The Power of "Me Too"
From Larry Nassar abusing elite gymnasts to the artistic director of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater allegedly groping women, the Me Too movement has swept across the country as women from all walks of life have revealed the sexual harassment and abuse they have endured, some by the hands of successful men.
While it is encouraging to see women stand up against a culture of sexual harassment, it is also sobering to realize how many successful women have experienced sexism and abuse in order to become the powerful and, in some cases, famous figures we know them as today.
Today, when more women than ever hold the same positions as men, it is easy to think that sexual harassment and assault in the workplace is no longer an issue. But that is not the case. As women begin to share their stories, they have revealed an underlying culture of sexism that has remained deeply ingrained and largely hidden for years. For so long, many women were forced to ignore harassment and abuse in order to break into a workplace dominated by men. But now, with the rise of social media and the fring of several powerful men, such as Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein, women are beginning to share their experiences.
Even as the Me Too movement has gained recognition through high-profle cases, the courage of everyday women should not be forgotten. Scrolling through my Facebook feed on a daily basis, I see teenagers bravely revealing what they have been through and I am reminded that sexual assault and harassment are not only experienced in the workplace, or by famous people, but by women in varied walks of life. While reading about the Me Too movement online is shocking, seeing some of my friends joining in was even more surprising. Learning that people I know have been victims of sexual assault was scary, but seeing that Me Too was giving them the courage to speak out made me realize the signifcance of the movement.
But the way we, myself included, discuss sexual harassment and assault still needs to change. When elite gymnasts joined the movement, I was shocked. How could all of these women also be victims? But then I realized that thoughts like that are exactly what is wrong with the way we talk about sexual assault. Being a victim does not negate the power and strength of these women; if anything, it makes them stronger and more admirable.
Sadly, we live in a world where this is usually not how it plays out. Why is it that when a man has an affair he “just made a little mistake,” while when a woman has an affair she is called a “slut” and her career could be destroyed? The same can be said for describing clothing or flirting. The double standard regarding sexuality is still pervasive in all levels of society.
The Me Too movement has opened up a dialogue and given us all a chance to take a good long look at the sexism that is deeply rooted in our society, but we still have a long way to go. This campaign should be viewed as a starting point and opportunity to change a culture not just on Wall Street or Washington, D.C. or in the entertainment industry, but throughout all aspects of society.