In October of 2017, the hashtag #MeToo spread across the world, beginning a historic tipping point for women. A Hollywood sex assault scandal sparked a global social movement, using social media to pave the way. Just two short words are being used across social networking platforms by thousands of women to share their stories of surviving sexual assault and harassment. Over one year later, and the movement to stop sexual assault and to support the victims of it is only rising in power. In order to understand how sexual assault is framed by the media, it is most important to understand how media helped frame the #MeToo movement. The hashtag has often been referred to as a social media trend, but hashtag activism has allowed for those two words to lead to a social movement with rapid growth and mobility. Sexual abuse is traditionally a topic that is brushed aside or ignored due to the fear’s women face about sharing their stories. Finally, because of social media, this topic came to light. Social media has transformed social justice movements by allowing issues to spread and mobilize faster than ever before, sparking the #MeToo movement by way of mass communication.
“Harvey Weinstein Sexual Harassment”Get custom essay
The Hollywood sexual assault scandal involving Harvey Weinstein blew up the #MeToo movement, but the movements roots go back to over ten years ago to 2006. Activist Tarana Burke actually founded a nonprofit organization to help victims of sexual assault, called Just Be Inc. Tarana Burke did an interview with The New York Times called “The Woman Who Created #MeToo Before the Hashtags”, where she shares a personal interaction she had with a young girl who changed her life. Tarana recalls the time she “sat across from a 13-year-old girl who had been sexually abused. The young girl was explaining her experience, and it left Ms. Burke speechless” (New York Times, Oct. 2017, par.1). Burke created this movie to shed light on a topic that needs attention, and over ten years later, her movement exploded across the globe amidst the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
Sexual assault and harassment have always been issues faced my too many women, but the topic never received the attention it needed; until it reached Hollywood. The use of the infamous hashtag began while Harvey Weinstein faced several sexual assault accusations from many women in the industry. After this scandal broke, more women in the industry were encouraged to speak out. In the Progressive Teen’s article titled “Is the #MeToo Movement Just a Trend on Social Media or a Vehicle of Change?”, Anjali Ramakrishnan explains this domino effect. She writes “after the Weinstein scandal broke, the list of powerful men who have had allegations raised against them has become increasingly long, with names such as Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose” (Ramakrishnan, Dec 2017, par.1). Media, in this case news about the famous film producer, reached millions of people and let women from all over the world know that they were not alone, and their stories were valid. Upon all of the allegations and women coming forward about sexual misconduct in Hollywood, actress Alyssa Milano took to twitter to create a tweet that instantly became viral. She wrote, “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” (Milano, 2018). The two words “me too” then burst into spotlight, giving the movement a huge leap in outreach and progression.
Social movement organizations such as #MeToo utilize mobilization through social networks to promote social justice, change and awareness. Ying Xiong, Moonhee Cho, and Brandon Boatwright’s scholarly article on Hashtag Activism and Message Frames among Social Movement Organizations examines the role that social movements play on social media, especially twitter in this case, to create a shared memory. The article stated that, “This study examines how SMOs address feminist activism, how hashtags were used in the movement, and examine the relationship between the counts of hashtags and retweets. The results present the feminism-centered and activism-centered networks” (Xiong, et al. 2018, p.11). Tweets using hashtags receive more retweets, and tweets that use the same hashtag all get filed together so people can filter through to only see tweets using #MeToo. According to Xiong et al. (2018) that tweets written by social media users and social movement organizations fell into three categories.
The first type diagnosed the causes of oppressive social structures con- straining women’s rights, the second kind suggested to take action, and the third appreciated celebrities’ leadership in the movement. Hashtag activism is what made #MeToo replenish as a movement and rapidly grow. The New York Times article stated that “the hashtag was widely used on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other platforms; on Facebook, it was shared in more than 12 million posts and reactions in the first 24 hours, according to The Associated Press” (New York Times, Oct 2018. Par.8). Activism is defined as a “process by which groups of people exert pressure on organizations or other institutions to change policies, practices, or conditions the activists find problematic” (Xiong et al. 2018, p.2). #MeToo is a perfect example of hashtag activism done right. Xiong et al. (2018) define hashtag activism as “the act of fighting for or supporting a cause with the use of hashtags as the primary channel to raise awareness of an issue and encourage debate via social media” (p.1-2). #MeToo definitely encouraged debate and criticisms, but most importantly it spread awareness, which was most crucial for the movement. The hashtag is a frame used to pursue the goals of the advocates of the movement, which is social change.
The use of #MeToo was used to encourage change and extend support, while actively bringing awareness to a previously dark topic.
#MeToo then acquired much backlash from men in “fear” as well as by critics of social media. According to The Economist, surveys suggest that this year-long storm of allegations, confessions and firings has actually made Americans more skeptical about sexual harassment (The Economist, Oct 2018). The National Sexual Violence Resource Centre, an American non-profit organization, found that in 2017, 13% of Americans thought that false accusations were a bigger problem than unreported attacks, and in 2018, that increased to 18% of Americans (The Economist, Oct 2018). The backlash of the movement is coming mostly from men. Men fear that anything they do or say to a woman will be used against them as a sexual assault allegation later, but the problem with this argument is that it is easy to identify what is sexual assault and harassment and what isn’t.
There should not be any fear or confusion if men refrain from sexually assaulting or harassing women. The other argument against #MeToo, is the simplification of the movement to a social media trend. Many argued that not everyone is on social media, and not everyone will receive the same voice for their stories like celebrities have. #MeToo rose to power surrounding the conversation of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood, following the Harvey Weinstein case, but it is far more than a trend like the Ice Bucket Challenge or Harlem Shake. #MeToo is a movement of activism using social media and the hashtag as a tool for spreading the word. #MeToo created public discourse about an unspoken subject, and though the hashtag may not be trending every month, women are more willing to report or speak up about sexual assault and harassment. The use of social media is not to be undermined as a trend, it is a game changer in 2018 and has completely shifted the conversation of sexual assault and harassment in just one year.
The hard work of activists and advocates, as well as the bravery of many women who have come forward to share their stories is finally paying off. According to The Global Citizen, 43% of men surveyed in their recent study, said the news coverage of sexual harassment and assault has made them reflect on their past interactions with women and whether or not they might have been interpreted as inappropriate (Selby, Dec 2017, par.4). In the case of #MeToo, hashtag activism created mass awareness and understanding of the magnitude of this problem. According to Baran and Davis, mass communication is when a source, typically an organization, employs a technology as a medium to communicate with a large audience (Baran and Davis, 5). Though it is “just social media”, what’s especially significant about it being widely used as a hashtag is numbers.
When women began using it, other victims saw that they were not actually alone, and it gave them more courage to come out and share their own stories. A post can be shared over and over again, across a wide range of audiences via social media. Celebrities may have a larger presence, but anyone with an account could post about it or see what other people they know are saying. This empowers the victims while also creating an awareness that may not have otherwise existed. Social media spreads word quicker than any other medium in the world. Hashtags place several posts into one category for people to clearly see how many people were sharing posts using #MeToo. Social media is a modern form of mass communication, and the ability to go viral, or just spread to your local following, is enough to spark a movement if enough people are joining the conversation.
Not only are people joining the conversation, but people now more than ever are listening. According to Charlotte Ryan, Kevin M. Carragee, and Cassie Schwerner in “Media, Movements, and the Quest for social justice”, social movements uses news media to broaden the discourse (Ryan et al. 1998, p.166). Social media, though a newer medium, also functions as a news outlet in many cases. Almost every popular and trustworthy outlet is on social media. They know that everyone is on social media, therefore it is the most effective way to ensure that news is being circulated to all audiences. According to Ryan, Carragee, and Schwerner, their “focus on social movements rests on the assumption that meaningful political change and the expansion of social justice depend upon collective action” (Ryan et al. 1998, p.166). Social media allows for millions of people to come together by sharing two words “#MeToo”. Social media makes it easy for people get engaged in the conversation, and even those who are silent or have their critiques, are at least becoming aware of the conversation.
Social media is often overlooked as biased or useless but is discredited in regard to its massive influence on society and culture. Using a hashtag may seem like no big deal, but what is really does is include the tagged information in a greater conversation. By using hashtags, it becomes far more clear what people are saying, and better yet, encourages people to say more. History is turning at the hands of social media because women are being encouraged to use their voice. #MeToo blowing up on twitter was the result of serious rape and sexual harassment accusations against Harvey Weinstein, a great producer with a lot of power. Despite these tragic events, #MeToo took over the world as the movement in which woman are no longer scared to share their stories and received support from other victims and millions of other women who are not. Sexual assault and rape culture are elephant-in-the-room topics that people avoid discussing, but because of the mobilization of the movement through social media, awareness is at an all-time high.
Harvey Weinstein Sexual Harassment. (2022, Feb 08).
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