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Opinion: Using social media to spread awareness on sexual harassment

Today, social media has played a big part in everybody’s lives by influencing people in controversial situations, so people can take advantage of this platform to teach others about important topics. One important yet sensitive topic that should be taught is sexual harassment, which includes gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion. 

In the book “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine,” researchers explain how women are especially affected by sexual harassment and how people can improve the systems to prevent this problem. The book also explains different studies that show the readers how sexual harassment is still a widespread problem, and that in most science, engineering, and medicine fields, women are most likely to experience such harassment. 

Using social media to spread awareness about sexual harassment can be beneficial because it can help people become more knowledgeable about this topic, help others who are victims of sexual harassment feel comfortable in reporting their situation and lead to the prevention of sexual harassment. 

Having knowledge about sexual harassment is beneficial to people because they can understand the topic and know the severity of a situation. The first step is to define what sexual harassment is so that it can be identified. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in a public area of life such as your workplace, your education, your accommodation and any place you’re receiving goods or services. 

If someone has knowledge of sexual harassment and experiences it, they are able to identify and acknowledge that it happened and that their experience is unacceptable. According to researchers from the University of Michigan, in a study published in Sage Journals, they found that people who have experienced sexual harassment behavior multiple times and have knowledge are more likely to be able to label their experience as sexual harassment, while others who aren’t knowledgeable on this topic are unable to label their experience.

If women were able to understand what they went through and are comfortable in sharing the situation, they can clearly report their case without questioning the sexual harassment they experienced. If the woman is unable to understand and process what they went through with sexual harassment, they are likely to go through “negative psychological and professional outcomes,” according to “Sexual Harassment of Women.”

These examples clearly show how important it is for someone to be well informed in order to identify the problem of sexual harassment and solve it. 

Social media can be a powerful way to educate and inform people about sexual harassment. Because there are many influencers that people look up to on social media, they can use the platform to inform other people about the topic of sexual harassment. When people see someone they admire talk about a sensitive topic, they are likely to look into it and become more educated and informed. 

An example of how social media was a supportive environment for everyone that experienced sexual harassment was the #MeToo Movement. In this online social media movement, many people who were victims of sexual harassment came out to speak up about their experiences, specifically sharing it across multiple platforms of social media. This movement raised awareness of sexual harassment and showed the world how common this behavior was. 

According to a blog from Maryville University, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo Movement, states that this movement is to let victims of sexual harassment know that they are not alone, but instead are supported. Although this movement was popularized and trending during 2017, it still continuously helps women today find a source of solidarity after experiencing sexual harassment. 

The workplace is a major setting for sexual harassment, but it is also where organized and substantial efforts can be quickly made to reduce such harassment. One major way people can use social media is by influencing companies with cancel culture, which is basically boycotting campaigns. 

Cancel culture is a big part of society right now where if someone doesn’t like a company due to the company’s actions or beliefs, they will post it on social media and raise awareness about this aspect of the company, and then everyone who is also offended by the company’s stance or behavior may choose to spread that awareness and even boycott the company’s service or products.

When a company is “canceled,” and enough of their customers boycott them, the company will no longer be able to succeed. So, using cancel culture can keep companies accountable for how they deal with sexual harassment. 

One example that shows how cancel culture has influenced a company’s decisions is the #GrabYourWallet Movement. Ivanka Trump’s father, former President Donald Trump, has been accused multiple times of sexual harassment and assault by many women and, as reported in the Washington Post, bragged about sexually harassing and assaulting women, yet his daughter, Ivanka, has not spoken out in criticism or condemnation against his actions. 

According to FastCompany, the #GrabYourWallet Movement, which targeted Ivanka Trump’s brand, affected many companies. A number of companies, like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, decided to drop Ivanka Trump’s brand in their stores. The #GrabYourWallet Movement clearly shows how impactful cancel culture in social media and boycotting is to a company’s decisions. 

Social media is often criticized as being shallow and without impact in the real world. However, using social media to spread awareness or fight for a cause is the most efficient way in our society now because of how much it is used and how integrated it is in our everyday lives, and in fact, social media movements have had a real impact in the world. 

One example that shows how impactful using social media was to create activism about sexual harassment was when Harvey Weinstein, an American film producer, was convicted of rape and sexual assault. According to AP News, Weinstein finally was held accountable for his crimes. 

With the #MeToo Movement, people were able to feel supported and encouraged to share their sexual harassment experience through social media, and this environment of sharing and support for the victims of sexual harassment led to the positive results of a sexual predator being charged. Clearly, social media has been proven effective in fighting sexual harassment. 

Using social media to publicize the topic of sexual harassment can help people understand the gravity of this topic. We can take full advantage of social media to help combat sexual harassment so that everyone can feel safe from such harassment in the workplace and beyond.