Personal and political: reflections after the #MeToo movement

Illustrated by Emma Stessman

With two words and a hashtag, an outpour of solidarity for sexual abuse survivors has flooded the feeds of social media users.

In light of this movement and stories about sexual harassment, dating has taken on a new connotation for some people across the nation.

A research survey conducted by MTV in December found that 55 percent of respondents between the ages of 18-25 said that the #MeToo movement has encouraged them to have conversations about sexual harassment. 40 percent of young men said that the movement has changed the way they interact in potential romantic relationships.

“Maybe this movement will really awaken people to realize that this is not an anomalous, random thing, but it is extremely pervasive,” said CK Magliola, director of the women’s studies minor at Chapman. “What we need is cultural change and to hold people immediately accountable. Hopefully this will be a key moment, a key turning point.”

Madison Magurksy, a freshman piano performance major, said that she and her boyfriend have no problem discussing issues of respect and consent, others have struggled to approach the topic with their significant others.

“I used to try and talk to my ex about sex scandals and I felt like he would brush it off,” said Rachael Kelly, a freshman theatre performance major. “I think some people get uncomfortable and then make jokes to avoid talking about it, but in dating, you need to be hypervigilant.”

While some Chapman students have not had specific conversations about the #MeToo movement with their partners, the movement has helped others foster broader cultural conversations about consent and gender inequality.

“For women to come forward, they need to feel comfortable,” said Karen Cruz, a junior English literature major. “Society needs to be more understanding and realize that, just because you’re wearing something, does not mean you are inviting someone to harass you.”

Sophie Lee, a junior English and German double major, believes that dating politics seem to be changing in light of the open and honest dialogue, but there is still more work to be done.

“It goes to show how deep victim-blaming exists in our culture. We internalize sexism to the point where suddenly, our gender becomes a problem or something that is our responsibility,” Lee said.

“Maybe this movement will really awaken people to realize that this is not an anomalous, random thing, but it is extremely pervasive. What we need is cultural change and to hold people immediately accountable. Hopefully this will be a key moment, a key turning point.” 

Some men believe the #MeToo movement has helped foster conversations about respect on campus.

“I’m in Greek life and I know we’ve made a point to talk about girls, and be conscious of our actions,” said Sterling Freeman, a junior business administration major. “(These conversations) definitely have always been a thing, but recently, they’ve increased.”

Because stories of sexual abuse, assault and harassment tend to be shared by women, some students believe that men need to be better engaged in these conversations moving forward.

“It really just comes down to being there for (women),” said junior business administration major James Carling. “You don’t even have to say anything. Just sit there with open ears and listen. It can be extremely hard to listen to stuff like that. I totally understand how difficult it is to even hear about abuse or rape. It’s all too common nowadays, but it’s something that we have to listen to.”

Magliola said that people, particularly men, need to recognize “the human right to exist in a safe place.”

“Make a claim for the protection of others,” Magliola said. “If anyone says, ‘The #MeToo movement is just about getting attention,’ tell them you’re not going to hear it. Redirect it so that they’re thinking about it in a way that is more respectful.”

Kali Hoffman contributed to this report.

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