As the women of Hollywood stood up to the abuse and misogyny that runs rampant in the entertainment industry, to say nothing of virtually every other one, the #MeToo movement might be a lot of noise on deaf ears. As with any movement, there have to be enough people wanting change who are willing to take the risks that ultimately affect it. And in this case, that is not happening yet.
In October of last year, CBS News reported that the social media movement using the hashtag #MeToo went viral after “Charmed” actress Alyssa Milano shared it on Twitter. The movement spread through dozens of countries and racked up 1.7 million postings on Twitter which included 85 countries reporting at least 1,000 individual tweets using the hashtag.
Yes, this is an impressive use of social media to build awareness about a problem that, at least it seems in the light of day, everyone already knew about. Women are standing up to say they’ve experienced sexual abuse, harassment, manipulation for jobs and money, and other degrading behavior and many reporting they endured it simply because they were told that’s how it had always been done.
The sheer speed with which social media pushed this issue to the surface was truly mind-blowing. The only way for MeToo to have a lasting effect is to get those in power to hear it, act on it, and change, not just the actions of a few people, but the behavior of entire cultures of business and industry. That’s easier said than done.
Basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution should, in theory, make it illegal for anyone to be treated differently, regardless of race, sex, religion, or anything else. But it seems those guarantees are never enough and are frequently interpreted to the favor of typically white, male oppressors. Still, misogyny and sexual harassment are not government issues in this case, it’s all happening behind the thick walls of corporate America (that includes movie studios and entertainment companies).
Real change is only going to happen when individual women (and some men) stand up against abuse in these cases. It’s going to take more than some heart-string-plucking TV ad from Oprah Winfrey to stop this terrible problem.
And that also begs the question, where was Oprah before all this came out? She’s worked in the entertainment business for many years and, if you believe the media and the word of the victims and those around them, this has always been going on. Why didn’t a black woman with as much power as Oprah say something before now? She has had the power to make a change in this problem for decades and did nothing.
Hashtags and social media videos are great ways to spread awareness, but they’re not going to end the abuse. And it’s not likely that men and women who behave like this will ever change their ways, after all, we elected one to the most powerful office in the world and he’s just as condescending to women and minorities as he was in private life.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, women in England and America were taking on the white-male-dominated establishment to secure suffrage. But winning the right to vote came at a price, sometimes even physical harm and imprisonment for bucking the system too loudly.
Since this isn’t a governmental issue, change will come more slowly because legislators have little control over what happens within the walls of private business. But, what they can do is stiffen penalties for this kind of crime, and yes people, abuse, and harassment are crimes. Once again, however backward it might seem, it is up to those put in that situation to stand up for themselves – whatever it takes.
To those who think the #MeToo movement is all just sour grapes lobbied by some bitter actresses who didn’t get the part, they wanted even after a night on the casting couch – grow up. You should be ashamed. Would you want your mother or sister to be treated like that?
Gery L. Deer is an independent journalist and copysmith based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at www.gerydeer.com.