quantities of victims don’t feel as though they are ‘me’ in the way this movement is appearing in public space.”

Rose McGowan was another woman who came out with sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. She released her memoir “BRAVE” in January, which detailed her experience in Hollywood and the sexual exploitation she faced.

Because of how outspoken she has become throughout the #MeToo movement, she had become one of the leaders or faces of it. Understanding her influence on those interacting with the discourse of the movement helps to understand where criticisms should or should not be made in this six-month reflection.

McGowan, during a Barnes and Noble book-signing, was confronted by a trans woman in the audience who brought up McGowan’s previous transphobic comments. The woman yelled at her asking if she had ever done anything for trans women. McGowan gave a heated reply, devaluing the importance of trans assault saying, “the stats are not that dissimilar. When you break it down, it is a much smaller population. There’s not a network here devoted to your f—ing death.”

While the comments were instigating, and emotions were high at this book-signing, McGowan’s language is detrimental to expanding “me” to fit anyone besides “wealthy, powerful, white, cis” women like Talbot mentioned.

“I think also not just the #MeToo movement but I think a lot of the work around sexual misconduct prevention, around Title IX, around advocacy also tends to be very white and very female as well,” Loften said. “I think it is how do we bring more men, more people of color, into the advocacy as well… We’re missing a huge section of folks who need help. When I go to trainings and other events, I look at who’s in the room and who’s not in the room.”

Loften pointed out that looking out at those in attendance spoke to what he was saying potentially, that there were voices missing. Despite the distinction the public has made that the movement being strictly for women, men are victims as well and often less likely to report their abuse. In fact, RAINN also reported one in 33 men have experienced, completed or attempted rape in their lifetime as well.

With accusations from Anthony Rapp against Kevin Spacey, and Terry Crews sharing his story about William Morris Endeavor Entertainment agent Adam Venit, this is not an issue limited to cis women.

What the panelists discussed most of all was how change can be made and how can someone be an advocate. Makonemaw, whose department houses the Assault Survivors Advocacy Program, offered some proactive suggestions to help support.

“For advocacy work is three things: listen, believe and support,” Makonemaw said. “Because at this time you are not the judge, you are not the officer, you are not anybody but there… be that listening ear.”

The Prevention Education and Advocacy Services provides advocacy training for free that helps with having conversations about these topics, holding perpetrators accountable and other ways to support.  

When the #MeToo movement was recognized in TIME magazine and the “Silence Breakers” were chosen for Person of the Year, Burke spoke about her movement.

“For too long, survivors of sexual assault and harassment have been in the shadows.” Burke said. “We have been afraid to speak up, to say ‘Me Too’ and seek accountability. For many, the consequences of doing so have been devastating…. Are we really committed to the hard work of ending sexual violence? What about young people having to break bread with their abuser at a family gathering year after year, in silence and solitude? What about women of color and transgender people, who struggle to be believed by friends, families, and those in power? What about those regularly assaulted by officers of the law, on our streets and in our jails— do they get to say #MeToo as well? Will we listen when they do? We need a complete cultural transformation if we are to eradicate sexual assault in our lifetimes. It means we must build our families differently, engage our communities and confront some of our long-held assumptions about ourselves.”

For survivors/victims or others seeking support, Greeley and UNC services and resource information can be found at: www.unco.edu/sexual-misconduct/survivors-victims.aspx.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline – can also refer you to a local rape crisis center at any time of day at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or online counseling at ohl.rainn.org/online/.

 

Related article: https://www.uncmirror.com/uncategorized/2018/04/02/review-the-director/

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