By ZACHARY STRADER
The #MeToo is a campaign that has blanketed social media since mid-October. According to RiteTag, a popular Twitter analytics website, usage of the #MeToo tag began its dramatic rise on October 15, the day actress Alyssa Milano tweeted asking people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to reply with the tag. The following day RiteTag indexed 283,300 unique tweets utilizing the hashtag.
The hashtag has been used across multiple social media platforms and is often paired with personal stories of sexual assault. Public figures like Reese Witherspoon, Terry Crews and Senator Claire McCaskill have participated, even everyday users of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have posted in solidarity.
The traction of the campaign is better evidenced by the hashtag’s exposure numbers, an estimate of the total number of times tweets with the tag have been viewed. RiteTag reports that, from Oct. 15 through 18, tweets featuring #MeToo were viewed more than 18 billion times.
Derick Lyon, junior international affairs major, believes that, after having successfully, “shed light on something that’s widely avoided due to the difficulty of the subject,” the #MeToo movement needs to pivot to more traditional means of initiating cultural revision such as fundraising.
Atkins believes that we should be turning to more traditionally activist means as well. “If you want to seek change then you need to write your congressmen and other government officials. […] I want to see change because I know that this is something that can’t continue.”
Given the high-profile nature of Alyssa Milano’s social media accounts and the ongoing revelations revolving around Harvey Weinstein and the larger exposure of pervasive sexual harassment throughout Hollywood, it is easy to see why this campaign has been so popular.
#MeToo has not been the only effort that has encouraged members of a community to band together and expose just how widespread sexual harassment is. In fact, this is not even the first time victims of sexual assault have been asked to unite under the banner “Me too.”
“This campaign, #MeToo, has brought sexual harassment and sexual assault out of the shadows, showing our community that it can happen anywhere,” in the words of Oldfield. Now real efforts must be made to ensure that it doesn’t turn into “one of those movements that start off strong and then loses ground,” as Lyon suspects.
In 2006, a woman named Tarana Burke kickstarted a community movement she dubbed “Me Too,” which encouraged women to speak out in mass about their experiences. With a little help from Hollywood and a culture so often driven by social media trends, more than a decade after Burke coined the phrase, #MeToo is everywhere.
“I don’t think it’s effective,” said Emily Atkins, a junior psychology major. “A hashtag isn’t doing anything. People hashtag or post about gun control and we still have a problem.”
Atkins’ concerns are echoed by Tarana Burke in an interview published by the Washington Post. “What the viral campaign did is, it creates hope, it creates inspiration. People need hope and inspiration desperately but hope and inspiration are only sustained by work.”
Tiffany Oldfield, Title IX coordinator at UMW, works every day to spread awareness regarding sexual assault. She believes that “as a campus community, we must continue to create an environment where victims and survivors are aware of their options, including both university and law enforcement options, are supported by resources on and off campus, and empowered to speak out.”