#MeToo Human Interest Stories Miss Systemic Issues

At times, it can be difficult to tell whether the public controls the media or whether the media controls the public. On one hand, the public gives intriguing topics more traction by talking and tweeting about them so more stories about those topics are written. Comparatively, the media is a gatekeeper to the stories that are told so it decides which topics to broadcast and which to withhold.

A year ago, the #MeToo campaign became a widely spread hashtag as a result of Ronan Farrow’s investigative story on multiple sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Farrow’s story and others like it broadcasted allegations against individuals and its focus was still more directed toward single harassment cases rather than the existence of rape culture in society as a whole.

Not all journalism is aimed at championing injustices in society, but after over 200 allegations against Hollywood icons alone it is recognizable that this country has an issue with assault and how it is viewed. Assault is a societal issue and not a gossip story.

Sexual abuse in the workplace is a systemic issue; it doesn’t just occur in Hollywood. In fact, one in five adults in the U.S. say they have experienced sexual assault in the workplace.

Are articles regarding sexual assault allegations against specific famous individuals written because it sparks more human interest? Or do news outlets just not realize that sexual violence is an issue that has been part of our country before the Weinstein article was published, or even before Bill Cosby was accused?

Recently, Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused by three different women of sexual misconduct. Because these allegations can have a defining impact on whether or not the Senate will confirm him. Many, including the President, would rather defend the judge’s actions or deny the validity of the allegations.

Some of the allegations against Kavanaugh were from events that occurred in high school and college. People question if his actions from when he was 17 or 19 are relevant, but they blame the victim for their actions at a young age as well. There is an evident double-standard in how female victims are treated in assault cases compared to how men in power accused of assault are displayed.

https://twitter.com/CalebJHull/status/1045014346823274496

At 17 years old, someone shouldn’t question whether or not assault is okay. It doesn’t matter how long ago he committed the crime but the fact that the crime was committed. This is a testament not only to Kavanaugh’s character but also to the values of the society that he grew up in. Although Kavanaugh represents a single person’s decisions many years ago, they indicate societal values as a whole at the time of the assault.

Sexual assault is prevalent in every age and in every industry. The best way to change this is by evaluating its roots. This is more than a few bad people who have done some bad things; this is an issue ingrained in our society and we need to treat it as such.

Journalism has the power to change the way people view a specific situation, but if it only investigates individual cases rather than systemic ones it won’t be able to do so.

It’s 2018 and it’s time to stop using the “boys will be boys” narrative. Men are too often excused from their actions because they’re boys who are just “doing what boys do.” If people are not held accountable for their actions then the actions will continue. If our country doesn’t recognize that assault is too normalized of an issue it will only continue.

The focus on individual cases due to human interest rather than vital systemic issues is prevalent throughout journalism, especially in cases like police brutality. Journalism needs to base its stories on what they view as newsworthy not based on the public thinks is interesting. Writing has the power to open minds and improve the world which we live in. It is a waste to just use it to earn money in sensationalist ways.

 

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