In the wake of the sexual assault allegations against former film studio executive Harvey Weinstein, women have taken to social media under the hashtag #MeToo to show solidarity with the women Weinstein allegedly harassed or assaulted, and to describe experiences where they themselves were targets of sexual harassment and kept quiet–until now.
The trending hashtag has virtually taken over this media cycle and has a strong message most people can get behind: disavowing sexual assault, spreading awareness and empowering women.
sad that almost every girl has faced some kind of sexual harrassment even if it’s something deemed ‘small’ like being groped #MeToo 💔
— gracie (@lilgrvcie) October 18, 2017
#MeToo isn’t a pity party for women and men who’ve dealt with this. It’s real proof that this isn’t ok and it happens. Every. Single. Day.
— Morgan Taylor (@radiomorgtaylor) October 18, 2017
— Olivia Pope (@OliviaResists) October 18, 2017
However, some voices have been skeptical of the movement, not because of what it represents, but because of what it may mean for news stories and how it could potentially be co-opted and exploited by others.
”Some retailers are even trying to use the trending hashtag in merchandise for profit-value,” according to The New York Post.
The details of these product price hikes raise concerns about the over-commercialization and trivialization of a trending social movement grappling with heavy subject matter.
Critics also expressed concern about the effectiveness and extent of the movement in the Internet age.
“Men need to do something internal, something that won’t produce a public show of support, something far more difficult than rote words of encouragement,” the Chicago Tribune’s Rex Huppke wrote, advocating that men do more than just retweet a mere hashtag in support.
Huppke also advocated for male self-reflection in the face of this problem: “We need to look inside our own heads and ask uncomfortable questions.”
— Spooky Man 👻 (@AlexMilutinov) October 18, 2017
“#MeToo — despite the best intentions of so many participating — is everything that’s wrong with social media,” wrote Wired’s Jessi Hempel, criticizing general slacktivism that goes into political social media issues.
She urged that instead of posting about experiences with sexual assault behind a screen, women should capitalize on the opportunity and come together in real life to urge policy change.
Others sharply disagree and note that genuine change can occur from this campaign.
“This is a prerequisite for any change to happen,” the Guardian’s Suzanne Moore noted about this hashtag helping “women move out of shame” from their experience with sexual harassment, and “into anger.”
Slate’s Ruth Graham asserted that even those who are not ready to share their experiences online still benefit from the hashtag’s intention.
To men lost for words and to women not yet ready to share their stories, she said: “Sometimes the best thing to do is listen.”
— spookeli 🎃 (@indigogalaxies) October 18, 2017
No matter your impression of the motives behind online social campaigns, #MeToo certainly seems like something that, despite its flaws, is empowering women.