#Metoo has brought together people who have experienced sexual abuse and harrasment. This is the story of the famous hashtag that began an ongoing conversation and movement all over the world.
By Molly Seaman
#MeToo Movement Combats Workplace Discrimination, Abuse
On October 15, 2017, #metoo took the internet by storm.
Alyssa Milano, American actress and producer, sparked the hashtag conversation shortly after sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein came to light.
In her tweet, she urged anyone who has been sexually harassed to respond to the tweet with their stories of abuse.
Floods of confessions poured in from men and women alike. Even celebrities including Lady Gaga, Debra Messing, Sheryl Crow and America Ferrera shared their stories of rape, harassment and sexual abuse.
By November, Twitter reported that over 1.7 million people had used the hashtag in over 85 countries, according to CBS.
The term “Me Too” was actually started in 2009 by civil rights activist Tarana Burke. Because of this, Burke was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” edition, which was dedicated to “The Silence Breakers,” for 2017.
The accusations against Weinstein opened up a broader conversation about sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace.
According to a poll by ABC News, 33 million women in the United States have been sexually harassed—and 14 million sexually abused—in work-related episodes.
95 percent of women surveyed, however, reported that the male perpetrators of the harassment and sexual abuse often go unpunished.
A person does not have to be working in Hollywood or on Capitol Hill to see the effects of harassment in the workplace first-hand.
After she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Nancy Prymak got a job as a field engineer in Houston. She was the only woman working with 1,200 men.
“I was very fearful,” Prymak said. “I used to travel with these guys all the time and some of them had shared with me that other women they knew had been sexually assaulted by team members that they worked with.”
“Some of the salesmen would physically touch me, would try to intimidate me. That was a really frightening experience for me,” Prymak said. “From that experience I just learned how to fight. I learned how to stand up for myself. I never tolerated it again.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
Examples of sexual harassment in the workplace include but are not limited to:
- A supervisor implies to an employee that the employee must sleep with them to keep a job
- Excessive touching, patting, hugging, or brushing against a person’s body
- Using sexist or demeaning terms to refer to a coworker
- Catcalling, whistling, gross gestures, sexual comments about one’s body or attire
- Any sexual signage or posters posted in the workplace
- Constant questioning about one’s sexual history or orientation
- Unwelcome and inappropriate letters, telephone calls, electronic mail etc.
The Society for Human Resource Management issued updated workplace policies on sexual harassment for businesses and organizations to incorporate into their own policies. They highlight that “sexual harassment is a form of unlawful employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” and may be prohibited under ones anti-harassment policy. SHRM stresses that companies should prohibit “harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment, and will take appropriate and immediate action in response to complaints or knowledge of violations of this policy.”
Until recently, awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace has been arguably low. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, some address it and some well…. don’t.
Two-thirds of men that participated in the survey agreed with the statement, “the amount of sexual harassment at work is greatly exaggerated,” while only one-third of the women partly or fully agreed.
“The #metoo movement is a step in the right direction,” Sophie Kandlar, award-winning transgender blog writer said.
“We’ve lost Senators. Congressmen. Stan Lee just got accused at 95 years old. People are beginning to listen to women. They are not just dismissing it,” Kandlar said.
By Molly Seaman