EDITORIAL: #MeToo entails positive societal change
Care must be taken to prevent demonization of entire groups
Like geological timescales, it is rarely the case that significant historical and societal changes are intelligible during the time they take place. But it seems as though it is no secret that we are presently riding the wake of a relatively new and consequential movement — #MeToo. The #MeToo movement was, at its foundation, that survivors of sexual assault and harassment, especially involving figures of power, know they are not alone in their struggles. By shedding light on this subject — one which was previously largely ignored — society may be able to take steps toward at least significantly lessening the prevalence of sexual assault in our culture today, but this requires us to tread carefully.
Thousands of women, and some men, took to social media like Twitter to take part in the movement, posting #MeToo if they had ever experienced sexual assault. Assuming the vast majority of such posts were true cases that most everyone would agree count as sexual assault or harassment, the sheer number of women feeling empowered by this simple gesture was incredible. But beyond that, it opened the eyes of many to the truth about the deep-seated culture of the enabling of sexual assault, which is embedded in our society today. If you are skeptical of the existence of this cultural flaw, simply ask a woman if she has ever been made to feel uncomfortable as a result of the sexual actions or advancements of a man. This is not to say that simply feeling uncomfortable amounts similarly to actual assault, but after enough times, creepy come-on’s and objectification can significantly alter people's perception of both the opposite sex and of the way they view themselves.
With regard to sexual assault in the legal sense, it is generally common for those who have been taken advantage of in this way to stay silent out of embarrassment, fear, confusion or a mix of each. Thankfully, #MeToo and movements like it have seemingly begun to shatter that silence which was itself, at least in a way, perpetuating the cycle of sexual assault in our society by letting abusers roam free. Now, though, it seems there may be a new wave of enlightenment rolling in with regard to this issue. Talking openly and publicly about these things and the shame that comes along with them on the perpetrator’s end will hopefully work as an effective deterrent. Those who would have previously committed such acts may think twice now that they know the repercussions — being shunned by society. Of course, ideally all people would have the wherewithal to know that using a position of power, or any other coercion tactic, for sexual reward should never be carried out — but that is a hope for the future. At this time, we are forced to settle with the deterrence factor.
Careful treading is required of supporters of this movement, though. The demonization of men in general is clearly contrary to the goal here and will only result in further societal disharmony. For this movement to work, men need to be on board, not pushed away. Families need to be educating their children of these matters for the benefit of future generations. Clear communication between individuals with regard to sexual will is a must, and a person should never act on their sexual will based on assumed mutual feelings — express consent, not tacit consent, becoming more common will play an important role in this movement. But like free speech, there are appropriate times, places and manners to conduct oneself sexually. The concept is rather simple — think before you act.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.