The Me Too movement (#metoo) certainly brought a lot of attention to sexual harassment, especially in the workplace. Things that were going on behind the scenes suddenly came to light. People took a stand when they hadn’t before. We saw people who had committed these harassing acts retire, apologize, get fired, quit and suffer from all sorts of other ramifications.
But now, in 2019, we’re roughly two years past the start of the movement. Did it change anything dramatically? Is life for the American worker different now?
There are a few ways that things are definitely different. For example, though many people still do suffer in silence, more and more will come forward. The movement helped to break down some of the unfair shame that people often felt, as if it was their own fault that they got harassed. They kept quiet. They felt like they were alone. Now, knowing that they are not alone, they’re less reluctant to come forward, which is why we see so many more stories on this topic. It’s not because harassment happens more now. It’s because people talk about it more.
On the other side of the coin, there is a greater level of understanding among those accused of harassment about what it really means. Now, one of the standard things for people to say when their actions get exposed and they apologize is that they did not realize it was wrong at the time. Some have mocked these comments, and certainly not everyone means it. But some do mean it, and they now understand what is and is not permitted at work.
A cultural shift?
One question that people often ask about the #metoo movement is if it caused a cultural shift. Are things different? Is this something that changed the workplace forever, or is it something that we’ll forget about in 10 years, letting things go back to the way they were?
A lot of it depends on what people intentionally decide to do from here on out, experts note. In Newsweek in late 2017, one expert wrote that “true change will only come when institutional actors decide to hold themselves accountable for the way women are treated.” That’s the crossroads that we face. If people and businesses decide to hold perpetrators responsible, this movement can make a lasting difference. It can create a safe, equal workplace for all.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Harassment still happens. If it happens to you, make sure that you know your rights in California.