The and policies to counteract sexual harassment and

The #Metoo Debate”Suggested by a friend: if all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” – Alyssa Milano on Twitter 15.10.2017What originally started with a Twitter post by Alyssa Milano, has turned into one of the most discussed contemporary social movements. It is a campaign that aims at denouncing the prevailing sexual assault and harassment in society. This should be achieved by increasing the worldwide visibility of the problem and by starting a legitimate discourse. The discussion has been taken up by all kinds of people from different social status and has by now received great attention all over the world. Thus, this debate expanded from a personal problem of women to a societal and even political issue. Several governments have opened up a formal discourse around laws and policies to counteract sexual harassment and abuse in work-places and every-day life.  In order to fully understand the whole movement, we will take a closer look at the background of the #Metoo and how it evolved over time. Furthermore, we will discuss the impact of this debate by analyzing the reactions by society, politics, media and the church. Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist, can be seen as the inventor of the Metoo movement.  Originally, she thought of Metoo as a tool to support and empower women of color who have experienced sexual abuse. In October 2017, around 80 women accused Harvey Weinstein, a film producer, of sexual misconduct. As a response to those allegations, the movement vastly expanded. Alyssa Milano was the first one to use Metoo as a hashtag, after being urged by a friend to step up and openly discuss the problem. Overnight, this hashtag has turned into a worldwide movement on social media. Ever since, many Hollywood stars – such as Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence and many more – have used the hashtag which heavily promoted the prevalence of the hashtag gaining more and more attention in the society. Soon, it reached institutions such as the schools, companies, the church, and even the state. This movement is particularly discussed throughout the U.S., Europe, India and Australia and many other countries. When analyzing the numbers of hashtag used in different countries, there are immense differences. Where in some countries the #Metoo was in the top-list of hashtags used from October to December 2017, in other countries it did not receive much attention. Investigations show, that this phenomenon is not linked to the actual number of sex crimes and sexual misconduct. Scientists suggest a connection between the culture and the prevalence of the hashtag. Whereas in many countries the victims might feel free to openly discuss their private and sexual life, in other countries this may not be the case. In some countries, victims might be more economically and emotionally dependent on the perpetrator and thus they do not see themselves capable of raising their voice. Nonetheless, the movement was and still is greatly discussed all around the globe.By the end of November, Twitter confirmed that the hashtag has been used more than  1.7 million times. Today the numbers are still continuing to grow, however ever more slowly. But not only on Twitter has this debate received enormous attention. Facebook and Google reported the coverage of the #metoo to have vastly expanded in November 2017. In the first 24h, the hashtag was used by more than 4.7 million people. This world-wide discussion triggered several studies and polls investigating why this campaign received such tremendous attention within the society. Studies supervised by  ABC News and The Washington show that around 54% of American women report having experiences ‘unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances’ at least once in their lives. More than that, those women reported that 95% of those assaults went uninvestigated and unpunished. The WHO estimates every third woman in the world to have been affected by sexual violence. In other countries, the number of victims of sexual misconduct is even higher. The problem has always been prevalent in society but never before addressed so publicly. The extreme attention the movement has gained gives an idea of how deep-rooted the problem within our society is. The Metoo movement leaves great room for discussion. The reactions to the movement are anything but concordant, ranging from support to criticism. First of all, it is important to evaluate how the hashtag is responded to by those who are accused of sexual harassment and abuse. As a response to the allegations another social media campaign, #HowIWillChange, was invented. Men have been using this hashtag to express that they acknowledge and accept their behavior. Other men have shared their support or even disclosed on their own experiences with abuse and harassment. A vast number of men have also chosen to not react. Additionally to that, several feminists have also expressed their opinion on the movement. Some of them publicly support the movement and congratulate every individual that contributes to the movement, others seem to be more critical. Groups of feminists for example in France and India have written and signed letters criticizing the hashtag. The main criticisms concern the undefined purpose. It is unclear to whom it is addressed in particular. Others have criticized the possible overreaction and its inability to distinguish between different degrees of abuse. Some have suggested to only sharing the worst experiences of abuse. Moreover, psychologists have commented on the possible re-traumatization of victims by going through the experience again. Because the allegations made have been shown difficult to be verified, a discussion has been opened on whether the accusation should be fact-checked.By time, the debate has received great attention by individuals from different social status. The discussion included people from high social rank, such as politics. Thus, the social movement turned into a political debate.  Most attention to the Metoo movement was given to and by the US government. With the course of time, the allegations of sexual misconduct included an increasing number of political leaders and members of parliament that have been accused of sexual misconduct. The debate had already started before the rise of the #Metoo movement. During his campaign for the presidential election, three women accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment.  The public media uncovered material supporting those accusations. The women pled with the Congress for an investigation of the allegations of misconduct. However, the White House has dismissed those allegations as driven by ‘political motives’. With the increased awareness of sexual abuse and harassment, this discussion has been taken up again. More than a dozen women have been inspired by the movement to come forward again, with accusations against the president of sexual harassment or improper behavior towards them. In December 2017 more than a 100 Democratic members demanded an investigation into the allegations against the president. Additional to that, six senators were calling for the president to resign. Furthermore, three members of the Congress in the United States – Trent Franks, John Conyers, and Al Franken – have already been forced to resign and Roy Moore had been openly accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls.  Other politicians accused of sexual misconduct and are undergoing investigations at the moment.It has been acknowledged that #Metoo addresses the underlying political system of a patriarchal society. Several politicians have come forward claiming that the progress and change have to start with the Republicans in the House of Representatives. Before the Metoo movement, ending sexual misconduct was never a prospective political priority. However, though the #Metoo movement this seems to change. Tarana Burke, herself, has stated that she aims at changes to laws and policies around sexual harassment and assault. Anna North, a gender analyst, addressed the economic disadvantages and the underlying power imbalances. Furthermore, she demanded proper sex-education in school. Indeed, the debate has paved the way for an intellectual discourse around gender-based violence. Besides the political discussion in the US, this movement has triggered a societal and political change in other countries, as well.The European Parliament, for example, responded immediately to the campaign with an open discussion in the European Union’s office in Brussels. Followed by this discussion several allegations of abuse in Parliament were brought to light, showing that a proper discourse permits the empowerment of a victim to speak up and come forth.In the French-speaking part of Canada, the equivalent #MoiAussi has brought about a great development towards a more just society. The minister of Quebec, Helene David, called out for a salutation of the global movement.  Due to this movement crisis hotlines have experienced great staffing and budgeting problems which the city of Quebec has responded to with a grant of $1 million in order to aid those institutions. Moreover, the debate has set in motion a wave of support of victims and other campaigns such as #EtMaintenant (#andnow), represented by a yellow heart. This can be seen as an additional part of the #MoiAussi discussion that addresses the insurance of equality between all people in society, politics, media and other institutions. In Italy the politician Maria Elena Boschi has organized governmental initiatives on the sexual education of women. This education was to include the empowerment of women in teaching them that it is ok to say no. Although she was targeted by media and shamed for her undertakings, Francesca Puglisi, the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into Femicide in Italy credited the work done by Boschi.In Sweden, this discussion has even reached the royal house. This Swedish Kind commented on the hashtag as being a positive movement for a society that urged victims to step up and share their personal story.Not only in western countries has this movement triggered a political and social change. In India, for example, there are several campaigns that aim at educating women and men on their workplace rights and safety. Those campaigns have been publicly supported by a lawyer of the Supreme Court in India, Kaimini Jaiswal. She additionally, addressed the illiteracy and thus financial and emotional dependency of women in rural areas. Activist Jasmeen Patheja has also commented the movement in India. She states that ‘#Metoo’s power is in demonstrating India can no longer ignore the scope of the problem’.However, this movement triggered not only positive reactions. In China, for example, the hashtag has received extreme censorship that dramatically slowed down the spreading of the movement. In Afghanistan, those women who took the risk of coming forth have been slut-shamed and some of them are now even threatening for their life. Even in Israel and Palestine, where a great number of people joined the movement and used the hashtag, the underlying political and social structure prevented a change and development of the society. Thus, the movement was silenced rather quickly. In several other countries, the movement does not seem to have received quite as much attention than in others.Concluding, the Metoo movement has set in motion a change in society all around the world. The debate has been taken up by governments and other institutions in order to ensure a more just and equal society. Opposing voices of the movement mainly criticize its ambiguity and call for a more regulated approach. Other campaigns, following the Metoo Movement, have aimed at implementing such regulations.  In general, it seems that this debate was long needed and is taken with appreciation.


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