In 2017, the largest sexual assault survivor movement of modern times went viral. Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement in 2006 to remind sexual assault survivors that they are not alone. Tthe fire didn’t spark until over a decade later (when the hashtag trended on social media).
Many were astounded at the extent of sexual assault. Thousands of women reposted the hashtag. They told stories of what they experienced. Those who didn’t have their own stories to tell were witness to how many of their friends and family were affected by sexual assault.
As more and more women shared their stories, some notable trends arose. For both men and women, more than 90% of rape perpetrators are men. Most often, the perpetrators are also people known to the victim. In industries with deeply influential power dynamics at play, such as that of music producers and record label owners in the music industry, with fans and hopeful artists, the need for a #MeToo reckoning was extensive.
#MeToo Movement Impact
There’s no doubt that social media is transformational, and the #MeToo movement is proof of that. The movement empowered victims of sexual assault to come out and tell their stories. This helped bring awareness to the prevalence of sexual assault. It also brought awareness to the lack of understanding of what consititutes sexual assault and harassment.
While many individuals believed that the absence of a “no” meant there was consent, the definition of consent is “communicating agreement to have sex,” which means there must be a very clear “yes” given by each party involved.
Understanding consent is a big step toward sexual assault awareness. However, people must also understand the factors and context surrounding consent, which includes power dynamics between the individuals involved. One environment where there is often a large power dynamic in play is the workplace.
Although it could be unintentional, a manager or other type of leader coming onto one of their employees could quickly be seen as sexually harassing that employee. They have the potential to take away their livelihood. This adds a lot of career and financial pressure.
However, this depends on a lot of the details surrounding the event. If a manager begins to treat an employee differently after their advances were rejected, there could be a basis for a sexual harassment case. However, if the manager simply doesn’t take “no” for an answer and continues pressuring the employee for a romantic or sexual relationship, this could easily be a case for sexual harassment in the workplace — a crime that could lead to a lawsuit, especially if the employee’s work suffers.
Effects in the Music Industry
The #MeToo movement had a huge impact on the film industry. The movement took down famous film producer Harvey Weinstein (as well as several big Hollywood movie stars and entertainers).
The impact in the music industry was a little less severe, taking longer to affect the music industry. Still, there were a few notable artists who faced more consequences than they’d ever had for their actions and influence on susceptible young fans and musicians.
Kelly, who had long faced accusations of child pornography, as well as statutory rape and sexual assault by dozens of women, was exposed by a 2019 documentary featuring several of his victims telling their stories. Although there had been reports of these actions in the past, the social climate was not sufficiently malleable to be changed by the reports, as it was even more difficult to prosecute individuals for sexual abuse — especially famous individuals who fans want to believe are innocent.
Over the last two years (since the #MeToo movement first came into the limelight) people have been more willing to listen and believe victims and their stories.
An organization called Time’s Up was formed at the beginning of 2018. This was an actionable response to the #MeToo movement. The movement aimed to take legal action against those who were accused of assault and abuse.
In May 2018, the Women of Color organization within Time’s Up called for a ban of R. Kelly’s music with a social media campaign called Mute R. Kelly. As a result, several streaming services stopped promoting and recommending R. Kelly’s music. In February 2019, Kelly was indicted on ten counts of criminal sexual assault.
Singer-songwriter and record producer Ryan Adams also faced consequences following the #MeToo movement. According to a New York Times report from February 2019, the famous alternative rock artist was accused by several women of offering his help in launching their music careers and then pursuing them sexually. When his advances were rejected, the artist became often retaliated, doing what was in his power to prevent them from having successful careers. Among his victims were his ex-wife Mandy Moore and Phoebe Bridgers.
The artist was also accused of sending sexually explicit messages to an underage fan — an accusation that the FBI soon after investigated. After this report, Adams’ scheduled album release and upcoming tour were both canceled, and all the tickets were refunded.
The #MeToo movement helped shed light on the extent of sexual abuse that people so commonly face. It raised awareness about consent and power dynamics that can quickly be abused. As more major stars and artists faced consequences after accusations of sexual assault, victims sent another message: No matter how powerful you are in the entertainment industry, the voices of victims standing together are more powerful.
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