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The #MeToo movement and its impact in the United States

 

The #metoo movement swept the nation by storm in 2017, culminating in the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of men throughout Hollywood and the United States.  This article explores the positive and negative effects of the movement throughout its progression.

We’ll begin by defining the movement and giving a brief overview of its history.  Then we’ll move on to the effects, both positive and negative, of the movement, along with common criticisms.  Finally, we’ll finish with some real-world changes that have come from the #metoo movement and discuss what may happen as a result of it in the future.

A brief history of the #metoo movement

Few movements have garnered as much attention as that of #metoo.  Several years ago, this movement brought the issue of sexual harassment and assault to the national stage and showed just how prevalent and severe they really are.  But since then, how has it affected the United States, and where is it going from here?

In 2006, civil rights activist Tarana Burke created the movement.  Burke is based in The Bronx, New York and began using the term to emphasize and raise awareness of the pervasiveness and sexual abuse and sexual assault in society.

Me too didn’t blow up until 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano used the term in a Twitter post, requesting that individuals reply to her tweet with “me too” if they’d also been sexually harassed or assaulted.  Thousands of women replied, including numerous other celebrities.  Everything eventually spread from there, including millions of people around the world stepping forward to discuss their own experiences.

Eventually, the movement resulted in accusations lodged against everyone from Harvey Weinstein, to Brett Kavanaugh, to the President of the United States, Donald Trump.  Kavanaugh eventually made his was to the Supreme Court of the United States.  Donald Trump wasn’t impacted.  And Harvey Weinstein was prosecuted for numerous sexual assault charges.  But the movement didn’t just involve women.  Kevin Spacey faced allegations from another man based upon allegedly inappropriate conduct years prior.

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Effects of the #MeToo Movement

Certainly the me too movement had many positive and negative impacts on the United States.  Certainly reasonable minds disagree on the movement.  Here are a few perspectives:

#MeToo backlash

The #MeToo movement had some unintended consequences. One survey found that both men and women are more afraid to hire attractive women and are more likely to exclude them from social interactions due to greater fear of accusations. 

Interestingly, numbers only grew with time.  This survey was originally conducted in 2017 and found that around 10% of men and women were reluctant to hire an attractive women.  By 2019, the numbers surprisingly grew.  Over 19% of men indicated they were reluctant to hire attractive women. 21% indicated they were reluctant to hire any woman for a position that required close interaction with men.  And finally, 27% indicated they avoided one-on-one meetings with female colleagues.

Obviously this indicates negative impacts on women in the workplace and places unnecessary blame on men for things they may not have done.  

#MeToo movement criticisms

Men and women alike have had critical views of the #MeToo movement.  There are a few common criticisms of the movement, including:

  • There is an increased number of sexual assault allegations, including false allegations.
  • The movement did not adequately represent women in certain minority and social circles.
  • There was no defined purpose or goal of the movement.

False accusations are one of the many reasons that an individual should retain a criminal defense attorney.  An increase in accusations, both false and true, leads to a need for more people to legally defend against allegations of sexual assault.  Criminal defense attorneys certainly understand that a simple accusation isn’t enough to sustain a conviction against an individual.  Important concepts like due process absolutely apply.  And finally, those concepts apply no matter the social movement or cause.  A good criminal defense attorney recognizes that an allegation isn’t enough.

Along with allegations, the concern about the potential for allegations has led to a chilling effect in certain relationships.  Certainly some individuals are concerned about the potential of being charged with sexual assault or harassment just because someone else indicated they did.

Has #MeToo made a difference?

#MeToo has made a huge difference for many people in both ideological and tangible ways. It has caused some states to ban nondisclosure agreements that are intended to cover up sexual harassment and create more legal protections for more workers. Further, it’s difficult to measure or quantify some of its social impacts, such as making women feel more comfortable coming forward with their experiences or making more people feel safer from harassment in the workplace.

The Future of #MeToo

It’s hard to know what, exactly, the future holds for the #MeToo Movement. Some of the biggest alleged perpetrators, like Harvey Weinstein, will be going to trial.  Others, like Bill Cosby, have already faced legal consequences for their actions. One thing is clear, however: the #MeToo Movement has changed the way many Americans view sexual harassment and assault and will likely continue to impact our attitudes on these serious issues.

A woman holds a #metoo sign
The #metoo movement garnered national attention, culminating in the societal changes and the arrests of numerous high-profile men throughout the United States.

Should you involve a criminal defense attorney in your situation?

If you’re accused of sexual assault or harassment, certainly it’s important to hire a criminal defense attorney.  That extends to general domestic violence charges, where a simple verbal argument can be considered domestic violence.

If you have any questions about sexual assault charges, sexual harassment, or are seeking any kind of criminal defense representation, contact Meyer Van Severen immediately.  Our criminal defense attorneys regularly fight on behalf of individuals accused of sex crimes.