What is the #metoo movement?

Alice Wanamaker, Journalist

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Trigger warning: non-graphic discussion of sexual harassment/assault 

If you’ve been on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram recently, you might have seen the hashtag #metoo popping up everywhere. You may even have seen people you know posting it-I know that for a few days last month, my Facebook feed became a wall of those posts. But what is the #metoo movement? And what does it mean when people you know and love identify themselves with this hashtag? 

The typical #metoo chain-posting prompt goes something like this:  

#metoo. 

If everyone who has been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. 

Statistics show that roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men are raped at some point in their lives. Furthermore, over 99% of women report having been catcalled (a form of street harassment) before. 

These are terrifying statistics. Harassment is a universal experience for women in our culture, and sexual assault occurs at a staggeringly high rate for something that should not be happening at all. But previous to the #metoo movement, these issues were rarely discussed in mainstream society. Harassment is often normalized in our culture (‘it’s a compliment’ is a common excuse for catcalling). Rape victims often keep quiet about the crimes committed against them for fear of being shamed or not being believed. 

The #metoo movement was created over a decade ago by activist Tarana Burke; the hashtag was recently amplified by actress Alyssa Milano. And the massive outpouring of posts, the flood of social media with #metoo status updates-those are the point and the objective of this movement, because they make the scale of the problem visible. Victims of sexual assault or harassment can seem like ‘other people’ when those issues are not talked about. But when you see people revealing their experiences and identifying themselves, you can see just how widespread these experiences are.  

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What is the #metoo movement?