On International Women’s Day, we’re reflecting on a watershed year in the struggle for gender equality. Activists have been speaking out against sexual assault and harassment for decades, but the viral #MeToo movement has brought new voices from Hollywood into the national conversation. Founded in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke, the movement took off on social media this year and kickstarted the national discourse after allegations of serial sexual misconduct surfaced against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The #MeToo movement has pioneered an “empowerment through empathy” model: building community by connecting survivors online and reminding them that they are not alone. In October 2017 actress Alyssa Milano used the hashtag in a tweet that garnered over 500,000 retweets; the hashtag was used by more than 4.7 million people on Facebook within the first 24 hours. #MeToo grew into a movement to confront the cultural and structural factors that have enabled sexual harassment and violence against women for too long.
As you broach this topic in your classrooms and communities, consider using the following POV documentaries and educational resources that approach it from different perspectives. These films are available to screen through the POV Community Network and have companion materials to facilitate effective dialogue and steps for taking action.
Out in the Night | In 2006, four African American lesbians – Renata, Patreese, Venice and Terrain – were violently threatened by a man on the street in the West Village. After fighting back they were charged with gang assault and attempted murder, vilified in the media as “Killer Lesbians,” and incarcerated. The film follows their tumultuous battle in a case that reveals the role of race, gender, and sexual orientation in the criminal justice system. Out in the Night shows the pervasiveness of sexual violence within institutional structures and challenges audiences to consider the different reactions and results that survivors of sexual violence receive when they occupy specific gender, racial, and sexual identities. Screen the Film | Download the Discussion Guide | Explore the Lesson Plan | Check out the Reading List
Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Dias a Nadie) | Growing up as an undocumented immigrant from Colombia, Angy Rivera’s life was confined by secrecy and fear. This fear added to her burden as a survivor of sexual abuse. Don’t Tell Anyone follows Rivera’s activism to support the rights and visibility of undocumented youth. Rivera welcomes us into the most intimate moments of her young adulthood and candidly shares her survivorship with audiences across the world. Her bravery and resilience remind us that survivorship is wide-reaching in its demographic and impact. Screen the Film | Download the Discussion Guide | Explore the Lesson Plan | Check out the Reading List
Hooligan Sparrow | The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (aka Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to southern China to seek justice in the case of six elementary school girls allegedly sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment and imprisonment. Sparrow continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power of social media. Screen the Film | Download the Discussion Guide | Explore the Lesson Plan | Check out the Reading List
More educational resources from our partners:
- New York Times Learning Network, The Reckoning: Teaching About the #MeToo Moment and Sexual Harassment
- KQED’s The Lowdown, Before #MeToo: The Long Struggle Against Sexual Harassment at Work (with Interactive Timeline and Lesson Plan)
- The Educator’s Room, Stopping Sexual Harassment in Schools: What the #metoo Movement Means For Educators
- Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, #MeToo: It’s About Power