I have never seen a social cause as organic as the #MeToo movement.
It is as if the whole community of women — around the world — has risen up in self-awareness to say to men, “Enough! Enough of treating me as an object, as a person less powerful than you, as a person less worthy than you.” In the workplace and in the home space, for many generations, men had weaponized sex. Now women were weaponizing outrage.
The rage — and the courage — comes from a place of shared experience.
During the 1970s, singer Helen Reddy spoke for a generation when she belted out, “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar!” Fresh from universities, we marched out to conquer the culture — a wave of Baby Boomers eager to barge into the workplace, forge careers, raise enlightened children, change the world. We were women’s libbers, advancing with copies of Ms Magazine in our backpacks and the sounds of “Hear Me Roar” in our ears.
When, fifty years later, Millennials,erupted in an outburst against the sexist misogyny that had shadowed earlier generations, their roar was finally heard. Abetted by a digital age, voices once shielded from international view now bubble to the top, demanding an audience. Rare and wonderful, it is a moment — however painful the disclosures— to be honored.
The megaphone may be louder today, but the message has history. This is not the first time women have risen up for their rights, and #MeToo puts me in touch with other moments of shared proclamation — especially the fight to win the vote in this country, as recounted in my recent book. When female speakers such as Lucy Stone began demanding the right to vote in the 1840s, men threw rotten fruit at them, so angered were they at the audacity of women speaking in public. And when women picketed Woodrow Wilson’s White House 1917, to win the vote, they were arrested. The official charge was obstructing the sidewalk — but the real cause was Wilson’s outrage that his policies were being challenged by unruly women.
We have been fighting for a long time. Always in the past there was dissension within the ranks — some women in the antebellum era agreed that women should avoid public speeches, and some during World War I thought it was unpatriotic to demand rights for women when men were sacrificing their lives abroad in war.
And perhaps there is now too. Concern about charges thrown too casually, about a failure to distinguish between flirting — however unwelcome — and sexual assault. President Trump, bemoaning the fate of just-departed White House aide Rob Porter, weighed in on the issue today, lashing out at the lack of due process, adding fuel to the fire.
Still, the #MeToo movement against sexual crimes has united us all, across generations, genders and races.
It rose up from the grassroots, created by Tarana Burke ten years ago, “from survivor to survivor, to let folks know that they were not alone.” This moment that sparked a movement was meant to reassure survivors of sexual assault in underprivileged communities. Now that instinct belongs to all of us.
After so many fights for rights, what a joy to see the collective anger unleashed.