It started out as a hashtag on social media: #MeToo. The initiative went viral and thousands of women started to share their personal stories on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram regarding sexual abuse or, at the very least, harassment. More than a few of my female friends and acquaintances shared their experiences or expressed that, yes, they too had suffered the consequences of an institutionalized machismo or male chauvinism. I knew about some of them, but not all. Although none of them surprised me.
#MeToo had gathered strength, but the question was how we could make this social media campaign cross the threshold from the virtual world to have a real impact on society. I was afraid that this thing, which had brought so many aggressions out from oblivion, and which had shown the courage and strength of so many of our female partners, friends, cousins, sisters, nieces, etc., would remain just one more nice initiative without consequences.
But I may have underestimated the power of social media nowadays, for better or worse. This time, it was for the better, and the unthinkable happened: The campaign generated a collectivization of the pain and managed to channel the rage over the impunity of sexism — no one wanted more impunity. This is why some women started to dare to reveal the abuse they had suffered long ago, not only at the hands of strangers, but also at the hands of famous and powerful men.
The first one to fall was Harvey Weinstein, who, for decades, had taken advantage of his immense power as a Hollywood producer to ruthlessly abuse dozens of women, and who had concocted a safeguard of lawyers and blackmail to keep the cases from being exposed. The machismo was functioning perfectly, but social media was stronger. His wife has abandoned him and he is now an outcast.
Seeing that the truth was able to take down a well-known and wealthy figure from the opulent world inside the U.S. film industry inspired even more women … and men. Kevin Spacey was next, and, to my deep sadness as a "House of Cards" fan, it turned out he tried to abuse a male teenager 30 years ago. Spacey tried to cover up the case by announcing his homosexuality, but society has matured enough to generate this desirable public reaction: “So? You harassed a minor. That is what matters.”
Spacey's case is significant because it shows that the institutionalization of machismo has been so profound that it has even legitimized sexual violence by men toward men, and because it means that the strong one can do it, and that the weak one is not always necessarily a woman.
The cases have multiplied and they seem endless. A part of society is outraged and surprised; a lot of people are waking up from a social lethargy and discovering the reach of machismo in even the most advanced of civilizations.
#MeToo will be remembered as a milestone in the feminist struggle and, ultimately, in the advance of social rights. What we are living in 2017, if everything goes well, will have a place in history books as a small turning point, as the moment in which society began to truly understand the reach of machismo, of the active or passive collaboration or even complicity between one another, and the impunity of the actions of people with power.
It is a call to action. If the statements of a few women afflicted for decades by what they had to endure at the hands of those who seemed untouchable has been able to destroy careers carved by reputation and success, all the women in the world must know that they will never again have to accept the indignities of an abusive social system.