The brilliant — yet infuriating — duality of internet sensationalism is that it gives everyone the chance to have an opinion about everything. I’d argue that it’s partly justified — we pride ourselves in having a right to freedom of speech and access to uncensored information. But the counterargument stems from the fact that people give themselves the right to be blatantly rude, intentionally ignorant and proudly prejudiced, hiding behind their mask of perceived online anonymity.
I bring this up in the context of the recently resurfaced #MeToo movement, a 2007-born movement originally created by activist Tarana Burke as a nonprofit organization for victims of sexual harassment and assault. Despite the obvious lack of intersectional support in the current phase of this social media wave, #MeToo has allowed thousands of victims to come forward about their personal experiences to try and show the world the magnitude of the problem.
Here’s where the duality hits. On the surface, #MeToo is an earnest and effective social movement motivating women to speak out about harassment and abuse. It encouraged the public to scrutinize the systemic sexism within our culture, question the authority, privilege and prominence of renowned social figures and cultivate a sense of solidarity.
Some people argue, however, that #MeToo is too perfect of a hashtag, harnessing social media’s mechanisms to drive users into escalating states of outrage. Outrage, unfortunately, is vital to the design of most social media platforms; it’s an emotion that inspires sharing, an increase in engagement and direct revenue to the companies managing these websites and apps.
This underlying sentiment has spurred many people to comment on the idea that #MeToo is actually anti-feminist, in that it is driven by a so-called hatred of men and is a danger to sexual freedom, encouraging offenders to provide defenses, giving them news coverage to question their intentions and taking the focus off of the women who’ve been hurt. Media spotlight that follows the faces of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and President Donald Trump continuously gives significantly less time to the women who are trying to spread the actual message.
Even bad publicity is publicity — the action in itself, the ability to spread the word is the real intention in the end. Thus, when people challenge the integrity of #MeToo, I question the validity of their argument. To me, the point is clear: Women are angry about the lack of attention paid to an increasingly prevalent issue in workplaces, personal environments and public spaces.
The media is a fickle friend — it’ll follow the men and wrongly romanticize the role a “victim” plays, but nevertheless, harassment and violence are now two of the most talked about issues. Consent and respect are widely addressed, recognized and sought for.
In the wake of the recent Women’s Marches this past Saturday, morale is wonderfully high. Feminists everywhere are riding a wave of empowerment, ready to start 2018 headstrong — unapologetically loud, proud and ready to fight. #MeToo played an incredible part in igniting this year’s activism, and I hope that it continues to incentivize the war against the normalized standards for sexism within our culture. I hope every woman continues to fight and has an equally smart partner, mother, father, child and neighbor changing the world for a more kind, respectful and honorable future generation.
And I hope that if anything, women know that they’re not alone. This is a fight, there is an army and you bet we’re ready to end this mess in the way women know best — through integrity, strength and glorious, true power.
Hannah Gulko is a sophomore majoring in human development.