In 2018, the Me Too movement (#MeToo), which is a hashtag campaign on social media, has drawn the attention of the public, as it became a huge issue in the Korean society. The origin of #MeToo is literally “me too”, which means “I was also sexually assaulted.” With the spread of this movement, it awakened awareness about how sexual harassments and assaults are so prevalent in the Korean society, and it alerted people on the gravity of this situation. It also made people realize that it was a big social problem rather than one individual problem. The effect of #MeToo exposed a number of celebrities who have committed sexual harassments and assaults by using their authority for several decades, and this shocked the public.
#MeToo first appeared in October 2017 by Uma Thurman, who is a famous Hollywood actress. She accused Harvey Weinstein, a leading Hollywood film producer, of committing sexual harassments to her 25 years ago during an interview with the New York Times. #MeToo in Korea started on January 30, 2018 when Changwon District Public Prosecutor Seo Ji-hyeon disclosed her sexual harassment experience from her superior by writing “I hope”. With the sexual harassment disclosure by Prosecutor Seo, a number of people opening their sexual harassment experiences to the public has increased. This fact shows that a great number of sexual abusement in Korea have gone unnoticed in Korea. The public was shocked that sexual harassments and assaults occurred behind closed doors in so many different fields, including movie, law, literary, and so on.
#MeToo is of great importance in that the victims raised their voices to expose personal experiences to the public. It is a very courageous act to recall their painful memories and disclose them to the public. Nevertheless, the reason why they had revealed their stories they never wanted to recall was because they did not want other people to go through the same pain that they had. It is also their expectation and aspiration that the upcoming Korean society may slightly be changed by their courage. Korean society has had a social structure in which the weak, especially women, have a hard time of expressing their opinions until now. Korean women have long been systematically oppressed in a patriarchal society, where the power relationship of gender has been maintained and strengthened. Therefore, #MeToo can be regarded as a major turning point in the view of sexism, and a worthy cry for an equal society. It also gives people the opportunity to acquire a new understanding of the imbalance of power, because the participants of #MeToo consisted of the weak in regard to sexism. In addition, #MeToo has several advantages by using the social networking hashtag “#”. It makes much easier for everyone to participate and to read the postings about #MeToo just by searching for related hashtags anytime and anywhere. For this reason, it opens the possibility for another victim to take courage by watching other victims going through the same hardships and mustering their courage to take part in #MeToo. To sum up, #MeToo holds another value in that it is a participatory activity that motivates the weak to clearly speak up for themselves.
Even though #MeToo has many of these benefits, some people are against it because of its opposite effects. Those who oppose #MeToo argue that it creates a structure where men and women are extremely divided into two halves, thus resulting in sexual hostility. The word “feminism” has emerged recently in our society, which allows women, having lived under oppression for so long, to assert their rights. Feminism advocates the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. However, some people misinterpret the true meaning of feminism and raise the concept of misogyny. This even led to serious social problems, such as unprovoked assault and murder that target women. In this sense, some people worry that #MeToo can strengthen the conflict between genders. Moreover, some men who are sensitive to gender problems try to cut off the source of those kinds of gender issues and refrain from meeting women. This phenomenon leads to the emergence of the term “Pence Rule”, which states that men should avoid women to avoid any problems that may occur. Some people worry that men avoiding women can also lead to deeper conflicts
between genders. For example, in a company, men might try to discriminate women in order to avoid the possibility of any distrust.
Moreover, there is a possibility where an innocent person could be blamed as an assailant. When one raises suspicion at someone as an assailant, the public tends to accept it even before it is verified. The media, which must deliver information objectively, sometimes distort the facts and release provocative reports prior to the verification about #MeToo in order to attract people’s attention. Then, the suspected person is criticized and rebuked by countless people regardless of whether the suspicion is true or not. In this regard, exploiting drawbacks of #MeToo creates problems of turning innocent people into assailants. Therefore, many people worry that #MeToo might raise false allegations.
However, after #MeToo was sensationalized, it became necessary to focus on its two sides. It is true that it can damage the lives of innocent people, and change the meaning of the movement, thereby creating a hostile structure between genders. Nevertheless, the fact that the victim is encouraged in accusing the perpetrator of sexual harassment is important. In other words, the voices of women, who have been relatively weak so far, are being delivered to the society and the key point is to concentrate on giving them the attention that they deserve. The most important point of #MeToo is that sexual crimes that are prevailing in our society are being recognized as not just an issue amongst individuals, but also a serious social issue concerning the hierarchy of power. To carry forward #MeToo properly, people should try to minimize related problems, resulted from #MeToo and should always try to recall on the true meaning of #MeToo.
Jung Yeon-wook (ST Reporter)
Choi Ji-hyun (ST Reporter)