Saulsman: People diluted a controversial idea

The #MeToo movement has inspired thousands of women and men to share their stories of sexual harassment. This movement has united individuals from different classes, genders and races in order to promote healing, growth and awareness for everyone in today’s society.

With this movement, we are finally seeing prominent figures in our society using their platforms to speak up. Despite this active participation and the polarization of support this movement has contracted, one might argue that we went from an under-sensitized knowledge of sexual harassment to a society where the topic is over-sensitized.

For decades, businesses and organizations have had little awareness, empathy and consequences regarding sexual harassment. Gender stereotypes in the workplace enforced both the behavior of male-dominance and the unpunished actions of inappropriate behavior towards women. Now, however, we see organizations providing seminars for sexual harassment and teaching both genders the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.

This education on sexual harassment paired with the viral sensation that is the #MeToo movement has had both positive and negative effects on today’s society. The positive effects are fairly simple and evident. Women and men of every class, gender and race are stepping up to share their story in order to provide awareness and support, thus uniting the country in an effort to change what is acceptable in today’s society. The negative effects are less evident and lie below the surface of the movement. One might say that the repeated exposure has inadvertently caused society to be over-sensitized regarding sexual harassment.

My argument regarding the over-sensitizing of sexual harassment does not imply that this topic should not be exposed. Rather, it highlights the tendency of people to participate in lip-service, misinterpret goals and blur the line of qualification.

As the number of prominent figures and activists who join the movement increases, more followers and people who wish to serve the generalized greater good will want to be considered supporters as well. As seen in many movements, there are those supporters who claim they support the movement yet show no active participation or action to support the claim, thus participating in what is known as lip-service.

Moreover, the goals of the movement have been misconstrued and altered over the course of its recent popularity. The original founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, spoke out in a video, stating that her core reasons for establishing the movement have been lost. Burke mentions that her goal for the movement was to establish a support system for women and men of color who are victims of sexual harassment. She states that although she supports what the movement stands for now, she believes that people of color are still being marginalized. Thus, the goals have been altered and misconstrued through the exposure of the movement.

This being said, the line of who qualifies as part of the movement can be misconstrued as well. For instance, Aziz Ansari has been accused recently of sexual harassment. The story is seen as highly controversial, as the victim’s experience is not considered a part of the movement based on several factors. The woman’s account of the incident was not published on a reputable website. In addition to that, critics say, the account is up to interpretation on whether or not the woman was, in fact, sexually assaulted. Here we see the first situation in which supporters of the #MeToo movement, especially CNN journalist and HLN host Ashleigh Banfield, start to say, “Well, she doesn’t really fit into the movement.”

Who is to say this woman was not sexually assaulted? Who is to say she cannot be considered a part of a movement that is, according to those figures advancing it, dedicated to the empowerment of victims of sexual harassment?

Thus, we see the blurred line of qualification presented in the over-sensitizing of the movement. This results from the misinterpretation of its goals, which is a product of the actionless words provided by supporters who want to be a part of the movement because it is inherently the “right thing to do.”

The #MeToo movement is reaching the point of exhaustion due to these factors. Soon enough, people will groan when another woman steps forward. People will flip the channel and scroll past posts. Is this what we are trying to achieve? Is this what we want? If the answer is no, then I challenge you to be an active part of the movement. Do not participate in lip-service, but instead research the movement. Support any individual in their fight to overcome whatever sense of harassment or uncomfortable feeling they have experienced and then back these claims of support with actions.

Fight for the movement to avoid the end of it.

Courtney Saulsman is a first-year student majoring in psychology. And maybe sociology. And maybe cognitive science. One of her talents includes not being able to decide what she wants to do in life.