All theories of a typical social movement – Relative Deprivation theory, theory of Collective Action, Resource Mobilisation theory and Structural Strain theory can be applied to #MeToo movement.
About #MeToo movement:
- It is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.
- #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
- It followed soon after the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
- Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase “Me Too” as early as 2006.
- The phrase was later popularized by American actress Alyssa Milano, on Twitter in 2017. Milano and Michael Baker encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it and “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.
- The movement began in India when actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment.
#MeToo is a Social Movement
A social movement requires sustained collective action over time. It requires ORGANISATION, LEADERSHIP, OBJECTIVES and IDEOLOGIES. Most of these features are present in #MeToo movement.
- Relative Deprivation Theory: This theory emphasises the role of
psychological factors such as resentment and rage in inciting social movements. Women who have faced harassment at workplace feel a sense of deprivation. This feeling of deprivation is a necessary, but not sufficient condition to start a social movement.
- Collective Action Theory: Collective Action argues that a social movement is an aggregation of rational individual actors pursuing their self-interest. A person will join a social movement only if s/he will gain something from it. After Tanushree Dutta, many more women spoke up about their sufferings. By saying “me too”, an individual woman makes herself a part of a broader group, and chooses to stand with others who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. This solidarity is powerful.
- Resource Mobilisation Theory: McCarthy and Zald argued that a social movement’s success depends on its ability to mobilise resources or means of different sorts. Technology in the form of Social Media has facilitated this resource mobilisation. This is the reason why many women have spoken out after more than 20 years.
- Structural Strain Theory: This theory proposes six factors that encourage social movement development (Smelser 1962) – structural conduciveness, structural strain, growth and spread of a solution, precipitating factors, lack of social control and mobilization. Revelation by Tanushree Dutta acted as a precipitating factor for #MeToo movement in India.
#MeToo and Sociological Theories
- Functionalism: Functionalists believe that a successful society has a stable social structure, in which different institutions perform unique functions that contribute to the maintenance of the whole – in the same way that the different organs of the body perform different functions to keep a human being healthy. #MeToo movement will help in better integration of women in economic world (Workplace). IMF chief Christine Lagarde says IMF research has showed that raising women’s participation in the workforce to the level of men can boost Indian economy by 27%. Many organisation have set up internal committees for redressal of allegations by Women.
- Marxism and Feminism: Where Marxists diverge from feminists is on how this can be done. The deep structure of social relations that condition all aspects of life – including relations between men and women – cannot be fixed on an individual level, nor by any process that pits women against men. Sexual harassment, sexual assault and inequalities between individual men and women reflect the economic and social oppression generated by the profound inequality of power, status and economic resources. Individual behaviour can be modified, and social pressure can be brought to bear, and is being brought to bear, to reduce the incidence of these abuses. But the root of the problem cannot be addressed simply by re-educating men – only through undoing the power disparities that come with capitalism.
- Interactionism: This theory has close resemblance with Feminism. In a society everyone is free to express their own sexuality free of any sort of legal or economic compulsion on a fully consensual basis.
#MeToo and other Sociological aspects
- Latent and manifest functions: The movement would improve working condition of women at workplace; check incidences of harassment etc. [Manifest functions]
The movement would also motivate more women to join workforce; improve gender parity at workplace, lead to reduction of patriarchal mindset in institutions [Latent functions]
- Reference group theory: The movement initially started in USA. Those participating in American #MeToo acted as reference group for Indian movement.
- Informal sector: Those working in informal sector – construction workers, agricultural labourers, brick kiln workers etc. also face harassment at workplace. They might be left out of #MeToo movement because of digital divide.
- Technology and Social Change: Whether this movement which has leveraged technology (Social Media) would be able to bring about a Social Change (change in structure and function of Social institutions) will depend on a range of factors. Digital space has significant representation of women. This might not be the case with physical space. This should change for Social Change to take place after #MeToo movement.
Criticism of #MeToo movement:
Seema Mustafa expresses that encouragement to share unexpressed feelings is a big achievement of India’s movement, but felt it lacked criticism — also from those on the same side — which would have been helpful in strengthening the women’s movement.
Tavleen Singh of ‘’The Indian Express’’ criticizes the MeToo movement participants in India, feeling the ‘liberals’ leading the movement are illiberal towards disagreements with their point of view.
It is noticeable that the mainstream media only began to take serious notice of sexual harassment in the workplace when it involved high-profile Hollywood celebrities and the like. The constant unrelenting sexual harassment of low paid women in the service industries is of no great interest – presumably because it is not glamorous. Women are at greater risk of sexual harassment and assault when other inequalities – race, ethnicity, caste, class etc. are present. Also, there are concerns being raised about how to differentiate between mutual consent and harassment.
Despite these criticisms, #MeToo movement reflects the dynamic nature of Women’s movement in general. Social Media is the latest offering by technology, and Women’s movement has leveraged it. In future, it may leverage Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to make workplace more secure for women. For now, the movement would further lead to overall empowerment of women.
Caution: The points have been written for examination purpose. There are good chances of you getting sentimental while attempting questions related to #MeToo. Please maintain a balanced stance. Any biased analysis would reflect poorly in marks of other questions as well.
Until next time,
Support us in keeping this platform open-for-all – click on the link below:
Our Telegram Channel: https://t.me/sociology_upsc