#MeToo: What do UC Berkeley students think about the movement?

rose_mcgowan_wikimedia_cc
Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Many of us remember the few days on Facebook when many — too many — of our friends and family members posted #MeToo as their statuses. Those few days were filled with shock, pain and heartbreak as we watched people we care about, and even people we don’t know well, come forward and share deeply personal and painful experiences. The bravery of all these people to come forward to say, “Yes, this has happened to me,” shook the ground many of us walk upon, and to many, it was about time. Since then, the movement has grown, making its way to the red carpet and the cover of Time magazine. We see so many celebrities talking about this and wearing black to signify their support for the “Time’s Up” movement. But how often do we hear the opinions of the people — those without huge platforms, fancy dresses or the ability to draw the media’s attention? It’s important to recognize that this movement has impacted everyone, not just the high-profile. We decided to interview a few UC Berkeley students about what they think of the movement and how they believe the movement can improve. We recognize that while the student opinions here may not reflect those of everyone in the country, we hope that by listening and giving students a platform to express their opinions, we’re taking a step toward bringing this movement back down to earth.

Sonny Carlton, sophomore at UC Berkeley

The Daily Californian: The #MeToo movement has been one of the biggest stories and movements in the past months. In your own words, can you describe what this movement is?

Sonny Carlton: I think it’s people, especially women, being empowered enough to say this is a real thing that’s happened, and it’s affected me, and it’s affected pretty much everyone around me, whether it’s just a little catcalling or all the way to sexual assault. This is a real problem, and people are finally being brave enough, and people are finally listening to them.

DC: What were your initial reactions or thoughts on #MeToo?

SC: I was a little confused at first because I didn’t understand what it was talking about, but once I read more about it I was like, this is really cool, but also it took long enough. Like, it’s long overdue.

DC: What would you say your current opinion on the movement is? If it has changed from your initial reaction, could you please explain why? Do you have any critiques of #MeToo? If you do, why?

SC: I guess I still think it’s good and empowering women and other people but it also focuses just on women and not, like, this happens to men too, and nonbinary folks and trans folks and also people of color. A lot of the people who initially started it were white women, and so they were more believed and more listened to, and it’s OK, but it also still needs to focus on people of color because that’s also a problem and there’s more people that need to be believed.

DC: Where do you see the future of the #MeToo movement going? How much of our society’s culture do you see it changing?

SC: Hopefully this means that when people are brave enough to speak up, people will actually listen to them, and hopefully they’ll realize that all these things happen all the time without thinking. Even little things like “Oh beautiful, you should smile more.” I don’t think our culture, like this will be a huge paradigm shift or anything. It’s not going to change things, but hopefully it will change enough so that people will be brave enough to speak out in the future, and it’s already happening a lot, which is good.

DC: What suggestions do you have for organizers and important figures who have a big hand in where this movement is going?

SC: I mean a lot of things they’re already doing, but putting survivors first and survivors versus victims, and listening to people of color and listening to people who are outside the cis-het spectrum.  

Sam Larkin, sophomore at UC Berkeley

DC: The #MeToo movement has been one of the biggest stories and movements in the past months. In your own words, can you describe what this movement is?

Sam Larkin: So the movement, to my understanding, is a way for a bunch of victims of sexual assault who haven’t really been out about it (to) reveal to the world that this is a more common occurrence than originally thought, due to the recent issues in the media about Harvey Weinstein and others.

DC: And what were your initial reactions or thoughts on #MeToo?

SL: It was really surprising because it was people that I had no idea, like I would never have guessed stuff like that would happen to them. It was really surprising; there were a lot more people than I thought would be.

DC: What would you say your current opinion on the movement is? If it has changed from your initial reaction, could you please explain why?

SL: Yeah, I haven’t been following it too closely so I don’t know how it’s developed and grown, but I think it’s really powerful because we’re definitely transitioning as a society into a more open and “let’s have a discussion about this” kind of mentality. I think it’s a really good thing that’s happening.

DC: Where do you see the future of the #MeToo movement going? How much of our society’s culture do you see it changing?

SL: I think it is going to continue to grow. More and more people are being outed — for example, the U.S. gymnastics doctor. It’s ridiculous to see hundreds of girls coming forward now. I think in the future it’ll motivate more girls to come forward and guys and nonbinary people to not keep it a secret anymore, because obviously it might help alleviate their fears of the social repercussions.

DC: What suggestions do you have for organizers and important figures who have a big hand in where this movement is going?

SL: I think, like I said earlier, just saying #MeToo isn’t very meaningful. It might be better to share your experience with other people and let them know how this could have happened and how this could’ve been prevented. So maybe with each individual person, share their experience and what they view as a solution to that experience.

Avni Singhal, sophomore at UC Berkeley

DC: The #MeToo movement has been one of the biggest stories and movements in the past months. In your own words, can you describe what this movement is?

Avni Singhal: So I see the movement as the first time a lot of women who have been through sexual assault and harassment, etc., and have really come out about their experiences, because it seems to have been something that has sort of happened (to) a lot of people in the past, but nobody really talked about it. And then when the first person talked about it and created this movement, it became a form or a way for all these women to speak up about what happened. It’s sort of like an outpouring of what had happened over many years.

DC: What were your initial reactions or thoughts on #MeToo?

AS: I think my initial reaction was just, I guess, kind of sad, because I think I was very unaware as to the extent to which this occurred so prevalently — because I lived in a bubble and was able to avoid a lot of the issues that a lot of other women deal with. My family in India always talks about how much of a problem it is there, but I never really thought about or realized how much of an issue it was here. I guess the scariest part was that so many people had been through these experiences but never talked about it. So you come to realize that pretty much everyone, at least of people in the generation above us, have been through something, they just haven’t talked about it. So that was kind of scary.  

DC: What would you say your current opinion on the movement is? If it has changed from your initial reaction, could you please explain why?

AS: I initially thought — well, I still think — it’s a great movement in that it gave a lot of women a way to speak out about their experiences. But I also think that at this point we have to start thinking about, how do we translate that into action. Because at this point the shock has happened, everyone’s been like “Oh, my God, this sucks,” right? But how do we turn that into action? I think also it’s a little bit hard because, well, my only criticism of the movement is it equating things that are not necessarily equivalent. So some women have been raped and some have been catcalled. And so some people, their “me too” is that they’ve been catcalled. And honestly I think almost every woman has been catcalled at some point. And it sucks, it really sucks, but I think sometimes it almost diminishes the experiences of those who’ve been through things like rape. Because #MeToo is great in that it creates a community, but there’s definitely different levels of experiences of what people have been through, and I think sometimes for a woman who has been through rape, for someone to say #MeToo after having been catcalled is a little bit of a different level.

DC: Do you have any critiques of #MeToo? If you do, why?

AS: Mainly just turning it into action, because movements are always great in that they energize people, make people realize something’s wrong, but the shock effect only lasts for a little while. And during that shock factor, things need to happen. So if people keep going with #MeToo and you don’t force people to do something with that, nothing will really change.

DC: Where do you see the future of the #MeToo movement going? How much of our society’s culture do you see it changing?

AS: I don’t think the movement as itself is going to fundamentally change our society. But I think the movement is a reflection of a changing society. So … I think it was a great step forward that a lot of women were able to speak out about something, and I think that now it’s a matter of keeping that urgency up and seeing things change.

DC: What suggestions do you have for organizers and important figures who have a big hand in where this movement is going?

AS: I don’t know how qualified I am to give suggestions, but I guess using this energy to mobilize into something. It’s great to start out with the tweets and stuff and just telling people’s stories, but what could we do to make this a bigger thing? So is there a way to compile women’s stories, maybe get statistics on what’s going on, get this (information) and force this to be a policy issue that’s considered? Collaborate. There’s a group of people who are talking about their experiences, and some of these people are really powerful, but how do we use that power to collaborate between different policymakers, people in political science, people in all these different fields, and make it an intersectional movement that can actually create some sort of change?

Lillian Avedian, sophomore at UC Berkeley 

DC: The #MeToo movement has been one of the biggest stories and movements in the past months. In your own words, can you describe what this movement is?

Lillian Avedian: So it’s a movement to be more vocal about the experiences of, particularly, women when it comes to sexual violence in the United States. This is a topic that women have been affected by this forever, but it’s just heavily stigmatized, there isn’t a lot of conversation around it, it’s been neglected as a valid issue, and this movement for me is about women coming out and saying this is my story, and this is a story that’s very common, that’s shared by a lot of women, and that deserves attention.

DC: What were your initial reactions or thoughts on #MeToo?

LA: I was just like, “Wow, this is really cool!” I feel like in the past, with personal experiences with sexual violence, it’s always been like, “Oh, who am I supposed to talk to this about,” you know? But, this is so public, it’s all over social media, it’s very open that I really loved that element of it. That’s it’s just being unapologetic and saying, “You know, we need to confront this head-on.” Yeah, just seeing it all over my Facebook, that was really awesome.

DC: What would you say your current opinion on the movement is? If it has changed from your initial reaction, could you please explain why?

LA: It definitely has. Over time I’ve just become, first of all, more worried about how effectual it’s actually going to be. You know, how do we move from just giving personal narratives and conversation to concrete action? Beyond that, I’ve been more concerned with the lack of intersectionality in the movement. I think that even though this has been such an issue for such a long time, a reason that it drew so much attention now is because you had powerful white women. Like, cisgender straight white women coming out and saying, you know, me too, this has been affecting me in this way. Even though it’s not, I don’t think, the first time women are being vocal about sexual violence, it’s the first time you have people in positions of power being vocal about it. I mean, we saw this with celebrities and whatnot. So do we allow the movement to evolve so that it’s inclusive and that we’re amplifying everyone’s voices? That’s been something I’m really concerned about.

DC: Where do you see the future of the #MeToo movement going?

LA: My hope is that this has begun a dialogue that’s going to evolve beyond women telling their stories to, how do we address this? How do we address the changes in our culture? A conversation about what were the cultural norms that allow sexual violence to be so prevalent. And to address those norms and to try and dismantle them. So I hope it leads to a conversation about cultural change, recognizing cisgender norms that allow this to take place, and what are the actions we need to take beyond just women feeling like they have to tell their stories to working together, men included, to make change.

DC: How much of our society’s culture do you see it changing?

LA: The idealist in me is like, “Yes, this is a revolution!” But I hope that this will lead to some solid changes. I don’t know — that’s tough. I think that, because #MeToo has been a movement that’s so focused on because of its origin on social media, just dominating the social media landscape and being the thing everyone’s talking about, it’s hard when it’s not the central focus of everything anymore to say, “OK, what kind of sustainable changes it’s bringing about,” because it was all we were talking about, it was all over Facebook, but now it’s not anymore. That doesn’t mean it’s not leaving an impact — that people are seeing this and changing their perspectives. What I’m trying to get to is that it’s a part of a long-term movement, and I don’t think that this one social media movement alone is going to solve the problem of sexual violence in the country, but it starts a conversation and brings it more so to the public view so more people are thinking about it, recognizing that it is a problem.

DC: What suggestions do you have for organizers and important figures who have a big hand in where this movement is going?

LA: First of all, I would say, this is not necessarily moving forward but about expanding the movement. Bring in diverse perspectives, bring in the women of color, bring in the low-income women, bring in the workers. Make sure this is inclusive. In terms of how to move it forward, I guess don’t lose the momentum. Because there a lot of people who care about this issue — half the country is impacted by this issue! So they’re all looking to these lead organizers, and even though it’s not all over Facebook anymore, it’s still something that a lot of people will really care about, to recognize that you have that support behind you and keep going with it, keep that momentum.

 

This movement has created such an important dialogue on the topic of sexual violence, and we hope that everyone continues to talk about it. Change never happens overnight; it is a result of people coming together, discussing the issues, listening to others and challenging their perceptions of the issue. Society always tells us what to think and to hold back, but in this changing time, it’s time for us to throw off the old way and usher in a new one. The topic of sexual violence has been ignored for so long, but enough is enough. We want to thank every single person who has come forward for their bravery and strength, and also every person who listened to them and continued to keep the dialogue going. And to all those who haven’t come forward, we support you and want you to know that you’re not alone. So to all students, keep talking about it, on- and off-campus, and continue to challenge the culture that has permitted sexual violence for far too long. 

Contact Sunny Sichi at [email protected].