Three years ago, the #MeToo movement exposed an open secret: Survivors of sexual violence were living with shame, guilt, and fear over their assaults while their assailants faced no consequences for their actions. Powerful people, mostly men, were perpetrating abuses with impunity, trusting that the culture of silence around sexual violence would prevent survivors and witnesses alike from leveraging accusations that could bring them down. Survivor and activist Tarana Burke’s hashtag, #MeToo, gave a voice to those wanting to find community and speak out against their shared horror. Survivors worked together to build a movement for accountability. In the process, America faced a reckoning over its treatment of sexual assault survivors, most of whom are women and girls, and its willingness to look the other way and forgive the men who abused them. The #MeToo movement demanded we end sexual harassment and protect women from the vast personal and economic costs of harassment.
Since then, policymakers, grassroots activists, and women-centered organizations have lobbied for and instituted policies and changes to safeguard those who may be vulnerable to assault and aid survivors seeking justice. In total, an astounding 230 bills have been introduced in state legislatures to strengthen protections against workplace harassment and 19 states have enacted new protections. These changes have demonstrated a cultural shift toward accountability and safety in the workplace, which is critical for all employees.
However, the culture of victim blaming lingers. Megan Thee Stallion and Emily Ratajkowski recently followed the lead of high-profile women who, in the wake of #MeToo, spoke out against abuses in the entertainment industry and published articles about the consequences of devaluing women. In her New York Times op-ed, Megan Thee Stallion opened up about the hurt of being blamed for her own assault, and placed her experience in the context of America’s violent and hateful treatment of Black women. Ratajkowski too wrote about the multitude of ways in which she had been harmed by male entitlement over her image and body in a piece for the Cut.
It is clear that the movement is not over and there is still room for progress. #MeToo started as a demand for respect, autonomy, and safety at work and at home. This evergreen mission is more important now than ever. On the anniversary of #MeToo, let’s keep in mind and close to heart the stories of those who bravely put their reputations and careers on the line to defend our right to bodily autonomy.