The ‘Me Too’ movement, started in 2006 by Tarana Burke but more recently recognised as a viral online movement publicised in October 2017 by several prominent celebrities on Twitter, has become something of a phenomenon. Many women feel they finally have a voice, empowered by all the other women who are speaking out against sexual assault and harassment they have endured. However, the movement has faced a high level of criticism and backlash from some high profile figures, including influential feminist Germaine Greer. The question remains: is it simply a trend that enables members of Hollywood to speak out or has it been beneficial to every woman, even those not in the entertainment industry?
The main kick-starter of this movement was the reveal of the crimes committed by studio mogul Harvey Weinstein, and the subsequent “Weinstein effect”, in which hundreds of women came forward and accused prominent Hollywood figures of sexual assault or harassment. Many actresses finally told the truth about what had happened to them, having avoided doing so beforehand in fear of ruining their future potential of being hired. Actress Jennifer Lawrence claimed “I didn’t want to be a whistle blower. I just wanted a career” which echoed the sentiment of many women before and after her who have come forward since the “Weinstein effect” came into play. The sad fact remains that although these women were accused of “jumping on the bandwagon” and only reporting because others were, for most it was the only option as, due to the power of those who have been accused, they would have truly lost any future career they aspired to have.
However, ever since the movement went viral and became more prominent, it has been met with backlash and criticism at every turn. Many men have come forward expressing views that they are now worried how to interact with women as they do not want anything they do or say to be misconstrued as harassment. Actor Matt Damon has noted that there is a spectrum of behaviour, and not all actions can be considered to be the same severity, something the movement does not appear to address.
The movement has also faced criticism from well-known feminist figures, such as Germaine Greer. She claimed that willingly conducting a sexual act with a powerful man within the Hollywood industry if they offer you a job in return essentially equates to consent and should not be treated as assault. This opens up the wider issue also being discussed in relation to the movement; where is the line drawn?
Clearly much of the current behaviour from men in industry is inappropriate and warrants evaluation, but where do we need to stop? Is flirting still acceptable or should that be treated in the same vein as harassment? The movement struggles in determining this line, and therefore is criticised for not having a clear view to follow of what is acceptable and what isn’t. The fact that much of this criticism is coming from prominent feminist figures such as Greer, who by default would be expected to be in support of a movement for women’s rights, further undermines it; if someone in her position is criticising it, how legitimate and useful can it truly be?
A further question to be asked is how relevant this movement is to everyday women, rather than only those in Hollywood, such as famous actresses. Many participants in a survey felt that the idea of the movement was positive for women outside of the film industry, but half of participants had not felt any effect from it yet, thus showing that the movement has a way to go in terms of helping alter behaviours and the perceptions of what’s right and wrong.
It’s difficult to analyse the full effect of the movement on society, in part due to the fact that the it is still growing and progressing, and therefore more changes are inevitable in the near future. However, it has enabled women to feel confident enough to speak out against their abusers and more people than ever are listening and taking actions against them. Although it faces a lot of challenges and backlash and has not fully filtered down from Hollywood to women all over the world in different professions, it is indisputable that the movement has given women a voice they did not have before, and therefore is undeniably a shift in the right direction in the fight for true gender equality.