The #MeToomovement really kicked off on October 15 when, in response to further allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the following note: “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” she said.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
In less that 24 hours, #MeToo became one of largest trending topics on Twitter with over half a million tweets and a large number of shares on Facebook too. From celebrities like Lady Gaga, Patricia Arquette and Debra Messing to millions of ordinary women, the movement has gone viral.
Mumbai based Elsa D’Silva, an expert in the field on women defence and protection suggested that social media provides a channel for women and girls to access information, connect with each other and share their experiences. For instance in the Weinstein case, one woman had the courage to speak out. This led to others who had been at the receiving end of his sexual violence speak out as well and now we have a hashtag #MeToo trending. The number of stories being shared is overwhelming.
Some of it are with a lot of detail and reading it helps put a “vocabulary” to your experience. Often many women and girls don’t know the entire spectrum of violence or that what they experienced was a violation of their rights. But reading others’ stories gives them to courage to break their own silence.
She further adds, “In my opinion, we have to break the taboo around the issue of sexual violence and remove the element of shame as it disproportionately affects the victim. I would recommend not sharing too many details that will compromise your position. But add to the conversation by clearly stating your stand. Further more, do something about it. Don’t let it end with a hashtag or a single post. Make it a habit to call out inappropriate behaviour even if you don’t necessarily want to do it on social media.”
Her primary advice to someone who has had such an experience is to speak up about it, and seek help. Go to someone you trust and confide in the person, seek help, make an official complaint. Expose the perpetrator if possible.
Elsa runs an organisation called Safecity. This is a good portal for those who want to call out molestation, but want to remain anonymous.
Social media has the power of numbers and reach to change mindsets. Though it may be a small step, #MeToo seems a definite beginning in this story of courage and justice.