The #MeToo movement actually started in the late ’00s. But in 2017, the movement was revived when men and women took a step against sexual harassment to expose those in power using their influence to harm those less powerful in the industry.
Over the next three years, the movement has done so much for both men and women. The #MeToo movement is not just about getting powerful men like Harvey Weinstein in jail, but about raising awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence in society.
But aside from that, has anything really changed in the last three years? Actually, there has.
NDAs No Longer Cover Sexual Harassment
Prior to the #MeToo movement, nondisclosure agreements were often used to keep people silent about sexual misconduct. For example, Weinstein’s former assistant, Zelda Perkins, signed an NDA that prevented her from telling anyone that Weinstein exposed himself to her, sometimes forcing her to take dictation while he bathed. For almost 20 years, Perkins’ NDA prevented her from speaking out.
Perkins is not alone. An NDA can easily silence others because of the threat of legal action should they decide to speak. But after the #MeToo movement, it was clear that the power of NDAs were abused by those in power. This has led to several states like California, New York, and New Jersey to pass laws that prevent NDAs from hindering cases related to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual discrimination.
And, as of 2019, the federal government was introduced to the BE HEARD Act, which would ban some types of NDAs and prevent those in power from silencing those witnesses and victims of sexual crimes.
The Biggest Settlement for Victims
In most cases, victims are low-income earners or those whose income depends on their abuses. This has caused many victims of all genders and sexes to remain silent of their abuse. While money cannot erase the trauma experienced by these men and women, money has greatly helped provide restitution in their plight.
Prior to the #MeToo movement, former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing 100 young athletes on top of a 60-year sentence for child pornography. During his sentencing, 163 people testified against him. The officials at Michigan State University were also accused of looking the other way when athletes reported Nassar’s behavior. As a result, the university created a $500 million settlement fund for Nassar’s 300 victims. It is the largest fund ever created by a university due to a sexual abuse case. This means a survivor of Nassar’s abuse could receive between $250,000 to $2.5 million.
Aside from this incident, more settlements were given to other victims of sexual abuse. In total, there were 41 sexual harassment lawsuits filed in 2017, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission won $70 million from companies on behalf of harassment survivors.
#MeToo Could End Tipping for Restaurant Workers
Many restaurant workers like waiters and waitresses are forced to endure harassment from customers because their livelihood depends on the generosity of their customers through tipping. The tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour is based on the assumption that workers will make the rest of it in tips while employers pay the rest. Unfortunately, most employers do not, leading workers to heavily rely on the tip they get.
With #MeToo shedding light on abuse, restaurant workers and their advocates are pushing for the end of tipped minimum wage so that workers do not have to rely on tips to make ends meet. Seven states have banned it in the last three years, while Massachusetts and Chicago have drafted legislations so that restaurant workers also get regular minimum wage. This is also part of the BE HEARD Act.
There are more effects in society attributed to the #MeToo movement. But as you can tell, the movement is simply not about putting women in power or getting men fired. It’s a movement that benefits the less powerful who suffer sexual abuse – both women AND men – and gives them the opportunity to take back their freedom.