Hashtag Solidarity

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Beth Gooding considers social media's reaction to the recent sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

On October the 5th the New York Times revealed numerous allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood producer. These allegations stretch over three decades and it was revealed that at least eight of them were paid off. Many women have begun to speak out about the harassment they experienced from Weinstein. Among those women are well-known actresses including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. The coverage of these allegations encouraged others in the industry to come forward including Jennifer Lawrence and Reese Witherspoon. Alyssa Milano, an actress, tweeted on October the 15th encouraging assault victims to use the hashtag #metoo to demonstrate how huge the problem of sexual assault is in 2017. She says “This was really about showing this happens everywhere. That it’s not just Hollywood. That it’s not just actresses. It’s women on Wall Street. It’s women in hospitals. It’s women walking down the street.”

The response to this tweet was astounding and sparked a hugely successful campaign which I believe had an incredibly positive impact in bringing the widespread issue of sexual assault to the forefront of many peoples minds. Social media has been flooded with women declaring ‘me too’ and telling their stories of sexual assault. In three days the hashtag had been used 825,000 times on Twitter and on Facebook there had been more than 12 million posts engaging with the ‘me too’ campaign.

When talking to my friends about this, some of them disagreed with the campaign, arguing that this was a personal thing and should not be broadcast so openly on social media. But why should women have to keep quiet about assault they have experienced?

In three days the hashtag had been used 825,000 times on Twitter and on Facebook there had been more than 12 million posts engaging with the ‘me too’ campaign.

It is 2017 and it appears that there still remains a stigma against speaking up about sexual assault. Women are still afraid of revealing they have been victims of a terrible crime because they believe they will be blamed for it. They are often told they must have been ‘asking for it’ even though they are blameless victims.

The social media campaign that sparked from the Weinstein case has allowed numerous women to finally feel able to come forward about abuse they have experienced. The huge number of victims joining the social media conversation displays how powerful this movement was. Members of the European Parliament have even joined in on the campaign, holding placards and arguing that attitudes and laws across Europe need to change to combat the problem of widespread sexual assault.

There is still a long way to go in order to end the stigma around talking about sexual abuse, but I believe the campaign was incredibly positive in allowing women to speak out and display how prominent this issue remains in our society today. The wide reach of social media campaigns means that the issue could not be ignored. Hopefully this is a step on the road to greater changes in the attitudes towards sexual assault. Something needs to change and the problem cannot be ignored forever.