Although well intentioned, #MeToo needs to refocus

Image by: Stephanie Jiang

While #MeToo is currently trending and well intentioned, it isn’t doing anything radically different than the hashtags that have come before it.

The focus of this Twitter campaign is put on survivors or victims, potentially re-traumatizing them while ignoring the perpetrators who have inflicted this trauma. Holding survivors accountable for proving they too have been affected by sexual violence inadvertently shifts the responsibility onto them to be a part of stopping it.

Despite its good intentions, survivors/victims are already marginalized and the #MeToo movement can actually serve to burden them further. This isn’t where the focus of a campaign like this should be.

Twitter campaigns can have merit in raising awareness and showing solidarity, but with an issue as complicated and widespread as sexual assault, it may do more harm than any real good. Popular hashtags of the past such as ‘#yesallwomen’ have come and gone, and there isn’t much about #MeToo to suggest that it will be any different.

The tag gained traction after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted to her thousands of followers. Now that social media — and specifically Twitter — has a solidified presence in our everyday lives, it’s no mystery how #MeToo spread so quickly. While the surrounding celebrity element has faciliotated #MeToo’s meteoric rise across social media in the past month, the movement originally began with activist Tarana Burke nearly a decade ago. While it may be experiencing a renewal, the sentiment itself isn’t a new invention.

In terms of the media coverage of the #MeToo tag, much of it has followed the assumption that self-identified women are the only people who experience sexual violence. The New York Times for example, paints any male-identified individuals participating in the movement as allies rather than potential survivors themselves. Furthermore, much of the coverage hasn’t included trans and non-binary peoples, who are also disproportionately impacted by sexual violence.

Sexual violence is a cultural problem and the conversation around it needs to change its focus from asking victims to publically disclose to drawing attention to the people who have inflicted their trauma.

We shouldn’t need to set Twitter ablaze with a hashtag to comprehend that sexual violence is a pervasive issue. In order for #MeToo’s popularity to really mean something, a more solid systemic change in our culture needs to take place outside of social media.

— Journal Editorial Board


Editorials, sexual violence, Social media, Twitter

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