Elated and nervous to meet with Harvey Weinstein, head of the star-making studio Miramax, Ashley Judd stepped inside a Beverly Hills hotel. In her formal attire, she was ready to confront Weinstein and discuss her acting career. Yet her dreams turned into ashes before they even set flight: Weinstein stood in front of her not to talk business, but to coerce her into bed. Despite Weinstein’s efforts to sexually harass Judd, she managed to escape. Judd could have remained silent like the others who were likewise sexually harassed by Weinstein. But she was different. She decided to tell her story to her family, friends, and eventually the press New York Times to which the world listened.
Some may have called her naïve. But in the eyes of many, she is a survivor. If Judd had refused to tell her story, other women who have also been sexually harassed not only in the Hollywood industry but also in other various workplaces, may have remained in the shadows. More importantly, sexual predators like Weinstein could have lived on, targeting more women and preying on more helpless victims. Yet thanks to Judd, more women started to speak up on social media such as Twitter, with the two hashtags: #MeToo and #TimesUp.
#MeToo was not limited to America. Rather, the phenomena spread out to the world, including South Korea, where Seo Ji-hyeon, a prosecutor in the Tongyeong branch of the Changwon District Prosecutor’s Office, accused a former bureau director, Ahn Tae-geun, of sexual harassment on January 29th 2018. This case especially stood out because fundamental women’s rights were violated in a place that was supposed to enforce law and justice. Soon after, Korean actors including Jo Min-ki, Oh Dal-soo, and Cho Jae-hyun, were all accused of sexual assault toward young actresses and female staff members,drawing light to the widespread cultural sexism and gender inequality within Korean society.
Although #MeToo and #TimesUp made headlines overnight, such determination towards gender equality has been developing over decades and even centuries. According to the Huffington Post, men tend to hold more authority positions than women. While women constitute slightly more than 50% of the population. Likewise in South Korea, women hold only 2.5 % of board seats in the nation-a ratio that is second-last in a survey of 44 countries. Furthermore, according to the Bloomberg, women are discouraged from continuing to work in the labor force when they take maternity leave, creating a clear unbalance of the labor force participation rate for women (53.1 %) and men (74.5 %).
In order to counter cultural sexism and gender inequality, a safe and understanding environment must be established so that victims of sexual misconduct can reveal their stories and experiences. In turn, sexual predators must receive severe punishment like Ahn Tae-geun, who was indicted and sentenced to eight years of detention. To go one step further, in order to achieve gender equality and empower women in workplaces, women and men should be given equal wages, along with fair opportunities for promotion. Women should not be placed under stress for not being able to work during maternity leave. Instead, the company should build a well-structured childcare support system that would take care of the children for such women. Women should also be given equal opportunities to become authority figures, so that the future generation of girls could look at them as role models and grow up to become such if they wanted.
#MeToo and #TimesUp could have been a momentary trend meant to rise to a certain extent and die down after a few days. But this time, it was different. Just like how small steps make a big change, the MeToo movement has become more than a few hashtags on social media. Rather, it has become a significant stepping stone towards achieving gender equality and rescuing women of all ages and race.