In case you’re wondering what all the fuss on Facebook is about regarding the comments from women who have stated “me too” in their statuses, it’s a movement that’s far greater than just sharing personal accounts of sexual harassment and/or violence.
This tip of the iceberg movement all started with journalist Sandra Muller who “turned to Twitter to recall a humiliating and inappropriate sexual come-on from a powerful French Executive.” As she quoted his lewd comments about her anatomy she popularized the #BalanceTonPorc or “Expose Your Pig” movement.
As a result, tens of thousands of Frenchwomen responded to her call and began posting “disturbing accounts of sexual harassment and abuse, although most stopped short of identifying their harassers,” according to the New York Times.The scandal surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein coincided with Muller’s movement thereby creating an “outpour” In the United States and “elsewhere” under the hashtag #MeToo cooperative that was also inspired by actress Alyssa Milano.
What’s significant about this groundswell of outpouring, however is the potential impact it may have in propelling much needed changes in the French culture, which has “long enabled powerful men to misbehave with impunity”, both socially and legally. “Legislation is currently underway to fine men for catcalling or lecherous behavior toward women in public, to extend the statute of limitations in cases of sexual assault involving minors and to create a new age ceiling under which minors cannot legally consent to sexual relationships.” So much for older men dating teenaged girls…
As I reflect upon the painful and heart-wrenching Facebook accounts I recently read under the plethora of “#MeToo” posts, the assaults did not discriminate. There were female judges, lawyers, doctors, church women and victims from all walks of life whom I could never have imagined enduring the same degree of sexual harassment/assault that I have endured personally. Then there were those who have personally shared their stories of sexual violence with me that didn’t post at all. I found that equally troubling as it signaled a far greater pain that even a social media screen could not hide. Yet they suffer in silence; still.
Marlene Schiappa, a feminist writer who is France’s junior minister for gender equality said, “we all have stories of harassment and assault. One of my best friends said something with the hashtag that she had never told our group of friends. This hashtag movement, with the barrier created by a screen, can help people speak out…”
Although critics argue that “sexual harassment accusations would be better handled in the courtroom than on social media,” Ms. Muller, the journalist who initially tweeted the “Expose Your Pig” hashtag indicated she was overwhelmed by the hundreds of reactions she had received. Meanwhile, two lawyers for the executive she implicated, demanded that she delete the Tweet. One such lawyer went as far as calling her accusation a “case for defamation” but refused to comment further. Nor did he respond to requests to be interviewed.
This issue of sexual violence against women worldwide is ageless. Whatever it is that makes men believe they can say or do anything to us without retribution must cease. On the other hand, they will accuse us of being anti-male because we demand to be respected and have begun to speak out. It is time for them to realize that we are not here for their jollies or repressed sexual frustrations.
When women speak for ourselves, we are accused of being feminist or women’s liberationists. Although there are similarities in the movements, this issue addresses historical disrespect and disregard that has crippled psyches’ and overall self-esteem of women since the beginning of time.
When we have a national leader who publicly and proudly condones the practice of “grabbing women” by their private parts without public outcry is equally reprehensible and fuels the fire for gender inequity and insensitivity in America and throughout the world.
Of equal concern is the administration’s attack on women’s health via a coalition of Senators, Representatives, state parties and national organizations who “are building a moment to deny access to birth control rights for women,” according to Senator Debbie Stabenow. In this movement, they are attempting to “roll back the ability to afford birth control because insurance companies won’t commit to providing coverage,” she said. “As a result, hundreds of thousands of women could lose the birth control that they depend upon.”
Meanwhile, women are speaking out with voices that say, “we are mad as heck and not taking anymore!” We are far greater than our body parts and it’s about time we stood up to be counted.
HASHTAG #METOO!!! “EXPOSE YOUR PIG!”