The phrase "Me Too" was originally coined in 2006 by Tarana Burke, an African American civil rights activist, who began using it to raise awareness of the widespread prevalence of sexual abuse and assault. It wasn't until October 2017, however, that the hashtag of #MeToo was launched into the mainstream.
Actress Alyssa Milano is credited with greatly helping the hashtag go viral by encouraging other women to collectively use social media to bring attention to the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace. Her aim was to "give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem".
Great intention and massive action then combined in an extremely powerful and profound way. The now ubiquitous #MeToo hashtag has since been posted online millions of times. Countless numbers of women, including many high-profile celebrities, have publicly announced that they have been victims of sexual assault.
In the wake of this, there has been a huge outcry regarding this issue, most notably in Hollywood. Several actresses have since claimed that sexual assault is rife within the movie industry. As a result, many of the Hollywood elite have been accused of abusing their powerful positions and repeatedly committing the most heinous forms of sexual assault.
The most famous example is Harvey Weinstein, the multi-millionaire film producer, who was recently arrested and charged with rape and other offenses. He is currently facing allegations of sexual assault by over 80 women. While these allegations triggered the #MeToo movement to go viral, the "Weinstein Effect" has elicited a much wider discussion of the topic of sexual harassment and abuse, especially within politics, the music industry, and sport.
This was recently in evidence in Ireland during a widely publicised rape trial of four rugby players, two of whom have played internationally for the Irish rugby team. While all four were ultimately found to be not guilty of the rape of a 19 year old girl, the factual details of what happened to the girl disgusted the entire nation. As a result, it spawned the #IBelieveHer hashtag, which was every bit as viral within Ireland as the #MeToo hashtag which preceded it.
Inevitably, therefore, there was quickly a backlash to the #MeToo movement. The reflexive response was that all male misbehaviour shouldn't ever be lumped together. Many questioned the true motives and aim of the MeToo movement. Was it meant to inspire change in all men? Or was the movement aimed at a small percentage of men, those untouchables who abused their power, together with countless vulnerable women in the process? It was claimed that some actresses, especially ones who were not particularly famous, were somehow jumping on the MeToo "bandwagon".
The inexplicable thinking behind this accusation was that there main motivation was the publicity they would get as a result of claiming to be a victim of sexual assault by a high powered member of the Hollywood establishment. Most recently, motivational speaker Anthony Robbins caused controversy with comments he made about the #MeToo movement. At a seminar held in California in March, Robbins told the audience: "If you use the #MeToo movement to try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else, all you've done is basically use a drug called significance to make yourself feel good".
When you have the world's most famous motivational speaker saying such things publicly, you know for absolute sure that the #MeToo movement is a divisive topic, with outrage-inducing opinions being expressed on both sides. Yet I believe there is a much wider factor involved in all of this, which is not being discussed at all by anyone. It is an undiagnosed problem and one which is every bit as widespread and damaging as the sexual abuse and assault suffered by women worldwide.
The #MeToo movement was started by women for women. The very fact that women have caused the hashtag to go viral so quickly is absolute proof that sexual assault and harassment is commonplace all over the world. Those women, who have been brave enough to speak out about the abuse they have suffered, have been supported by other women, who have each used their varying degrees of influence and resources to spread the message via their social media networks.
In this regard, the #MeToo movement has been an enormous success. It provides clear proof that a enormously powerful and truly significant message can be spread all across the planet, using the wonder of online communication. Witness the behaviour and actions of the majority of men worldwide, however, from the very start of the #MeToo movement back in October 2017 all the way up until now.
Lets begin with the male-driven media. Predictably, they used the various allegations and subsequent revelations to fuel countless stories, which they immediately broadcast through their newspapers, magazines and social media channels. Every story benefits from having a good villain. Harvey Weinstein was absolutely ideal in this regard, given the huge amount of women contacting the media with story after story of sexual assault. For about 6 months straight, every day was like Christmas Day for those working within the media industry. Stories and interviews with those claiming to be victims of Weinstein's alleged sexual assault were readily and willingly supplied by those willing to share their stories. When stories about Harvey Weinstein ran out of steam, the media simply targeted another high-profile Hollywood celebrity and repeated the exact same process all over again.
For a while, it seemed that if a Hollywood actor wasn't himself being accused of sexual assault, he was instead being asked about his friendship with either Harvey Weinstein or another of those accused of sexual assault. Finally, there were the self-serving, vomit-inducing statements released by high profile actors, none of whom had ever previously spoken out against the horrible treatment of women with their industry. When it became necessary to do so in order to protect their own careers, however, they were suddenly all over social media in their droves, offering meaningless messages of "support" to women.
It is very easy for the general public to vilify certain celebrities, whether they be from the world of film, politics or sport. It is equally convenient to attribute the problems highlighted by the #MeToo movement to the abuse carried out by a tiny minority of extremely powerful men. What about the actions, or rather lack thereof, of the majority of men worldwide? What have they done in response to the very serious message communicated across the world by a huge collective of women of all ages and backgrounds?
Truth be told, they have done little if anything at all........
The proper response from men was not to replicate the actions of women, by including the #MeToohashtag in a series of social media posts. Neither was it to participate in protest marches as a means of supporting women and the #MeToo movement. Both of these actions are inspired by good intentions and make all involved feel better about themselves for "doing something". Nevertheless, the proper response is actually a very straight-forward one, albeit one which would cause permanent and positive changes across the planet for both women and men.
If we can all accept and agree that men are the cause of all the problems linked to the #MeToo movement, we can also equally agree and accept that men are equally responsible for the solution too. Abuse of women, whether it be physical, mental or sexual, is not limited to the actions of Hollywood celebrities, powerful politicians and famous sportsmen. While it may seem entirely unnecessary to point this out, it is so easy for all of us to be so distracted by various forms of media, which bombard us constantly from all angles every waking second of every single day.
Turn off the TV, switch off your cellphone and realise one thing. These crimes happen here and not "there" and take place on a daily basis all around you. According to the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the number of recorded rapes increased nearly 30% last year. It is estimated that 85% of men who commit sexual assaults are known to their victims. Those guilty are not famous in any way. They are among the general population with whom we work, socialise and co-habit. Martin Luther King Jr once declared that "to ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it". On the 50th anniversary of his untimely death, it seems we still have not progressed any further.
Yet the solution to the problems associated with the #MeToo movement is simple yet profound. Men who truly want to improve things for women literally need to do just one thing: lead by example. As has always been the case, actions speak much louder than any words. Instead of ranting about how unjust and unfair the world us, men instead need to take this opportunity to step up to the plate and create a whole new world together with the women who support their actions.
By taking inspiration from the very women who themselves have already successfully worked together with each other in the first place. More than anything, the #MeToo movement has emphatically demonstrated the immense power that can be manifested by the combination of intention, communication and collaboration. In response, men can take their lead and use the exact same process to essentially create a totally different world, one in which women feel valued and respected by the men who live to serve and protect them.
The problems associated with the #MeToo movement have ultimately been caused not by actions of a tiny minority, but rather the non-actions of the huge majority. The solution starts at home, with men simply being the very best they can be as fathers, sons and brothers. Every single household serves as an example to the generations which follow. Young boys are taught how to treat women properly. At the same time, young girls are taught how men are to treat them and to never accept anything else than the love, respect and support that every single female deserves. Once this is happening, thriving communities of like-minded individuals can be built, one which exists both online and offline. Not only will this community connect men and women together deeply on a social and personal level, it will also provide a platform through which male and female entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and cultures can collaborate, co-create and cultivate the economy too.
Are you ready to be part of the solution?
Paul Hurley is co-founder of Tribe Shift, an online community platform, which uses tribal principles to help members with their personal and professional development.
To find out more, go to www.tribeshift.com