In our 2020 women’s survey, we asked a question about the impact of the #MeToo movement in retrospect. 

#MeToo is an inherently digital movement, debuting on the cultural stage in late 2017, though founder Tarana Burke first coined the phrase in 2006. One year after actress Alyssa Milano brought the phrase to public light, Pew Research Center reported the hashtag was used more than 19 million times on Twitter, or more than 55,000 times a day. 

Compared with the 2010 Arab Spring in Tunisia, where protesters used still-young social media sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to schedule massive in-person protests, #MeToo flooded newsfeeds overnight with stories of assault while the storytellers stayed in their homes, places of work or other private spaces. 

While our women’s survey focused on the specific movement against sexual harassment and misconduct, the conversation over whether #MeToo was effective could have much broader implications in how Americans organize in protest during a COVID-19 era of social distancing. When nonessential workers are holed up in their homes, can a social media movement effectively move enough people to side with the organizers? Does a social media movement without an accompanying real-life march generate enough press, or put enough pressure on observers in power? #MeToo’s origin on Twitter and Facebook might be the closest thing we have to understanding how public dialogue moves forward without the public in the town square. 

We don’t have the answers yet, and our survey respondents answered before COVID-19 changed our daily lifestyles. But as we think about how social distancing shapes our work and personal lives, it’s a good time to consider how a nation acclimated to public protest will transfer those habits to a digital square. 

View the full 2020 Women’s Survey online.

Do you feel the #MeToo movement has been helpful to working women? 

Guest Editor Sara Kurovski: I believe that it has empowered women to tell their story and raise awareness on this issue; as well as for many to begin to heal. But it has also caused some men to take pause and no longer mentor women for a multitude of reasons. That sentiment has been verified by, after surveying men and women for the last two years. They found the following:

Senior-level men are now far more hesitant to spend time with junior women than junior men across a range of basic work activities. 

They are:
• Twelve times more likely to hesitate to have one-on-one meetings.
• Nine times more likely to hesitate to travel together for work.
• Six times more likely to hesitate to have work dinners.

Others’ responses:
. While the #MeToo movement has inspired quite a lot of mockery from men who feel “victimized” by a brighter spotlight on their behavior, the overall effect of the movement has served as a means to raising awareness — both of the self and of others — relative to relationships between the genders. It has cast new light on the superior-subordinate relationship, helped women see one another as sources of power, and empowered women to speak up when they experience or witness abuse. Also, to be honest, I appreciate that the #MeToo movement has made men feel as though their every word and action is under a microscope; this has been the experience of women for ages, and it’s about darn time we turn the tables a bit. In this case, empathy is never a bad thing. — Anna Clark, assistant professor, Drake University

No. Men have become more cautious when interacting with women. There has been a withdrawal and [it has] created more fear. — Amy Boyce, manager, people and culture development, Aureon

Yes. It has created a new floor for acceptable behavior in the workplace. There is still much to be done to improve the conditions, but a clear line has been drawn to eliminate the worst of the worst conditions. — Eric Heininger, managing director, Eden+ Fundraising Consulting

Undecided. While I believe blatant sexual harassment might be declining, I think there has been some “backlash effect.” For example, I believe that sometimes a man is now less likely to hire a woman for a job that requires travel or men now decline one-on-one meetings with female colleagues or don’t invite women to certain events, thereby excluding women from job and networking opportunities. — Karen Johnson, vice president assistant controller, Meredith Corp.