10 years ago, a black activist named Tarana Burke started a movement in order to encourage females to be empowered through empathy. When the Harvey Weinstein case emerged, it brought with it a surge of emotions that had been laying dormant in women all over the world. These women had been quiet for far too long. Burke wanted to get one thing clear and that was that almost every woman on the face of the earth, no matter what minority or majority she belongs to, has been a victim of sexual assault and/or harassment at least once in her lifetime.
Prior to the Harvey Weinstein case, actress Alyssa Milano jump started #MeToo movement that gained a lot of traction internationally. Upon having started this movement, Milano stated that she was not aware of the movement started by Tarana Burke but that the vision was the same.
Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby
Since then, more and more women have come forward with their stories ranging from just the hashtag to detailed accounts of what happened to them. These stories aren’t just emerging from regular people, celebrities too are speaking up about the shocking experiences that they have had to go through. The very amount of women in media coming forward with their stories is proof enough that Tarana Bruke was right when she said that almost every woman experiences things like these. The latest case of Bill Cosby who was found guilty on all three accounts of harassment and abuse against a victim is proof enough that when women come forward with their stories together, they are heard.
Famous movie and TV star Reese Witherspoon spoke at Elle Women in Hollywood. She said that she had been harassed by a director when she was only 16 years old!
“I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault, and I don’t speak about them very often, but after hearing all the stories these past few days and hearing these brave women speak up tonight, the things that we’re kind of told to sweep under the rug and not talk about, it’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly because I felt less alone this week than I’ve ever felt in my entire career.”
To the people who ask why women speak up only when others do, let me tell you why. It is their fear holding them back from exactly the kind of comments people pass. Nobody likes to be portrayed as a victim of sexual assault just for 5 minutes of fame that will fade as fast as it came. No, this is far too big than any of us. #MeToo movement made it possible for women to voice what they went through, look their abusers in the eye and show them that they are no longer afraid.
The woman we know and love from Ugly Betty too had a heartbreaking story of her own to share.
First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9 years old. I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a 9 year old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man. I had to see this man on a daily basis for years to come. He would msile at me and wave, and I would hurry past him, my blood running cold, my guts carrying the burden of what only he & and I knew –that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back.
Ladies, let’s break the silence so the next generation of girls won’t have to live with this bullshit.”
Women in Media: The Bigger Picture
It is not just a matter of celebrities coming out with their stories. The most important thing is that they are giving every woman out there who has been told to keep her mouth shut about abuse, harassment and sexual assault, whether she is in the media industry or not, a chance to voice her story.
As Charlyn Yi says, if every woman out there who was either sexually assaulted or harassed got up and said “Me Too” then maybe, just maybe, the other half of the world would have a better sense of the gravity of the situation we all face.