#MeToo, more than a hashtag: a data based view on the current reality of the feminist phenomenon

What does it mean for young women, and how can we, as feminists, bring its real purpose back?Popularity of the #MeToo Movement from 2017–2018The #Metoo movement officially started in 2006 by social activist Tarana Burke as an active way to fight sexual abuse and to encourage women to speak up about sexual violence.

After almost a decade, in October 2017 actress Alyssa Milano created the hashtag #MeToo and asked to raise awareness by sharing stories through the social media Twitter.

The movement went viral.

In just 24 hours it was tweeted over half a million times, transforming the movement into a mass online conversation and opening up doors worldwide to fight against sexual harassment.

Months went by and the movement started to increase its interest in several countries worldwide.

In pink dots: Top regions interested in the #MeToo 2017–2018As the hashtag continued to spread virally, it raised attention especially in the workplace.

In the early months of 2018, news about Harvey Weinstein and allegations against prominent men dominated headlines across the world.

Harvey Weinstein was the first men in a long list of people in the entertainment business and executive industries to be accused or investigated within the #MeToo context.

More and more stories were revealed and the #MeToo resonated especially on Twitter as millions of women express themselves telling their experiences as victims of abuses and intimidation.

Words such as Brave, proud, encouraged and fair, were — and still are — the most used words throughout this online discussion.

For women worldwide the hashtag has been a medium for supportive matters, using it to show empathy for the victims and sharing their personal stories of sexual harassment.

A total of 63% of people use the hashtag mainly to express support to others, tell personal experiences and thank celebrities for their collaboration in the movement.

Until this time women have stood out and created a wave of support to each other, encouraging to create conversations around sexual issues.

The movement pushed women to be brave.

Sexual abuse started to be an open topic to search solutions, help victims of sexual violence to overcome past experiences, and assaulters to get justice.

The movement had served as a drive for the increase of people accused of heinous behaviour towards women.

According to CNN, since the movement took off in October 2017 the number of sexual harassment claims have remarkably increased, and New York law firms have noticed a 50% increased of lawsuits involving allegation of sexual harassment between October 2017 and October 2018.

Through scandals, allegations and open discussions, the conversations about the #MeToo intensified, and the interest in the movement increased —Click here for a full timeline of the most important #MeToo scandals—.

Once the movement got a huge push by Hollywood celebrities, it gained attraction in other countries, including France, Italy, Japan and India, too.

Considering how deep-rooted the problem of sexual harassment in India is and how extremely challenging it would be for women to speak up, it took time to gain momentum.

Victims of sexual harassment did not even see it as an option to share their story.

No one believed that #MeToo could have an actual impact in India, but our numbers say otherwise.

On September 25, 2018, almost a year after the movement went viral in the western world, the Bollywood actress Tanushree Datta decided to speak up against Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her in 2008.

Back then, the actress had raised her concerns but nobody took any action.

By making a public statement about the incident she tried to receive support from others but instead ended up being threatened.

After almost ten years she decided to raise the issue again in the context of the #MeToo.

Her report led thousands of women to speak out.

The reality of #MeToo was so powerful that it quickly found other vocal supporters and soon became a phenomenon when names of men in influential positions started surfacing.

Actors, producers, journalists.

Many stories about sexual harassment were exposed and the movement turned into big part of the feminist discourse in India.

Nowadays, the #MeToo hashtag has been used over 19 millions times worldwide (Pew Research Center, 2018).

Communities of people online have been created around it.

Between 59 to a total of 652 communities discuss the movement and topics related to it, and audiences from India constitute an extensive part of that discussion.

But the popularity and impact of the movement brought casualties from both sides, and a year later, the Me Too wave had resonated in ways no one expected looming anxiety about false accusations.

Textual analyses have shown that nowadays 38% percent of people in the online discussion about the Me Too movement share a negative sentiment towards it.

But what drove this increase in negative feelings?.As the number of sexual harassment situations grows, many prominent figures have claimed themselves victims of false accusations and blamed the social movement for ruining reputations.

A 44% of people negatively participating in the discussion are critical towards the #MeToo, mainly criticise its purpose and express feelings of offense on the part of men.

People started to consider that the #MeToo social media stories blurred the boundary between minor experiences and sexual harassment situations, trivialising serious sexual assault crimes and raising concern that it created a false impression of all men being sexually abusive.

Many people started questioning whether the campaign has created a moral panic.

And with this sentiment as the movement continuous, it started to be seen as a threat.

Many people started to avoid confrontation with women, and companies started to focus in create strategies to prevent false accusations against men.

But when looking at the statistics of total sexual harassment accusations, false reports of sexual assault count only for 2 to 10 percent (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018).

Real sexual assault cases take a bigger impact.

Nearly 1 in 5 women have reported experiencing sexual harassment at some point of their lives (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).

It is then important to remember that movements like the Me Too are necessary and could drive the change needed to make the world a safer place for all.

Today, the movement is in a controversial but crucial state in which actions need to be taken to return its main purpose and continue to be a source of support and a drive to stop sexual harassment.

The topic of sexual violence is complex, and the process of evidencing such violence to find justice is not an easy task.

However, all women should be encouraged to denunciate sexual abuses; without rushing into penalising; and we as a feminists should focus in preventing those actions by raising awareness and educating the future generation about consent and sexual health.

As Tarana Burke said herself: “We owe future generations nothing less than a world free of sexual violence, I believe we can build that world”.

It is not certain where the movement will go, but it is undoubtable that it has not ended nor women’s right to be equal.

We must acknowledge those that have come before us, and those who will come after, in service to this movement.

We must invite allies, women and men, to embrace a message of transparency, accountability, and inclusion.

 — Rachel Haas, 2018.

Data storytelling, Hogeschool Utrecht.

Paula Grieco 1727608; Ella Penzenstadler 1714389; Myriam Useni Ne Ngoy Ngabo 1729679; Shazril Adry Azmi 1712061; Lotte Kuperus: 1717956.

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