President Trump’s State of the Union address this week covered a great deal of topics, from immigration to taking credit for the booming economy. He praised a number of individuals, including a young boy who organized the placement of flags on the graves of 40,000 US veterans, which was an unexpected surprise coming from the man who loves nothing more than talking about himself. Yet there were some key topics the president chose to leave out of his speech, namely the rapidly growing #MeToo movement.
This movement has gained popularity with a hashtag on social media to spread awareness about the staggering numbers of women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed in the workplace or at any other point in their lives. Started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, the message of this movement is simple: you are not alone. Burke states, “For too long, survivors of sexual assault and harassment have been in the shadows.” Many women are afraid to speak up about what they have undergone for fear that no one will believe them, or worse- that they will lose their jobs or more harassment will follow.
TIME Magazine Person of the Year was the “Silence Breakers,” in honor of the brave people of all different races, sexualities, ages and other identities who spoke out about their experiences with sexual assault. This movement was also honored at the 2018 Golden Globes, where dressing in black was a sign of solidarity and women on the red carpet pushed to be asked more than who designed their dress.
In the world of athletics, the entire USA Gymnastics board stepped down after former physician Larry Nassar faced over 150 women in court and was charged with sexual abuse. Obviously, sexual harassment and assault isn’t just Hollywood business, but a problem everywhere, including the political world.
On Capitol Hill, the #MeToo movement is gaining steam and taking no prisoners on either side of the aisle. What began with multiple harassment accusations against Al Franken in late 2017, precipitating his resignation, has quickly snowballed. Powerful Democrats and Republicans, freshman lawmakers and veteran Washingtonians have all been toppled from their perches by allegations of assault and harassment. Some commentators don’t believe it will stop there, and according to one journalist, between 20 and 40 members of Congress may be exposed in the media for sexual misconduct in the coming year. Even in the slow, unproductive and often frustrating culture of Washington, #MeToo is greasing the rusty gears of gender equality and pushing Congress towards a zero-tolerance culture.
However, despite its growing prevalence, the president made no mention of the Me Too movement in his speech Tuesday night. One possible reason for this, aside from Trump’s long record of offensive comments about women and clear disrespect for their problems, is the allegations of sexual misconduct made against the president himself. The nineteen women who accused Donald Trump have expressed their disappointment that their stories haven’t had as large of an impact as they’d hoped. Though countless actors have faced backlash and in some cases been fired from their jobs, President Trump hasn’t been held to this standard. We saw progress when Roy Moore lost his election, but Trump still stands. His less than professional behavior did nothing to prevent him from seizing the presidency.
In honor of these nineteen women as well as the countless other victims of sexual assault, many congresswomen and congressmen wore black and Time’s Up pins in what they called the State of the Union Blackout. While the president may have failed to address the presence of sexual misconduct in the political industry and in the world, many politicians were more than happy to voice their opinions. In the words of Representative Suzanne Bonamici, “The office of the Presidency shouldn’t be exempt from an investigation based on credible allegations of sexual assault.” As more and more people continue to break the long history of silence surrounding sexual assault, perhaps a day will come when President Trump will finally have to face his actions.
Hallie Carton ‘21 is a prospective English major and political science correlate from Atlanta, Georgia, with an interest in screenplay writing.