#Metoo: An analysis on the media’s role in the fight against sexual harassment

On October 5th of 2017, two investigative journalists from the New York Times published an article entitled “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades”, arguably one of the newspaper’s most impacting pieces of all time.

In the news story, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey interviewed numerous women, among them, Hollywood actresses who accused the film mogul of several sexual harassment charges. Days later, the New Yorker released a piece with allegations from 13 more women, including three accusations of rape. The articles sparked worldwide commotion and, more importantly, lead to Harvey Weinstein’s firing from his own company.

Additionally, one of the most fascinating effects of the story going public was the expansion of the movement called “#MeToo”.

#Metoo was founded in 2006, by Tarana Burke and gained force last year on social media soon after the allegations came out, and especially when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” The movement showed solidarity to the victims and exposed the magnitude of the problem. Only days after it was tweeted, more than 200.000 people shared their assault stories, mainly women exposing sexual abuse in the workplace.

People were willingly revealing situations in which they were abused, which is impressive given the fact that it refers to a delicate subject, and difficult one to talk about. To make matters clear, women have for a long time exposed abuse and been subject to ridicule, disbelief and violence. This is especially significant in cases where the harasser was either a family member or in a position of power in the workplace.

The question is: Why now? Why have thousands of people suddenly felt compelled to share their story?

First of all, it is important to take into account that famous women had an avid participation in the dissemination of #Metoo, which lead to an instant visibility to the cause. Also, at the time of #Metoo’s escalation, the Weinstein assault charges were all over the media and gathered public attention, especially from righteously infuriated women who related to the victims.

Furthermore, the words “Me too” send a message of unity and solidarity, and it is a way of saying “you are not alone, it also happened to me”. So, although started by famous women, the movement really gained power when people from all around the world joined the cause.

Since last year, men and women have been courageously using the media as a platform to highlight an issue that seems even bigger than already imagined #Metoo became a movement, especially because it proved itself to be an efficient weapon to denounce harassers.

Notably, The New York Times and the New Yorker did an incredible job reporting the charges. Their investigation was thorough and extensive, and it is extremely important that journalists continue shedding light on issues of this kind with reliability.

As a journalist, it is my belief that the media has the power to influence social discussions and has given a voice to those in need over the years. Remarkably, in this case, it also lead to the dissemination encouraging movement that shows no signs of slowing down. If used responsibly, these platforms can help us achieve big changes in the fight against sexual harassment.

Last but not least, this article applauds all of the victims who bravely told their story.

 

Note from the author: At the time I was finishing writing this article, the NY Times published a feature on technology called “Welcome to the post-text future” which includes a story on the power of social media and how it gave women a voice. Although similar, the story focuses solely on social networks and can be found here: https://goo.gl/wfimCA
Pictured: Tarana Burke (credits: Getty)

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