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#MeToo – Now What?

On 15 October 2017 the actor Alyssa Milano tweeted: ‘If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,’ and then she went to bed. When she woke up the next morning more than 30,000 people had used #MeToo.

Women who had silently suffered sexual harassment finally found an outlet to come forth and tell their stories. It started with actors in the film industry, but soon stories flooded in from all trades and walks of life. More or less overnight, #MeToo became an international movement against sexual harassment and assault. Milano thought that if everybody who had such experiences came forth, people would get a sense of the magnitude of the problem. And we sure did.

One estimate indicates that 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse of some sort during their lives and often feel unable to talk about it. The World Health Organization has estimated that about one third of all women globally have been affected by sexual violence.

What is sexual harassment? Find a definition or two. Discuss and agree on a definition. Give examples of unwanted sexual attention.

Individual stories are not important

Alyssa Milano still hasn’t shared her story. ‘I think that’s what #MeToo is – you don’t have to tell your story,’ she said. ‘You just have to say ‘me too’.’ That is perhaps why her tweet appealed to so many women. You could keep your personal story private and still draw attention to the fact you had been the victim of sexual harassment. The campaign gave women across cultures, race and socio-economic group an outlet for their experiences which was easy and immediate.

Watch the ABC news report of 19 October 2017 on the #MeToo movement and an interview with Alyssa Milano.

  •   What is the origin of the “metoo movementˮ and when did it originally begin?
  • How does Alyssa Milano explain the success of this campaign?
  • Why doesn’t Alyssa want to share her personal story?
  • What is the focus, according to her, of the campaign?
  • What does Alyssa see as the way ahead? Which steps have to be taken to make real change?

The land of the free

A US survey conducted in January 2018 reported that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. The following graph is from this report.

Comment briefly on what this graph tells us.

Another graph from the same survey by stopstreetharassment.org shows the impact or consequences of sexual harassment on the individual.

What is the most common effect of sexual harassment upon a person? Would you say that these reactions constitute an infringement of personal freedom? Some argue that sexual harassment is a human rights violation. Find the Declaration of Human Rights and the relevant article(s). Do you agree? Argue your case.

The majority of men and women who experience harassment do not confront the harasser, but choose to avoid the person or situation. Often their personal freedom suffers. Why, do you think, do they choose this strategy? How can we change this and help more people to confront the harasser?

#MeToo worries

Some women have voiced worries that there might be negative effects of the #MeToo movement. See the findings from a March 2018 survey.

Sum up the findings in the graph. Do you agree with them? Argue your case.

Changing norms and values

The explosive reactions that started in 2017 have created uncertainty among men. How are they to behave? What is acceptable behaviour and when have they crossed a line? Expectations, norms and values are changing, and this uncertainty may make relationships between men and women more difficult and complicated.

Where would you draw the line? What is acceptable behaviour, and what is not? Discuss in small groups. Write down advice you would give to young people to avoid breaking ‘social rules’.

Bollywood stories

Stories of sexual harassment are coming from all corners of the world. Indian actresses share their experiences in this BBC report. Watch the report.

Why are these actresses afraid to go public? What are the arguments their agents or managers use to persuade them to have sex? What is the situation in India compared to Hollywood?

Worlds apart – or two sides of the same story?

From time to time we read news report from countries around the world – from Pakistan or India, or countries in Africa – about brutal rapes and murders. The #MeToo campaign focuses on sexual harassment in all forms, like verbal harassment and online harassment.

Should we focus more on the challenging living conditions of girls and women in other parts of the world, or is it important to fight everyday harassment as well?

What now?

We see and hear stories almost daily from around the world about sexual harassment. But so what? Actor Sienna Miller held a speech at a New York summit on sexual exploitation. Watch her speech.

What action has she taken? Who does she want to support?

Time’s Up
In January 2018, a campaign called Time’s Up was initiated. While #Metoo has focused on exposing sexual harassment, Time’s Up is oriented towards actually solving the problem. The following list is taken from the Time’s Up mission statement:

1  Don’t be part of the problem. For starters, don’t harass anyone.

2  If a person who has been harassed tells you about it, believe them. Don’t underestimate how hard it is to talk about these things.

3  If you know someone who has been harassed, connect them to resources who can help.

4  If you are a witness or bystander and see a harassing situation, you can help the person being harassed. You could actually intervene. You could confront the harasser. You could also help the person get out of the harassing situation. If you cannot do any of these things, you can still support the harassed person by corroborating and confirming the account of what happened.

(Source: https://www.timesupnow.com/)

Sienna Miller concludes: ‘The future will be equal.’ But how do we get there? What action is needed to make our societies, our cultures change for the better? What can we do as a society? What can we do as individuals? Is a set of ground rules, such as the four points above from the Time’s Up campaign, useful? Would you add anything to the list?

Discuss in class. Write down ideas and arguments, and then write a text where you put forth your recommendations.

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