On the anniversary of #MeToo, it is important to recognize the movement’s shortcomings and triumphs.
It’s been a year since the New York Times exposed Harvey Weinstein for his repeated sexual misconduct. The impact of the exposé was instant and struck social media and the news like a meteor — while thousands of stories erupted on Twitter, women came together and supported one another through their traumas. The #MeToo movement was born, and the voices of victims rang louder than ever. And today, we are still listening.
Abusers were actually held accountable for their actions as workplaces and schools took investigations of sexual misbehavior seriously. We have seen tangible repercussions, such as increased discussions of power dynamics and how they influence a person’s conduct. We saw public figures shamed and the rise of power for the words of victims. Most important, within the span of a year, we have watched our culture recognize unwanted sexual behavior, seen the double-sided coin of justice and injustice. Still, #MeToo is controversial, and its progress leaves some feeling disappointed in its shortcomings.
There is a key factor that divides the movement: privilege. Because the faces of the cause are often white, affluent celebrities, women of color and employees of lower-wage jobs feel left out of the conversation. The National Women’s Law Center of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission analyzed complaints filed between the years 2012 and 2016 and found that Black women filed sexual harassment charges “at nearly three times the rate of white, non-Hispanic women.”
Ultimately, #MeToo neither touches on the ways race and gender intersect, nor does it discuss the nuances of racial bias and powerlessness for women of color in the workplace. After all, high-profile cases are what attract a constantly moving society. That’s why when a celebrity is accused, we hold our breaths, watch and wait while we delve into detailed accounts of misbehavior. Sure, #MeToo has tightened a leash and held the entertainment industry responsible for its actions, but our action must extend to the industries working around us, too.
Generally, critics of #MeToo have said the movement can harm men’s reputations and framed the issue as a “witch-hunt.” #MeToo’s founder, Tarana Burke, told Al Jazeera that “to watch people turn #MeToo into a weapon, as opposed to acknowledging it is a tool, is not just unfortunate, but it’s dangerous.”
Millions of people have been hurt by sexual violence and have felt the toll it has taken on them. And within the current political climate, a survivor who has overcome obstacles to share their story is now seen as a tool to take down powerful men. Today, we find sexual assault cases sharing the same space as a gossip column. As a result, the guilty are absolved, and the victims lack justice. At its core, #MeToo is about supporting victims of sexual misbehavior and educating the public about the trauma involved, and it is imperative for us to remember that.
The most important thing the #MeToo movement has done is generate discussion. As reported by the Washington Post, the National Assault Hotline has seen “about a 30 percent increase in calls since the rise of #MeToo.” The world has watched as the power structures of rapists and harassers crumble. Women’s words have only gotten stronger. #MeToo still has work to do and things to improve, but the conversation isn’t over yet.