In 2006, a sexual abuse survivor named Tarana Burke launched a grassroots movement to help give other survivors a voice and a sense of community, as well as to raise awareness to prevent future incidents of sexual violence. To create a sense of solidarity, she aptly named her initiative the “Me Too” movement.
Eleven years later, the #MeToo movement was suddenly thrust into the international conversation when the New York Times published an article alleging a longtime pattern of sexual abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. As the #MeToo hashtag went viral across social media, millions of victimized women found a fresh sense of empowerment, and millions of the rest of us were dismayed to discover just how many of our sisters, wives, and friends had quietly endured various forms of sexual harassment and abuse over the years.
As more allegations came to light and more high-profile public figures went down in disgrace (over 200 by the last count), it became clear that this movement would spearhead a cultural shift—not just regarding incidents of overt sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace and otherwise, but also redefining what was considered appropriate behavior and conversation, particularly in the workplace. While many celebrated the shift as ushering in a long-overdue era of female empowerment, others were left in a state of confusion as seemingly innocent flirtations and the occasional off-color joke, once assumed to be harmless, were now looked upon as offensive. Many began second-guessing their every interaction with the opposite sex and grappling to figure out what was acceptable in the “new normal.” Still others feared the movement might swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, endangering the careers of innocent individuals on the power of unsubstantiated testimonies and creating the assumption of guilt until innocence was proven.