MeToo.jpg

The #MeToo hashtag was created to boost awareness of sexual assault and to allow women across the world to tell their stories.

After thinking of several options of posts to publish, Chloe Burns narrowed it down to one: “Dear Trump voters and supporters: Why was “grab them by the pussy” okay? #metoo,” she wrote.

Burns is a senior from Lawrence, and made that post on Facebook on Oct. 18 as her way of participating in the #MeToo campaign. The #MeToo campaign swept through social media this fall, highlighting the issue of sexual harassment and assault.

“I stand by what I said [but] at the same time it's not just Trump, and it's not just the voting for him. You know, it's everything in the culture,” she said.

Burns said she went that direction with her post, which referenced a quote from President Donald Trump in an Access Hollywood tape that surfaced prior to the 2016 presidential election, because that was, she felt, “the moment that people decided that they didn’t care enough about these issues.”

Her post, she said, was not meant to be argumentative, but rather a talking point.

“Trump is a really good kind of buzz word and kind of a good name to attach to it, but it's not just him,” Burns said. “And for every man that has been fired from a high position I think there are still men out there who haven't been. And it's not just the men in high positions, it's the men in every area of the workforce.”

She decided to participate in the campaign, she said, for the same reasons she usually uses social media “which is just to have said my part.” She has personally been affected by these issues, she said, but has not shared her personal narrative — and doesn’t feel like she has to.

“I feel like the campaign, it's great for women who do share their stories, but that shouldn't be a requirement for people to take it seriously,” Burns said.

Carly Newman, a sophomore from Holcomb, had her own experiences which led her to participate in the campaign on Twitter. She shared Alyssa Milano’s Tweet, she said, and added her own “#MeToo.” Since then, the post was deleted after her account was hacked and she deactivated it and created a new one, she said.

While the recent use of the #MeToo hashtag was sparked by Milano’s tweet, the #MeToo movement was started about 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke.

For Newman, this wasn’t the first time she had been vocal about her story on social media, as she said she has talked about it on Facebook before, but it was the first time she opened up about it on Twitter, she said.

“I feel like it was really kind of empowering to put that on Twitter, which is a very, you know, public forum [and] it’s a very public space,” she said. “So I really felt empowered.”

Newman’s post stemmed from an abusive high school relationship that has had a major impact on her life, she said.

She was raped at the age of 14 by her then-boyfriend in the back of a car in a Walmart parking lot, she recalled. At the time, she didn’t know it was rape. The relationship got more violent, she said, and recalled her boyfriend hitting her on multiple occasions.

Throughout the course of her sophomore year of high school, she became depressed and attempted to kill herself three times, she said.

After her counselor told her that the incident she experienced was rape, Newman said she wanted to learn more about the issue.

“I just really got interested in rape culture and why this was happening and what I could do to prevent it,” she said. ”But I was really closed off at that point. I wasn’t talking to other people.”

Within the past three years, Newman has been open about sharing her experiences, she said.

“I’ve met some amazing friends by sharing my story,” she said. “... And then there’s other friends [where] it's been the other way around, they needed someone, they needed someone to lean on and I was there, I offered.”

She remembers that when she was going through challenges in high school, she didn’t have someone who was there for her.

“I didn’t have anyone. And I think that that’s probably one of the biggest reasons that I, you know, fell into such a bad place,” she said. “... That support that I didn’t have that I wish I’d had — I want to be that person for someone else.”

Hyunjin Seo, an associate professor in the journalism school, has long-been interested in social movements. She has worked on a number of research projects surrounding the way social media impacts social change.

Seo said the impact of social media on social change is not due to a platform itself, but the way activists use a platform.

“It all depends on how we utilize social media. These are only tools and whether a campaign is successful or not, it depends on how we effectively use social media,” she said.

She said that the #MeToo campaign was powerful, and allowed a number of people to share their stories. The campaign, she said, also came with “important consequences.”

“You know from firing of big media personalities to also encouraging people to think more about the culture,” she said. “And I think that people want to see a culture shift in terms of, you know, workplace environment and sexual harassment and assault in general.”

Newman said she would encourage everyone to get involved in conversations surrounding these issues.

“You don’t have to like validate why you’re getting involved; you don’t have to validate why you’re doing what you’re doing,” she said.

People should keep their “foot in the door” during these conversations, she said.

“This discussion, it needs to not stop,” Newman said. “It needs to not fade away. It needs to stay in front and it needs to be one of the most important things that we talk about, especially on college campuses and even in high schools.”