Monday, November 11, 2019
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#MeToo doesn’t have to be a political movement

The hashtag #MeToo broke the internet about three weeks ago, giving a voice to women and girls who had been harassed and assaulted by men and holding those men, at least online, accountable for their actions.

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Margaret Renkl, an op-ed contributor for the New York Times, said this about the rise of the #MeToo hashtag:

It started on October 5, when The New York Times first broke the story of accusations of sexual harassment against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, but it became a juggernaut 10 days later, when the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Within minutes the hashtag #MeToo was all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—over 500,000 times on Twitter and 12 million times on Facebook in the first 24 hours alone—and the deluge shows no sign of slowing. The numbers keep ticking up as women tell the stories of men who used their power to overwhelm or coerce them.

The type of sexual harassment #MeToo is about has touched high schools in important and cutting ways, as high school girls are increasingly enrolling in internship programs that often put them under the direct supervision of more powerful men.

Taylor Harmon, a staff writer for the student newspaper at Bloomington High School South, near the campus of Indiana University, credits the hashtag with creating a spark to start a “social revolution.”

“Rape culture has become a political and divisive issue,” she quotes one junior girl as saying in The Optimist. “This should not be the case. You do not have to align with a certain political party to support victims and work to end harassment. You just have to be a decent human being. There aren’t two acceptable sides to this issue.”

Taylor adds that one unnamed senior at the school was “astonished” at how many friends had been affected by a culture that gives a pass to men abusing women, as long as those men are more powerful. Parents may focus on what their daughters can gain from a fruitful internship, not on the frame of mind girls going out on their own have to maintain just to stay safe.

Let’s hope the hashtag has launched a social revolution. For additional coverage of this subject from Voxitatis, please see our editorial here. If you would like an opinion piece you wrote about this subject to be published on these pages, please see our instructions here.

But in Illinois, it is also a political movement

A bill dealing with training, policy, and prohibition of sexual harassment is up for consideration in the General Assembly in Springfield. GOP Minority Leader Jim Durkin’s amendment to add a sexual harassment hotline has been added to the bill.

“As disturbing reports of sexual harassment in state government have come to light, we must ensure that we are doing everything in our capacities to end this behavior for all Illinois residents,” the Chicago Tribune quoted Mr Durkin as saying in a statement. “By making it easier and safer for victims to report sexual harassment behavior through the hotline, we are empowering them to stand strong against their perpetrators.” The House is also expected to enact Barbara Flynn-Currie’s Sexual Harassment Task Force, HR 687.

In addition, state Representative Sara Feigenholtz’s Joint House Resolution HJR 83 urges those in government to commit to working to change the culture that breeds sexual harassment: “In this upcoming election cycle, we say #NOMORE and commit to challenging every elected official, every candidate, every staffer, and every participant in our democratic process who is culpable to do better,” Ms Feigenholtz said.

And Governor Bruce Rauner recently praised the General Assembly for appointing an inspector general to handle sexual harassment complaints within state government, “finally,” reported the Chicago Sun-Times. The Chicago Tribune, on the other hand, said the governor’s criticism of the two-year time frame for passage of this bill was only “mild.”

“The issue boiled over last week while Rauner was in Israel on a trade mission,” Kim Geiger, Monique Garcia, and John Byrne wrote for the Tribune. “Nearly two years ago, Governor Rauner established the state’s first Code of Personal Conduct, which mandated a sexual harassment-free workplace. State employees under the Rauner Administration also receive sexual harassment prevention training. If complaints do arise, there are clear procedures for independent review of those complaints.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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