SMART hosts #MeToo discussion

By Sophie Keefe, News Editor

SMART hosted their first discussion night of the 2017–2018 school year, On Oct. 6. The topic was the hashtag “#MeToo,” a cultural phenomenon that was recently sparked by actress Alyssa Milano who on Oct. 15 tweeted: “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”    

More than 12 million people posted the words “Me Too” on their various social media platforms since Milano posted her tweet. It was impossible to scroll through Facebook and Twitter at the time without those two words appearing over and over again. The effect was jarring, and emphasized just how widespread the issue of sexual harassment is around the globe.  Rosie Attiyeh, Augsburg’s Sexual Misconduct Awareness-Raising Team’s (SMART) public relations officer, handles all of SMART’s social media. Watching the hashtag’s influence firsthand, she knew it was a phenomenon that SMART needed to talk about. For one hour, Attiyeh, Co-President Maddie Johnson and Secretary Eve Taft discussed the sort of revolution taking place on phone and computer screens across the globe.   

Alyssa Milano started the fire this time around, but Attiyeh wanted those in attendance to know that the movement was actually originated by Tamara Burke in 1996 in response to sexual violence against young women of color. Burke wanted women who had lived through the ordeal to know that they weren’t alone even though it may have felt as if no one could see them.     “She doesn’t get a lot of credit, yet [Alyssa] Milano tweets one time, and it blows up,” said Attiyeh.

 Whether referring to Burke’s original movement or to the recent widespread usage of the term, #MeToo is meant to bring awareness as well as provide a sense of empathy for those who have experienced sexual misconduct. SMART discussed with those in attendance how the language of Milano’s tweet excluded many who don’t fall under the category woman identifying.   “She just specifies women when it happens to everyone by everyone,” said Attiyeh.

Sharing a sexual assault story is obviously something very personal. Though the rallying of millions of survivors is certainly triumphant, it also puts pressure on victims to share deeply personal stories. The group spent a good portion of the hour talking about the pressure they felt to post even if they felt they weren’t ready to do so.    

In addition, the group discussed their frustration in the fact that in order to be heard by those in power about these issues, something big has to happen. Why is sexual misconduct not a dialogue until it explodes all over Facebook and Twitter?   

“We made these posts, now what? How can we use this experience to better Augsburg and the greater community? To validate people, and make change and educate?” said Attiyeh.

This article first appeared in the Friday, November 17, 2017, Edition of The Echo.