Time’s Up, #MeToo movements shed light on national issues of sexual harassment, assault, continue to have impact into 2018
Many allegations have been filed against powerful men in the last few months, including film producer Harvey Weinstein, Team USA gymnastics sports physician Dr. Larry Nassar and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, leading to campaigns like the Hollywood-established “Time’s Up” organization and the viral #MeToo movement.
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation” in response to the resignations of White House staff secretary Rob Porter and speechwriter David Sorensen following accusations of domestic abuse.
Dr. Amy Cislo, senior lecturer of Women, Gender and Sexuality studies at Washington University, believes that—while Trump is correct in saying that false accusations of sexual harassment are potentially detrimental to one’s career—ultimately not reporting valid cases of sexual assault is more harmful to victims of sexual violence.
“That’s fine to point out that false accusations can ruin someone. But there needs to be some balance [where] not doing anything when somebody is reporting being domestically abused or sexually assaulted or harassed at the workplace is just as damaging,” Cislo said.
The #MeToo movement—which engaged a national conversation on issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault—began more than 10 years ago with activist Tarana Burke and gained nationwide recognition as the hashtag swept over social media in October 2017.
According to Cislo, #MeToo ties in with the history of the feminist movement as a whole.
“In terms of thinking about the long history of feminists trying to draw attention to sexual harassment in the workplace…it’s been a long process,” Cislo said. “There was a lot of attention on sexual harassment in the workplace in the 1990s—and then, it kind of fizzled out again.”
Cislo thinks that this decline in the movement was caused by women being burnt out, as many experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, but worried that if they reported it, they wouldn’t progress in their careers.
“It’s easier to just shut up and advance in the workplace,” Cislo said.
The Time’s Up movement made waves in Hollywood at this year’s Golden Globes when attendees, supporting the organization, wore all black to protest sexual assault in the entertainment industry. Cislo believes that Time’s Up made a positive impact on society as a whole, not only raising awareness of sexual assault in the entertainment industry, but the Time’s Up legal defense fund is available for actors who could not otherwise afford the legal support necessary to bring sexual assault claims to court.
“It’s gotten the message out better than I think people could using social media…A lot of times people might not do anything about [sexual harassment],” Cislo said. “Sometimes it’s fear of retaliation or fear of not being believed but also just having no resources to hire a legal team. So the fact that they’re kind of putting together a framework to make it easier for people to move forward with those cases is a real step in the right direction, I think.”
Junior Natty Bernstein, community engagement chair of Leaders in Interpersonal Violence of Education (LIVE), agrees that the “Time’s Up” movement is sending a positive message; however, he thinks that dressing in black is different than actually taking action.
“I hope that the celebrities who participated were able to bring attention to people that haven’t been thinking about it as much,” Bernstein said. “But then at the same time, it’s really easy to wear black or to wear a pin saying ‘Time’s Up.’”
Cislo believes that the root of the problem with sexual harassment cases is people not fully understanding what the term “sexual abuse” really means. Although the University provides freshmen with teaching experiences such as “The Date,” Cislo thinks further steps should be taken to increase awareness and education surrounding the issue.
“It seems like it needs to be more than just a first-year encounter because people who are taking Intro to Women’s Gender and Sexuality—even [their] junior year—will say, ‘Oh, I didn’t really understand what the term sexual harassment meant,’” Cislo said. “So if people still aren’t understanding the term, it feels like we could do a better job having conversations about that…maybe just more opportunities for students to ask questions.”
According to Bernstein, the most important thing students can be doing to prevent sexual assault and spread awareness is to get trained either by LIVE or another interpersonal violence program.
“It’s really important, as we critically evaluate the community, that we be an advocate for people whose voices sometimes have not been [heard] in the community,” Bernstein said.
Another issue that has arisen with #MeToo is the question of where men belong within the movement. Many men have also come forward with sexual assault cases but feel that their voices aren’t as loud as those of the women.
“I think it’s really difficult because so much of #MeToo is also related to the sexism,” Bernstein said. “For male survivors, that can be a really difficult thing because it’s really centered around women.”
According to Cislo, men in the workplace are becoming less interactive with females for fear that they will be accused of sexual harassment. She believes the only way that the movement can continue is if all contribute.
“I think the key would be to include men, because I think in some of the workplace environments, men are getting so afraid that they’re beginning to interact less with women for fear of being accused of something,” Cislo said. “I feel like, with any major issue, we are not going to make progress if only half of the population is concerned with it.”
According to Cislo, the #MeToo movement is just the beginning of changing societal views on sexual assault. She believes that the work is not done just because one man has been put behind bars.
“In terms of how are we going to change this? We’re still in the middle of it, I would say,” Cislo said. “If nothing happens beyond this one physician [Nassar] being incarcerated for life, I don’t know if we will see significant change. We have to recognize systemic structures that lead to silencing.”
Cislo believes that society has made progress since the first wave of the movement in the early 1990s.
“I think we have made progress from 1992,” Cislo said. “Considering where we were and where the public discussion was…it seems like people are taking women more seriously when these things are brought forward.”