The widespread sexual misconduct towards women, and the tendency of many accusations to fall on deaf ears took on a new, torrential form with the #MeToo movement, popularized by American actress Alyssa Milano via Twitter in October of 2017. The #MeToo movement brought to public awareness the prevalence of sexual misconduct, harassment, and even rape carried out by people in powerful positions towards vulnerable, often helpless women the past few decades. By the hundreds, sexually abused women everywhere came forward and started a movement that prompted other hitherto silent victims to follow suit and pinpoint their abusers. Nowhere is the effect of the #MeToo movement more evident than in Hollywood, where a storm of allegations had since emerged against high-profile men, with the case of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein being the landmark one, culminating in a public scandal and in his dismissal from his own company. While the #MeToo movement has certainly empowered women not only in Hollywood but across the globe, appropriate collaborative action must be consistently undertaken to ensure no recurrences, and ideally, it should remain a movement and not simply a moment, to eliminate the suppression of women on a worldwide scale.
The brainchild of African American civil rights activist and sexual abuse victim Tarana Burke in the hope of rescuing sexual abuse victims, with a special focus on those belonging to minority groups, it took eleven years before the phrase “Me Too” morphed into the more powerful Twitter-driven #MeToo movement. It took several allegations in Hollywood for it to gain serious steam. Unsurprisingly, the #MeToo movement is still sometimes unfairly perceived as the revolution that shot down sexually misbehaving Hollywood bigwigs, controverting its primary aim – putting an end to sexual abuse of women everywhere.
While it is definitely not late for the #MeToo movement to serve its real purpose, the Hollywood movement spurred a fundamental progress in women’s rights, even in places where subjugation of women had been the norm. The story of Pakistani law student Khadja Siddiqi, who was viciously stabbed by a male classmate in 2016 after repelling his advances, was put on spotlight after the attacker was acquitted. After a surge in both local and global support for Siddiqi’s quest for justice, the court sentenced the attacker to seven years in prison for attempted murder. Truly, one may reasonably argue that the penalty meted out to Siddiqi’s attacker is paltry. But it must be understood that it still constitutes a dramatic shift in power in an ultra-religious, patriarchal nation, sending profound tremors to its social and political landscape. The future of women in Pakistan has been given new hope.
The aim of the #MeToo movement is to eradicate all sexual abuse, suppression of any kind, to call forth accountability, and to force men to re-evaluate behaviour towards women. Farther east, the Philippines has consistently ranked as one of the more gender-equal countries in the world, having had two female heads of state, with many more currently holding prominent government posts. Still, in this nation whose qualities seem to be a mix of its matriarchal tendencies and patriarchal spurts, victim-blaming and shaming are still common behaviour, even amongst women themselves. The recent increase in feminist movements looks auspicious and exhibits courage, the likes of which even President Rodrigo Duterte was not spared of. The hashtag #BabaeAko, which can be literally translated to #IamAWoman, was launched in 2018 as response and call for President Duterte to hold himself accountable for sexist, misogynistic remarks and behaviour he has unrepentantly repeated since his term began. Victims of sexual abuse are also mustering the bravery to post their experiences of sexual assault or misconduct on social media platforms, in an effort to make other victims come forward and speak out. While they often draw the ire of Filipinos who possess outdated views on sexuality and feminism, the cause persists. The past two years have witnessed monumental progress; in capital Manila and neighbouring Quezon City, legislation has outlawed catcalling and other sorts of street harassment. A nationwide bill is in the works.
In Egypt, the CCTV video of young woman named Rania Fahmy fearlessly fending off her attacker reached viral status in 2018, prompting her to file charges with the video serving as evidence. Her action resulted a new legal precedent for women in Egypt and in a 3-year