American Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has been at the center of controversy after countless actresses reported being sexually abused by the movie mogul while working together.
The latest prominent social media campaign #MeToo gained viral momentum by the encouragement of actrice Alyssa Milano since 15th October. The idea, originally created by Tarana Burk 10 years ago, encourages victims of sexual assault and/or harassement to share their own experiences in a show of solidarity and to expose the magnitude of the problem in everyday society.
In less than 24 hours, #MeToo became one of the largest trending topics on twitter with over half a million tweets and a large number of shares on Facebook too. CNN reports that 45% of US Facebook users are friends with someone who posted a “Me Too”. According to a Feminist writer, Sharanya Manivannan, it provided space for people to be vulnerable about experiences across a spectrum, without having to be specific.
The hashtag also gained popularity among women in the Arab world and reminded the world that sexual harassment knows no age, no limits, no boundaries and no dress code. On twitter, stories from across Middle East came to light about the way girls and women are treated by men in the public sphere, as well as the state and their family. A particular tweet stated that a hijabi women never experiences sexual harrassement with the hastag #NotMe but was quickly contradicted by @NooraNader:
“I was a hijabi child (13) who was wearing an abaya, going to pray taraweeh in Ramadan and I got called disgusting names in the street.”
It is important for men to engage in these conversations as well. Acknowledging that it happens and breaking the silence is the first step towards change in the treatment of women. Though the movement started as a women centric movement, it grew to include queer and cis- male experiences. The #MeToo campaign broke the silence and the systemic tendency to blame women for what they have to endure!
This article is written by Haya Wakil.