The problem with #MeToo
In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein allegations, a new Twitter hashtag has taken off. Are you surprised? They often do with such events. Typing #MeToo into the search bar will show you thousands of stories of people being harassed.
And in a few weeks, the hashtag will stop trending. But away from the oh-so-empowering world of the internet, harassment won’t stop. Simple.
Sexual harassment is something that needs to be in the public conversation. Daily. Not just when a celebrity admits it happened to them, so it magically makes it ‘unacceptable’ and ‘okay’ to talk about it.
How long will this current conversation last? The public has the attention span of a goldfish. The internet and new technology make everything so instant, so it’s easy nowadays to simply forget one shocking incident and move onto the next.
The celebrities that have been victims are of course brave, and it is wonderful that they are sharing their messages. But they are also very lucky they have multiple media outlets who investigated the harassment and brought it into the light of the public. The media only did that because it was a celebrity perpetrator, not necessarily to help them.
If they were actually doing it to raise awareness of sexual harassment, they’d be offering support. Links to websites, numbers to helplines, petitions for change. I haven’t seen one article that has actually done that. Which is a shame, as this would be an amazing opportunity to do so.
Which brings me to the hashtag #MeToo. Again, it’s great that women feel they have a platform to talk about their experience. Talking about it doesn’t take away those emotional scars. Talking about it doesn’t bring them to justice. Talking about it doesn’t stop it happening again.
I talk with such cynicism because I have been sexually harassed. I was harassed at work and ended up leaving my job because of it. As a seventeen-year-old girl with inexperience in this situation, I was terrified. I tried to laugh it off, but ultimately I became too anxious to go to that workplace. It has even today made me conscious of the way I conduct myself, for fear of being seen as a ‘slag’ or an ‘easy target’.
Before I left my job, I did file a sexual harassment report. I originally wasn’t going to – I didn’t want to be classed as a liar or alienate my colleagues. But working at a pub where lots of young girls worked, I realised that I didn’t want them to go through the same thing as me. And me having the bravery to do this allowed two more of my colleagues to step forward, and the perpetrator was escorted off the premises.
Happy endings, unfortunately, are rare in sexual harassment situations. I came back to this job a few months later and found out that the person wasn’t even interviewed. He just resigned. There was no punishment. The company didn’t go after him, even though he sexually harassed a minor. This was so disappointing for me to hear, and whilst I was glad he wasn’t hurting anyone at my pub anymore, he most likely carried on doing it somewhere else.
I know this because of this bonus fact: he already had sexual harassment in the workplace on his criminal record before he did it to me.
This issue isn’t going to go away with a hashtag. People don’t learn their lesson, and they aren’t scared of repercussions for their actions because they know there aren’t very many. We need stronger regulations in the workplace, for the law to take it as seriously as any other case. For the people on top of the hierarchy to not take it as ‘oh she’s just exaggerating at a bit of flirting’. #MeToo need to be an action, not a word.
The discussion for sexual harassment shouldn’t stop just because Twitter says it’s not trending anymore.
Sexual Harassment helplines:
Helpline England: 0845 604 6610
Helpline Scotland: 0845 604 5510
Helpline Wales: 0845 604 8810
If you have been sexually harassed or are being sexually harassed, the Citizens Advice Bureau offers these tips:
Tell your manager – put it in writing and keep a copy of the letter or email
Talk to your HR team or trade union – they’ll be able to give you advice
Collect evidence – keep a diary recording all of the times you’ve been harassed
If you’d like to have a chat about it, you can send me a message via my contact form