Skip to main content

Gender Movements: Time’s Up and #MeToo

Roisin Mitchell explores gender movements such as Time’s Up and #MeToo. Considering the role of social media upon the success of such movements.

BY Roisin Mitchell

Social media has an immense hold on many people’s everyday lives, whether they acknowledge it or not. With generations now growing up in the digital age and never knowing life without all this new technology, it is hard to avoid and not be part of the social media craze. According to statistics from the social media platform Twitter, the total number of monthly active users is 330 million (last updated 01/01/2018), with a tremendous, 500 million tweets being sent per day (last updated 24/01/2017). These statistics illuminate both the average user whose intention is to engage with the social aspect of this online phenonium or huge corporations using a social media platform for business opportunities.

A significant part of the globe can no longer seem to operate without social media use in some way. Even traditional media such as television is now relying on the voices found online to aid them in their profession. Through a simple click on a screen, a tweet, a status update or a video can be shared with a global audience and become viral in a matter of moments. Allowing anyone who wishes to interact and engage in an online conversation. Therefore, social media holds power to enable an important worldwide issue to be consistently discussed and debated by millions of users. However, there is not denying the complications of serious subject matters being delivered and disseminated through social media. Including the credibility of the source.

“conversations about feminism on Twitter had increased by 300% over the past three years”

A global issue which has been shared multiple times on social media throughout the years, is one that involves women’s rights and gender equality. The Guardian reported in 2015 that “conversations about feminism on Twitter had increased by 300% over the past three years”. These gender issues tend to fluctuate through social media. Therefore, it is doubtful that we have yet seen a real impact. However, this could be changing. Two important movements, which tackle the same subject matter have been gaining global exposure online. These are the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. Time’s Up and #MeToo began circulating various social media sites at the beginning of 2018. These movements are dedicated to raising awareness and tackling sexual harassment towards women. Time’s Up was founded on the 1st January, 2018 after what is referred to as the ‘Weinstein effect’ took place. The ‘Weinstein effect’ was a global trend which also took off on social media. It started out as many women in the film industry coming forward and alleging sexual misconduct against film producer, Harvey Weinstein. It resulted in more than a dozen women reporting that Weinstein had sexually assaulted them. The ‘Weinstein effect’ further encouraged more women to use social media to share their own experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace. Spreading awareness and highlighting that this type of behaviour does not happen only in Hollywood but is, in fact, a regular occurrence in various professions.

“when survivors speak up together in unison, the world has no choice but to listen”

The mission of Time’s Up is to create a change for women in the workplace. On their official website, they provide the statistics that “1 in 3 women ages 18 to 34 have been sexually harassed at work.” The movement #MeToo was first founded by Tarana Burke, an American civil rights activist who has been raising awareness and campaigning against sexual harassment, since 2006. Burke notes “when survivors speak up together in unison, the world has no choice but to listen”. This quote featured in a promotional video posted on Google’s official Twitter page in April 2018, advertising the launch of ‘Me Too Rising’ a website which visually shows all the places around the globe that #MeToo has been trending. Social media is the most convenient and effective way to ‘make the world listen’ because of its attachment to and power within everyday life. #MeToo reappeared online towards the end of 2017 (again in the wake of the Weinstein effect), with celebrity Alyssa Milano encouraging her millions of followers to merely tweet #MeToo if they had experienced sexual harassment or assault in some way. The trend went viral, and the original tweet gained more than 64,000 replies and 24,000 retweets. Since then, Time’s Up and #MeToo have spread across multiple different social media platforms, as well as expanding into the domains of the mainstream media.

The 2018 Golden Globes had an excellent effect on the movements. Famous females and males attended the prestigious event dressed all in black in support of the two campaigns. This notable award ceremony is televised and watched by an incredible amount of people. Therefore, many of the women took the opportunity during their speeches to discuss the issue of sexual harassment and gender inequality.  One of the most celebrated statements of the night came from Oprah Winfrey; Winfrey made direct references to both movements.  The speech received a standing ovation and immediately sparked #Oprah2020 to go viral on social media. Interestingly, Winfrey used her speech also to highlight how men can be subjected to sexual harassment. One of the main backlashes towards the Time’s Up and #MeToo campaigns was the exclusion of male-gendered abuse; therefore, making Oprah’s speech all the more prevalent.

As the movements have gained global publicity, it has also opened them up to subjection and criticism. There have been circumstances where the credibility of some sources has been questioned. The insinuation that some women are falsifying events for their gain has been widespread. To provide an example of this, after Time’s Up and #MeToo had begun to take over both digital and mainstream media, a surge of accusations against different male actors started to become a ‘trend’. Resulting in those male actor’s names being tarnished, affecting their career in some cases. A specific situation being that of ‘Gossip Girl’ actor Ed Westwick. The actor was dropped from the BBC drama ‘Ordeal by Innocence’, after accusations of sexual assault were put against him by two separate women through social media. The BBC could not risk the bad publicity affecting viewership of the drama, so, therefore, recast Westwick’s role. Westwick strongly denies the serious accusations, taking to Twitter to voice his opinion and prevail his innocence.

The question of legitimacy surrounding accusations has become a hindrance to the movements lifespan. If the public begins to have doubts about specific claims, the involvement in the movement will decline. Another actor to share his opinion on the social media accusations is Liam Neeson, despite not having an allegation made against him specifically. Neeson branded the current trend as a “a bit of a witch hunt” during an interview on ‘The Late Late Show’. Neeson reasons that some famous people are suddenly being accused and dropped from programmes over “childish stuff”, such as a touch of the knee or back of a female, admitting how he’s on the fence when it comes to believing an accusation made about Dustin Hoffman. Although, Neeson does acknowledge that there is a movement taking place that is healthy, and across all industries. The notion of what contributes to sexual harassment is also a vital part of the discussion conjured by Time’s Up and #MeToo.

“Social media is a tactic, tactics void of strategy don’t get us very far.”

Furthermore, a condemnation to be made surrounding activism through social media is that it only absolutely has an impact on social media. Despite the ability to raise global awareness on an issue, the struggle to create any real change is still prominent. Hayley Tsukayama, in her article, ‘It takes more than social media to make a social movement’, for The Washington Post touches on this point, explaining that “Social media is a tactic, tactics void of strategy don’t get us very far.”. Even though the article was reporting on a different issue, it is appropriate to the discussion around the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. As only by continuing the debate through various mediums, until someone in power listens and makes a change, these movements are effectively not able to meet their missions. Regardless, social media has shown its power around controversial topics. Through its capability of globalising the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. Granting the movement viral attention, which led to much needed recognition in mainstream media. The issues of these movements are still ongoing. However, the exposure of the magnitude of people its effected has evidently made an impact in many respects. Though presently the movements are still prevailing. Although it is not to be known whether a new day really is on the horizon, or if this viral trend will fade into the background like the others before it. Though social media will continue to grow in popularity with activists trying to create change through the medium, that is certain.