#MeToo: When Social Media Helps Women to Fight Inequalities

The #MeToo movement is a phenomenon which gave a lot of hopes and enthusiasm. Basically the movement began on social media after a call to action by the actor. Allysa Milano, one of Weinstein’s most vocal critics, who wrote: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we mightgive people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”. It helped create a world in which women reunite in order to talk about the problems concerning genders in society, and try to find solutions for it. Women are posting messages on social media to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment are, using the hashtag #MeToo to express that they, too, have been victims of such misconduct. While some people fear that the « Me too » wave is going too far and is victimizing women, other people such as activists take the phenomenon in a very positive way.

A group called feminist in Berlin, often reunites in the German capital, to discuss about women rights and feminism, and so we came to the cafe of the Schokoladenfabrik of Mariannenstraße for the first time, that day, Friday the 16th of December. For the group, it was one of the days that they decided to gather for a meet up, they were all seen sitting in a table at the corner, there was about 8 girls, who sat around the table. This café, which is situated in Kreuzberg is famous for its relation to the feminist center just behind it, which is the Schokoladenfabrik, back then it used to be a factory for chocolate, the building was built in the 1980’s ,  it is Berlin’s biggest center for women with over 1200 square meters and 6 floors. People who have the the same willingness to empower women, and those who are a part of the LGBTQ community. They gather there and think about alternatives and solutions regarding the issues happening on a day to day basis towards how the women are being treated in society. For instance, during the international day against violence towards women.

On the 25th of November, they discussed methods of self-defense and self-organizations against violence on women. One of the goals of the organization is to promote resistance for women at the local level of Berlin, against patriarchy and sexism, both in the public sphere of the street and in the private one of the family. The group is more and more present on social media. Indeed, to gather more and more people to defend women rights, and to be accessible for women who need help, the organization uses Facebook, Twitter, and have a website especially for feminism issues, https://www.meetup.com/topics/feminism/de/berlin. Concerning sexual harassment, social media have recently provoke a wave of reactions worldwide with the two words « Me too », more than 12M “Me Too” Facebook posts, comments, reactions in 24 hours, it means the magnitude of women affected by this has clearly increase and it is still happening to this day, despite the hours of education put into people regarding harassment and sexist standards. Together at a large table on the right corner of the café, the women are discussing how to resolve a few current feminist issues. With papers in their hands, pen, or typing on their computer, the meeting seems to be really productive. The group of feminists in Berlin is really satisfied by the role of social media to broadcast the problem at a wider level.

According to Patricia who lives in Berlin, « some men are acting badly and pretend that it is not their fault. The dominance of men, who became a norm is the perpetrator of the suffering of women ». The wave on social media « Me too » showed men how a majority of women have been harassed and that it became current, not only for famous personalities but for every women, at a work place, in the street, in a bar or in a club… Thus, it had an impact on men, who realized that all their little actions matter. Jessica added, “The internet age has better equipped people to deal with these issues. Social media has democratized feminism, helping women to share experiences of sexual violence”. One of the woman of the group, from Canada explains that « It is a good thing that social media broadcasted these words because it denounces oppression. It also makes more people realizing that women are treated in a certain way, degraded at every level of society». Therefore, the group is glad that finally everybody knows what happens in the everyday life of a woman: « It is a very positive thing to see that it had such a great impact worldwide ».

However, there is always a part of disappointment in each action, and here it is « the time it took for the problem to be known and broadcasted, which was too long… » states the Canadian girl. Moreover, the fact that people are aware does not necessarily mean that harassment will die tomorrow: « The question is where do we go from here? Is the wave going to  change something? And how and what? ». Thus, the group of women is constantly looking for solutions, rather than to stay fixed on what happened in the past. Concerning the fact that some people thought that the « Me too » wave was victimizing women, the group does not agree: « The wave gained a lot of strength as more and more people participated by posting #MeToo, or by answering to the French hashtag #Balancetonporc. Social media became a platform for women to speak out loud about their experiences and give them a possibility to be heard anywhere. »

For the group of girls, social media are empowering women more than there are victimizing them. All of them are regularly using social media to broadcast articles, to organize meetings and to get to know other feminists around the world. One of the women is from Argentina. She often uses a famous platform where she can expresses herself and give her opinion in Spanish, her mother tongue. According to her: « social media has had a really positive impact on feminism ». More and more women are realizing on social media the way they are treated in real life, and then join feminist organizations to defend their rights. « I think it is becoming more like a Split. Half of the women are becoming feminists, what was not the case before social media. » By removing the barriers of distance and geography, sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram have made activism easier than ever, facilitating public dialogues and creating a platform for awareness and change. 2014 was arguably the year that hashtag feminism finally reached the tipping point, there is about 10 to 15 different hashtags related to empowering women , with its top trending topic of 5.5 M.

Women in different age groups identify themselves as feminist (strong feminist and feminist) differently, 68% of women between 50 and 54 identified themselves as a feminist while 51% women between 35 and 49 identified themselves as a strong feminist, 83% of women between 18 and 34 say feminism is “empowering,” compared with 68% of women between the age of 35 and 49 who thinks less of it. Social media permits women to gain strength, to gather and share their experiences, and also to create feminists organizations such as the Schokoladenfabrik, to act and be cautious against men and their surroundings. The group will continue to regularly meet in order to provide solutions and to use social media as a weapon against inequalities by sharing their ideas. To join the group meetings you may visit their websites and see the upcoming events, as group meetings are regular, however its not routine, the best option would be to find more information on the website or visit the cafe directly.

Illustration: Tara Jacoby, The Village Voice