Two Students Bring #MeToo to Grounds

Two Students Bring #MeToo to Grounds

If you’re on any sort of social media, you’ve likely seen the hashtag #MeToo posted by someone you know. The number of people who have posted, tagged, and tweeted the phrase has been staggering, and with this comes the shocking realization that so many people face harassment and assault. Because we live in a culture where sexual assault is not often treated seriously, and people who come forward with sexual assault accusations aren’t trusted, it’s no wonder that most people don’t come forward.

A student holding a Tarana Burke, the woman who coined the phrase and began the movement, wanted #MeToo to give women agency after experiencing violence. She felt that the attention in the aftermath of sexual assault is so often on the perpetrator, and she wanted the women who experienced this violence to be given back their voices and their agency. After the accusations against Harvey Weinstein arose, Alyssa Milano posted the tweet that urged anyone who had experienced sexual assault and harassment to reply “Me Too.” This sparked the social media movement we are familiar with, and the hashtag #MeToo became a sign of solidarity among people across the world. The sheer number of people speaking up gave many the bravery to talk about their own experiences of sexual assault. It grew big enough that Tarana Burke and the other voices of this movement were featured as Time’s Person of the Year for 2017.

Emily Angelotti and Emma Strickland, two second-year UVA students, wanted to bring the #MeToo movement to Grounds in a more tangible, visible way. They decided to print and hand out “Me Too” stickers on Grounds. I sat down with them to talk about their inspiring project.

Emily came up with the idea during a class discussion on the concept of social theater, where people post or speak for an audience in order to advance a social movement or convey an idea. So much of social theater on social media makes a big splash, and no real change comes of it, and Emily was worried that this would happen with the #MeToo movement. She contacted Emma, and the two discussed how they could make #MeToo more substantial on grounds.

“I really like the idea of people putting these stickers on their laptops and their water bottles,” Emily told me, “so when people are on Grounds, they see it and think, ‘Oh right, this affects not just people in the larger sphere of the world, but here at the University of Virginia,’ and [sexual assault] is a problem that occurs, and that people are going to classes with people and eating in the dining halls with people who are impacted by it.”

Emily and Emma received a donation from Alpha Chi Omega, an organization whose philanthropy has to do with helping the survivors of sexual assault and sexual assault prevention, and with this money, Emily and Emma have printed hundreds of stickers that they plan to hand out around Grounds in the coming month, as well as during Take Back the Night.  

“The stickers are teal because teal is the color of sexual assault awareness and prevention,” Emily said as she handed me one of the stickers, which are about the length of my first finger and printed in a simple, clean font.

If you’re interested in getting a “Me Too” sticker, Emily and Emma will be handing them out February 20th through the 22nd from 11 am to 2 pm outside of Newcomb. Two

Tarana Burke was wearing a #MeToo t-shirt long before any of us even knew about her movement. Now, #MeToo is recognizable across the world and has affected all of us in some way. Emma and Emily are doing their part to make #MeToo visible at UVA, and to give the survivors of sexual assault a voice on Grounds.

Editor's note: On Tuesday, February 20, 2018, the Women's Center is hosting a discussion of some of the particular ways that harassment arises and can be addressed in college and university settings - and how we can encourage allies to play an active role. Women's Center director Abby Palko will moderate a discussion with UVA colleagues from Media Studies, WGS, the Title IX office, and the Law School. Get the details, and share with others who would be interested on the center's website or Facebook page:
#MeToo's Lessons for Higher Ed:  Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 7:00pm - 8:30pm, Kaleidoscope Room, Newcomb Hall