“Me Too” (or “#MeToo“) spread virally in October 2017 as a two-word hashtag used on social media to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the public revelations of sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
The phrase, used to help survivors realize they are not alone, was popularized by actress Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Since then, the phrase has been posted online millions of times and many popular performers (singers and actresses) have used it to share personal stories of sexual violence.
Whatever the original purpose behind this initiative was, the truth is that its impact has proven to be manyfold:
- empowering women through empathy
- giving victims the resources to have access to healing
- advocating for changes to laws and policies
- promoting sex education that teaches children to detect predatory practices immediately
- opening a discussion about the best way for sufferers of sexual abuse or harassment to stop what’s happening to them at work
At the same time, though, this initiative has proven that society needs to be careful of overreaching by being clear about what behavior is criminal, what behavior is legal but intolerable in a workplace, and what private intimate behavior is worthy of condemnation but not part of the workplace discussion.
A discussion that is relevant not only in show business or the music industry (probably the most vocal thus far) but also in the world of academia, politics, the military -or in any/every other industry. And a discussion that needs to be inclusive.
By that I mean that this is a discussion that can not and should not exclude men, not only because we happen to be almost 50% of society, but also because we can be a part of the solution. For that to happen we need to:
- prevent casting all men as perpetrators
- make sure to guard against false accusations
- avoid confusing the legitimate interest a man can show towards a woman with inaceptable behaviors in the workplace (or anywhere, for that matter)
Additionally, we should always remember that modern, democratic societies are based on the rule of law, which includes due process and the presumption of innocence. Therefore, accusers should not be believed before fact-checking: it is far too easy to throw an accusation (to say, Me Too) and ruin someone else’s life in the process, and far too difficult for an innocent person to reclaim his good name and honorability -even if no wrongdoing has been proven.
I propose that we look at people not as men or women, but as human beings (diverse, different, unique, interesting, special), so that we can all stop being part of the problem and start being a part of the solution. Count me in. #MeToo