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#MeToo Campaign and Beyond: Combating Sexual Violence

Commentary by Jessica Schwartz |
November 29, 2017
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New York, NY - In the aftermath of multiple allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and rape against Hollywood executive and producer Harvey Weinstein, a social media hashtag campaign #MeToo emerged. The hashtag was created by African-American activist Tarana Burke ten years ago, and gained traction again amidst the Weinstein allegations. With this campaign, victims of sexual assault told their stories of sexual abuse and harassment to shed a light on the frequency of sexual violence in the U.S. and globally. French women created their own hashtag “#BalanceTonPorc” or “Expose Your Pig.” Since Weinstein, numerous other celebrities have been outed as sexual assailants and predators.

While the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc social media campaigns have brought attention to sexual violence, it is important to understand the roots of the problem, including that violence against women reinforces and intensifies the oppression that women face in this society. Men like Harvey Weinstein receive relatively lenient punishments due to their class status. Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was released from prison after a measly six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. President Donald Trump, who has had multiple accusations of sexual assault against him and openly admitted it through the infamous “Grab her by the p*ssy” quote, was still able to get elected. Meanwhile, prisons are filled disproportionately with Black and Latino men, and they are also more likely to be wrongfully convicted.

Some of the responses to the campaign have been troubling. The issue has also been deemed “unimportant” and a “distraction from the real issues.” There has been a tendency to view it only as a sectarian weapon and make excuses for liberals engaged in the same behaviors.

While sexual violence against celebrities is what’s getting media attention, it is an issue that directly affects working class and oppressed nationality people as well. It is important to remember those who are most affected by rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, and to combat it in our workplaces and our movements. It is the working-class women afraid to speak up for fear of losing their job. It is the migrant workers who face deportation if they try to speak to the authorities. It is Native American women have the highest numbers of rape and sexual assault of any nationality. It is the victims of prison rape, where the population is disproportionately black and Latinx. It is the people of oppressed nations who are sexually degraded at the hands of the U.S. war machine. It is LGTBQIA+ women and gender nonconforming who face higher rates of hate-motivated sexual assault. It most strongly affects people who do not have the financial needs to stand up to their attackers.

Turn a #hashtag into a movement to overthrow the system that enables predators and silences victims. Start a dialogue, but fight for tangible victories against sexual violence. Organize your union to combat sexual violence in your workplace. Demand protections for undocumented women who are sexually assaulted. We must continue to struggle against patriarchy and strikes blow against the capitalist system. Ultimately socialism will be the beginning of the end of women’s oppression, in the meantime we can fight to win all we can.