We are experiencing history in the making

When The New York Times published a story accusing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of decades of sexual assault and harassment, nobody could have predicted the outcome of women banding together to speak out against their assaulters under a single two-word hashtag. #MeToo was initially used by civil rights activist Tarana Burke and popularized by Alyssa Milano on Oct. 15, 2017. The hashtag began on Twitter then branched out to other social media platforms trending in 85 countries on Facebook according to a study done by EzyInsights. That same study stated, “The phrase had been used more than 200,000 times by Oct. 15. It was tweeted more than 500,000 by Oct. 16. On Facebook, the hashtag had been used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. The platform reported that 45 percent of users in the United States had a friend who had posted using the term.” 

From there, it went on to inspire marches and spinoff hashtags such as #IWill, #IHave and #IDidThat, which were a way for men to admit that they had witnessed, condoned or engaged in sexual harassment and to promise they will change their attitude towards sexual harassment. Individuals went public about assault from men such as Lawrence Nassar, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Louis C.K. and more. “The Silence Breakers” were named Time magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year, citing individuals such as Burke as forces driving the movement forward. Eventually, over 300 Hollywood women formed Time’s Up, a coalition against harassment. Oprah Winfrey mentioned these women in her acceptance speech for her Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. 

These events have undoubtedly marked a new chapter in women’s history. A chapter of women banding together to speak up. A chapter of women’s pleas finally being heard. A chapter of enlightenment of the general population to a commonplace issue. However, what I found to be the most relatable happening for those of us who deal with sexual harassment in a less glamorous way than celebrities was, Monica Lewinsky’s comment about how she viewed her affair with former president Bill Clinton as “a consensual relationship” but received a “new lens” after hearing others’ stories.

I think this is important because I believe many men and women do not recognize nor know what it means to not condone sexual harassment. Men often make unwanted sexual advances towards women thinking it should be taken as a compliment. Women often let these comments slide because “that’s just the way things are.” This is the core issue with sexual harassment. We turn a blind eye so long as it is not rape. While rape is an abhorrent crime, catcalling, lewd comments, asking for sexual favors and other inappropriate behavior should also be viewed as a crime. Women should not have to learn how “not to get raped.” Men should be taught from an early age that a woman is worth more than her body and it is not OK to view women as sex objects. Every girl deserves to feel safe when walking from the store to her car. The only way to teach our children these seemingly obvious moralistic values is to start enforcing them amongst ourselves. That needs to be the next step in this defining moment of women’s history.