The MeToo movement has been the protagonist of news reports for some time since October 2017.
The concept, represented by these two words, which soon became a hashtag re-proposed in different social networks, aims to express the greatness and spread of a phenomenon that has become sadly known: the abuse of women, especially in the workplace.
The movement, which soon became global, took its first steps into the world of Hollywood where numerous actresses denounced that they had risked or had been victims of sexual violence perpetrated by a single man, Harvey Weinstein, a former American film producer.
This phenomenon of abuse of power for sexual purposes was first reported in an article in the New York Times on October 5, 2017. The article cited experiences of women who were victims of advances by Harvey; since then, there has been a continuous flow of testimonies and stories of women who have shared the same fate.
Weinstein, strong in his position as founder of a film company, took advantage of this to create ambiguous and intimate situations with young women by promising them jobs in exchange for sexual performance or physical contact of the same nature.
Initially, the harassed women were reluctant to denounce and associate their name and face such a scabrous affair; over time, however, according to the Huffington Post the total number of victims who reported Weinstein of abuse and violence of various kinds were ninety-three.
The phenomenon, for its size and importance, soon crossed the narrow confines of Hollywood and became global. It seems, in fact, to touch women of every gender and culture, in every part of the world.
The hashtag #MeToo, in particular, took hold after a tweet in October 2017 by the well-known American actress Alyssa Milano, who encouraged women to use this expression to give a real dimension to a phenomenon now more and more rampant, that of abuse. At the end of the day the expression had been relaunched 200,000 times and 500,000 times over the next two days.
While Weinstein was, thanks to numerous testimonies, sentenced on March 11, 2020 to 23 years' imprisonment to be served in Rikers Island Prison, not all women victims of abuse and violence are able to obtain the same kind of punishment for their harassers.
According to ISTAT, the National Institute of Statistics, in Italy 8.9% of women have suffered physical harassment or sexual blackmail in the workplace during their working career; these pressures have also been experienced by women to get a job or to get a promotion.
The phenomenon is reinforced by the fact that about 80% of women who suffer violence or blackmail in the workplace do not report the incident and tend not to even talk about it with friends or family. The fear underlying these behaviors, as well as the risk of losing their jobs, is identified in the fear of being judged negatively; however, this makes women pay an even higher price, adding shame and inadequacy to the already brutal violence suffered. The fear of no longer being able to find a job is also evident, especially in a ruthless and conniving world such as the entertainment industry.
As can often be seen in similar situations, if victims first fail to report what happened, underestimating or enduring the violence, it will tend to recur over time, collaborating to create a hostile and unsafe working environment for women, in which abusers can continue to operate violence undisturbed. This concept is in fact supported and made tangible in its vast dimension, by the many shares of the MeToo hashtag.
So how to combat the phenomenon of bullying and violence in the workplace? It is extremely important to remember that the victim of the violence is not the culprit, she did not ask to be the object of the persecutor's desire, therefore she must not show fear in denouncing. It is not the victim who must feel shame but the persecutor!
In Italy, the protections enjoyed by victims of persecutory crimes are both civil and criminal; article 2043 of the Civil Code provides for the obligation to pay compensation to anyone who causes malicious or culpable damage to others. While article 590 of the Criminal Code contains the conditions under which mobbing may cause consequences attributable to the crime of personal injury.
Jurisprudence, like the identification of the behavior itself, in Italy is recent, but the inclusion of mobbing as violence in the workplace establishes the recognition of the seriousness of the action, which can be punishable.
With that being said, it is also necessary to emphasize how a movement as strong and deeply touching as the MeToo should be controlled, in order not to make it a weapon against false oppressors. Since the development of a greater awareness and attention to sexual violence in the workplace, there have also been cases, some of them with very serious consequences, in which the alleged victims have pointed out as attackers people who later turned out to be innocent.
These people, in fact, will hardly have the power to respond to accusations of such seriousness.
Translated by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Sofia Perinetti
Lisa Respers France,#MeToo: Social media flooded with personal stories of assault, CNN, 16 october 2017.
Sofia Perinetti è laureata in magistrale in Scienze Internazionali e della Cooperazione, ha approfondito nella sua carriera universitaria e post il lato delle relazioni internazionali che concerne la cooperazione internazionale come strumento di aiuto e sostegno verso paesi terzi.
E' interessata sin dai primi anni di università alla tutela dei diritti umani e per questo in Mondo Internazionale è presente nel team di Diritti Umani come vice dello Chief Editor, è inoltre presente nel team di grant-management ed infine di GEO. Questi tre team le permettono di esprimere a pieno gli interessi sociali e culturali che la contraddistinguono.
Sofia Perinetti has a degree in International and Cooperation Sciences, she has deepened in her university career and post the side of international relations that concerns international cooperation as an instrument of aid and support to third countries.
Since the first years of university she has been interested in the protection of human rights and for this reason in Mondo Internazionale she is present in the Human Rights team as deputy to the Chief Editor, she is also present in the grant-management team and finally in GEO. These three teams allow her to fully express the social and cultural interests that distinguish her.