#MeToo: Social media hashtags and their impact

Photo by: Megan Holzwarth

During the last weeks of October, the Me Too campaign trended as social media users added the #MeToo hashtag to their posts to show solidarity and empathy for those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment.

The campaign surfaced when The New York Times published an article on Oct. 5 that recounted stories of American film producer Harvey Weinstein and years of sexual misconduct. Since then, 76 women have come forward, accusing Weinstein of various forms of sexual assault. These women, mostly actresses, include Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The #MeToo hashtag has allowed these celebrities and other women to speak up about what has happened to them. The hashtag has also been used to recount sexual assault experiences other than those related to Weinstein.

Screen capture: Alyssa Milano’s Twitter

The Me Too movement didn’t start with the Weinstein case. Activist Tarana Burke began the movement over 10 years ago. Burke started this movement to help women from low income communities who have been sexually assaulted or harassed.

“Burke founded Just Be Inc., ‘a youth organization focused on the health, well being and wholeness of young women of color,’ in 2006 and launched the ‘Me Too’ campaign,” according to a USA Today article. “Burke’s goal was to let women who have suffered sexual abuse, assault or exploitation know that they are not alone and to build an extended network of women who could empathize with survivors.”

Women are not only using the hashtag, but so are men. This is a way for men to stand up for women, with some sharing their own stories as victims of sexual assault. Some male celebrities who have used the hashtag include actors Jensen Ackles and Jim Beaver.

Screen capture: Jensen Ackles’ Twitter

Other than the #MeToo hashtag, the #IBelieveYou hashtag has also surfaced. This hashtag has allowed people to help stand up for survivors through a show of support and validation.

The #IBelieveYou campaign began two years ago by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, which aims to provide a voice for victims of sexual abuse.

“[The campaign] has now taken hold in campuses and communities across the province, reaching nearly 7 million people online,” according to the AASAS website. “Even better, we’re changing attitudes and behavior.”

The #NOMORE hashtag has also trended as of late. This campaign also focuses on voicing instances of sexual assault while aiming to end domestic violence.

“A project of NEO Philanthropy, NO MORE is dedicated to getting the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse out of the shadows and encouraging everyone — women and men, youth and adults, from all walks of life — to be part of the solution, ” according to the NO MORE website.

NO MORE was launched in 2013 and has since worked with advocacy groups, governmental agencies, universities and other corporations to put an end to domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Me Too campaign, as well as other movements against sexual assault, are for women to know they are not alone. Through these movements, women can let their voices be heard; they don’t have to be silent.