Is #MeToo a viral buzz or a tipping point for social change?

by Thomson Reuters Foundation | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 7 March 2018 12:00 GMT

Protestors hold placards as they demonstrate during the March4Women event in central London, Britain, March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

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The #MeToo campaign has highlighted UN data that one in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence

LONDON, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From film sets, international aid agencies, parliaments to businesses, revelations of sex abuse scandals have sent shockwaves around the world, with women sharing their experiences through the #MeToo campaign.

In focus: International Women's Day

Sparked last year by accusations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo campaign has highlighted United Nations data that one in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence.

Ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, the Thomson Reuters Foundation asked women's rights experts whether the #MeToo movement is just a social media buzz or whether it will lead to lasting change for women.

JEMIMA OLCHAWSKI - Head of policy at Fawcett Society in Britain - "If it's going to be a tipping point, we need to make it the tipping point. Social media in and of itself won't create the kind of structural, cultural and social change that we need to end sexual harassment. By its nature, it's a movement and a platform and a space that allows some women the opportunity to speak up and that's really important. There are obviously limits to it. Not everyone is empowered to speak out, not everyone is able to tell their story publicly. It's always incumbent on us to watch out for the gaps - who's not part of this conversation? whose voice isn't being heard? - and find ways to tell those stories and engage those women as well." CHANDRA CHILDERS - Senior researcher at the Institute of Women's Policy Research in the United States - "The moment we are in will have some lasting changes - victims of harassment and assault now know that they are not alone and that their experiences are valid, while predators can no longer pretend their actions are 'boys being boys'. But even now, in the middle of the #MeToo movement, there are women and men who are experiencing harassment and assault. They are not famous and they don't have an audience to support them or lift them up, and they are not likely to receive anything like justice."

SHELBY QUAST - Director of Equality Now's U.S. office - "#MeToo has been integral to breaking the silence and raising understanding about the breadth, depth and general acceptance of the misogyny that permeates society. The fact that mainstream media is covering sexual assault, harassment and discrimination as worthwhile stories - on the front page instead of page 26 – is a clear and tangible shift. The isolation and silence of victims and survivors has been empowering to perpetrators who have been able to act with impunity. The experiences shared through #MeToo has shone a spotlight on just how pervasive this impunity has been."

SAMEERA KHAN - Campaigner and co-author of 'Why Loiter: Women and risk on Mumbai streets' - "The #MeToo campaign has the potential to become the tipping point for social change if we keep up the pressure - so many people speaking about it together make it a tidal wave. But I do not see much reaction from institutions. Whether you are working in the government or the private sector, the film industry or academic settings, they are not waking up enough to it. Individual people have woken up, not institutions. We need to push for institutional change." SANA GIMENES - Gender researcher at Universidade Candido Mendes in Brazil - "I think it can mark the beginning of a new mentality because the fact that famous people made this public has given it more visibility. Violence is being normalised and we have to denormalise it. It has nothing to do with persecuting men, demonising men, quite the contrary. It is to build relationships that may in fact be egalitarian and much more productive. It is impossible to speak of a gender revolution without the participation of men in this process. The feminist movement must rely on male participation and awareness of these issues."

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Additional reporting by Nita Bhalla in Nairobi, Sebastien Malo in New York, Roli Srivastava in Mumbai, Karla Mendes in Rio de Janeiro, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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