Black Dresses & White Roses: Turning #MeToo Into Positive Change

by Michelle Palmer

“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.”  – Oprah

I first remember seeing #MeToo back in October. I specifically remember a particular post by Aisha Bain. I think this excerpt from that post sums up the heart of it better than I ever could:

I have said me too.

In the quiet spaces.

With a friend, when we discovered – yes, me too.

With other women bold in their sharing of their experiences to provide space and place for others to seek support.

I’ve said it silence.

When I lock eyes with another woman on a train or in the street when some guy is cat-calling or yelling horrible things.

When I wait to make sure my friend is in her home with the door closed before driving away.

When I walk down a street at night with keys in my hand and my head on a swivel.

When I walk behind all my women friends, always, using my height to keep track of everyone, using my brain to scenario plan what I would do to protect them.

When I avoid eye contact with a man. When I make eye contact with a man just be friendly and civil, and then regret it.

When I was silent, or polite, or laughed off some man’s advances just to stay safe.

When male hands grouped with entitled possession and you can’t even find the who did it in a crowded bar, train, or public space.

When I spoke out against it and the situation became more dangerous.

When I freaked out when I playfully wrestled a boyfriend, and he pinned me down, and somewhere, something so deep emerged, a panic, a fear so severe – I couldn’t control it, I didn’t understand it, and I couldn’t communicate why, all logic evaporated in my terror.

me too

me too

me too

I remember thinking, hoping, as I read her post (and countless others) that maybe a viral hashtag could somehow turn the tides. “Maybe this will help people understand.” But I think I doubted it deep down. I worried that it would fade from the headlines and fade from our social media feeds, the momentum would be short-lived, and no real change would happen.person-of-year-2017-time-magazine-cover1

But then it seemed to keep going. The Silence Breakers were Time’s Person of the Year. From Tarana Burke to Alyssa Milano. From Sandra Pezqueda and Isabel Pascual to Taylor Swift and Terry Crews. That was at the start of December.

It didn’t stop there. In January, actresses wore black to the Golden Globes, the first awards show of the season, a season when celebrities have even more visibility than usual. And it wasn’t just a fashion statement. It was the launch of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Actresses didn’t just wear black in solidarity, they spoke out (and spoke up) and brought activists as their dates; they shared the platform and passed the microphone.typorama (1)

And then, the movement reached the Grammys with white roses, Janelle Monae, and Kesha’s performance of “Praying.”

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s cover the basics. This is about both equality and ending sexual harassment. If you don’t know why it’s a big deal, read on. (And/or check out our earlier post on feminism.) These stats come from the Time’s Up website, and each has links to its source.  

  • 1 in 3 women ages 18 to 34 has been sexually harassed at work. Sexual harassment is pervasive across industries, but especially in low-wage service jobs. For example, more than 25% of sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC in the last decade came from industries with service-sector workers. Source.
  • Nearly 50% of men think women are well-represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman. Source.
  • 1 in 5 C-Suite leaders is a woman. Fewer than 1 in 30 is a woman of color. Source.
  • White non-Hispanic women are paid 81 cents on the dollar compared to white non-Hispanic men. Asian women are only paid 88 cents on the dollar. Black and Hispanic women are only paid 65 cents and 59 cents on the white male dollar, respectively. Source.
  • Only about half of the world’s working-age women participate in the labor force, compared to around three-quarters of their male counterparts. Closing that gap could add an estimated $12 trillion in global GDP by 2025. Sources: http://www.ilo.org/gender/Informationresources/Publications/WCMS_457317/lang–en/index.htm; https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/employment-and-growth/how-advancing-womens-equality-can-add-12-trillion-to-global-growth
  • Nearly half of working women in the U.S. say they have experienced harassment in the workplace. Source.
  • Research has shown that women in male-dominated occupations, especially those in male-dominated work contexts, are sexually harassed more than women in balanced or in female-dominated ones. Source: Berdahl, JL. (2007). The Sexual Harassment of Uppity Women (p. 427).
  • Approximately one-third of women think women are well-represented when they see one-in-ten in leadership positions. Source.
  • From 2007 to 2016, 4% of top-grossing directors were female. Just 7 were women of color. 1 in 1,114 directors across 1,000 movies was Latina. Source.
  • More than one-third of the world’s countries do not have any laws prohibiting sexual harassment at work—leaving nearly 235 million working women vulnerable in the workplace. Source.26063717_922994241203884_6359613113973307075_o

When I was prepping this post, I came across this photo on Facebook. It specifically says, “ladies.” I thought, “If that’s not a sign we need change, I don’t know what is.”

One of the most common requests from our survey last August was more info on what to do in light of whatever issue we dealt with in the post. Our top two suggestions are very often the same for every injustice we tackle. The first is this:  When you see it, call it out. If it’s happening in your vicinity, it’s your responsibility to give a voice to the voiceless, to bring light to the situation, to seek rectification, to do something.

The second is to find an organization already doing great work, donate your resources (time, energy, money, talent), and partner with them! Here’s a list to help you:

And last, but certainly not least, for lots more info on being an ally, check out the Better Brave website (and memorize it!).


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