In 2017, allegations of sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual harassment took center stage in Hollywood. The story swept across the nation, as the phrase #MeToo became the icebreaker on a taboo subject.
The phrase isn't new. Tarana Burke founded the movement in 2006, to spread awareness and understanding of sexual assault in underprivileged communities of color. Her organization coordinates outreach in schools and provides educators with resource kits to use in their classrooms. She was pretty shocked to see her little crusade go national.
In search of the local impact of #MeToo, I went to my first women's march this past weekend. The weather was freezing, but the welcome was warm at the Me, Too: The Women's Rally in Colorado Springs.
I didn't go to last year's Women's March. I believe in voting rights for women. I think that wages should be fair. But I am concerned that some feminist platforms go too far. We can be equal without bashing anyone. Despite my concerns, a march supporting #MeToo was too intriguing to pass up.
The participants were pretty eclectic. Signs of all types abounded. Handmaids with white bonnets and the grim reaper walked among rainbow clad teens sporting capes. Of course, there were the famous pink genitalia hats. I may have been cold, but I wasn't bored.
Protests can be surly, but this march was upbeat. Rosemary Lytle, head of the NAACP statewide, led other marchers while shouting cadences into a bullhorn. Some walkers jauntily played music on portable speakers. I watched participants thanking police for their service.
Rep. Pete Lee-D, Rep. Tony Exum-D, Yolanda Avila-D and Richard Skorman-D were in attendance at the march. Betty Fields, a first-time candidate for Congress, was also in attendance. So of course #MeToo was in all of the speeches.
#Me Too was everywhere. I saw the slogan on T-shirts, banners, signs and sashes. Walking alongside 1,000 marchers, we experienced quite the moment. And The Gazette recorded it via video and twitter.
So... is this a moment or a movement?
#MeToo has been tweeted 1.7 million times, 300,000 of those times by men. Facebook recently revealed 12 million posts about this subject. The phrase dominates news cycles.
Admission of sexual harassment or assault is spreading. In her famous speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey told us "..speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have." And male or female, our leaders seem to be listening.
State Reps. Faith Winter-D and Beth Humerik-R have issued a joint statement. "Sexual assault and harassment is blind to politics and blind to economic status. .We all need to take action to change our culture."
The message is crossing generational lines, too. Jill Likness-R, running for representative of House District 18, supports the #MeToo movement. She also has a specific platform within her campaign to combat human trafficking.
Says the young, but extremely experienced communications/campaign manager, "I am committed to working alongside our law enforcement officers, community organizations and all of you to protect and ensure the dignity of men, women and children."
Men are certainly weighing in. Nick Thomas-I, running in Boulder says, "The #MeToo movement is a long overdue call for offering women in our society the proper respect everyone deserves." This independent candidate is set apart by his strong call for political health across all lines. He continues, "I support the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters speaking out against their perpetrators."
#MeToo is also showing up in the business world. In its most recent monthly luncheon, the Southern Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce played a video montage of women's #MeToo stories. Director Lola Wolach then opened a public discussion of the subject with a panel of human resource professionals, attorneys and experts. The packed house of men and women talked openly of experiences, opinions and hopes for change.
Last year, as the Weinstein scandal was exposed, this was a Hollywood moment. In 2018, it is a social and political movement gaining momentum. Smart politicos will build message and legislation designed for the broad audience that supports #MeToo and work for those affected by sexual misconduct.
Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Rachel is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.