What is the #MeToo movement?

Published 15 Mar 2018

Sexual assault and harassment have been prominent themes across media headlines in recent months after a series of scandals hit Hollywood in the wake of accusations against producer Harvey Weinstein.

What started as an expose of Weinstein's alleged behaviour soon built momentum when other people came forward to talk about their experiences of sexual misconduct at the hands of others.

Soon after, the #MeToo social media movement was born, but what does it mean and how was it started?

The origins of #MeToo

In October, American actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a suggestion to women worldwide to post 'Me too' as a status if they had ever experienced sexual assault or harassment.

According to the Guardian, Milano received 55,000 replies overnight and #MeToo was trending number one on Twitter the next day. Less than six weeks later, the hashtag was active in 85 countries worldwide and had been posted 85 million times on Facebook in 45 days, the newspaper claimed.

Tens of thousands of women and men have since came forward to share their stories online. Time's Up - a movement that aims to provide legal aid and other support to sexual assault and harassment victims - also began in response to the Weinstein scandal and Me Too.

Me Too predates the social media boom, with the term first popularised by civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006. It was a grassroots campaign that started when Burke met a 13-year-old who had also been sexually assaulted.

Support and criticism for #MeToo 

Advocates of the movement have hailed #MeToo for shining a spotlight on the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, helping to raise awareness and empower victims.

"It was the perfect storm to happen and I feel really blessed I was the vessel, the messenger," said Milano.

"It's very special, probably the greatest thing I've felt. I think the fact that it turned into a true movement was surprising. That was never my intention."

However, the campaign has also received criticism from feminist circles and other social commentators.

French actress Catherine Deneuve claimed the #MeToo had become a witch hunt against men. Meanwhile, author Margaret Atwood sparked a backlash when she voiced concerns that the movement bypassed due process and created a trial-by-social-media environment.

Detractors have also claimed that some #MeToo stories trivialise the most serious sexual crimes by focusing on issues such as catcalling and awkward - but not criminal - advances.

Nevertheless, #MeToo has undeniably brought much-needed attention to an important issue and has encouraged survivors of sexual assault and harassment to come forward about their experiences.

If you have suffered institutional sexual misconduct in Australia, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to discuss whether you are entitled to financial redress.