The Philanthropic Meaning of the #MeToo Movement

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Social Justice
Social movements are always related to philanthropy. The #MeToo Movement can be defined as a social movement that is against sexual violence and sexual assault. It advocates for females who survived sexual violence to speak out about their experience. The history of the movement and the role of philanthropy in its advocacy is explored in this article.

by Yue Ming



The #MeToo Movement was founded in 2006. Initially, Tarana Burke, a social activist, created a "MeToo MySpace page to encourage and support black females and girls of color in poor communities who had survived sexual violence ( Editors, 2018). Ten years later, in 2017, the word “MeToo” became the slogan against sexual harassment in Hollywood. The movement swept over America and the world. With the development of the #MeToo Movement, the advocacy expanded to broader groups, including individuals from the LGBTQ community and the disabled. Meanwhile, the movement tried to restructure global conversations related to sexual violence to help more people and expand its influence (me too., 2018).

The #MeToo Movement can be defined as a social movement against sexual violence and sexual assault that advocates for females who survived sexual violence to speak out about their experience.


Historic Roots

  • In 2006, Tarana Burke created a “Me Too” Myspace page and founded the Me Too Movement to help women or young girls who suffered sexual abuse, violence, harassment or assault.
  • On October 5, 2017, Ashley Judd, an American actress, used the hashtag “#MeToo” to reveal the sexual harassment of the producer Harvey Weinstein in the New York Times.
  • On October 15, 2017, Alyssa Milano, an American actress, tweeted “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet” on Twitter. More than 500 thousand people replied to the tweet within 24 hours. This surprise phenomenon made the #MeToo Movement spread widely and quickly to encourage victims speak out and against sexual harassment or assault.
  • In December 2017, The Silence Breakers were named Time Person of the Year
  • On January 7, 2018, all females attending the Golden Globe Awards ceremoney wore black in protest of sexual violence, and the men wore Time's Up pins in support. 
  • On January 9, 2018, 100 French women signed an open letter in protest of the #MeToo Movement, which they claimed went too far.
  • With the quick development and expansion of the #MeToo Movement, Asia began to launch this movement. In China, young females stood out to share their experience of sexual harassment or assault from university professors, athletes, journalists, and so on. In India, the #MeToo Movement mainly takes place in Bollywood. In South Korea, Seo Ji-hyun, a female South Korean public prosecutor publicized her experience about sexual harassment, which ignited the #MeToo Movement in South Korea. In Japan, the hashtag #MeToo transferred to #WithYou to express the solidarity.



It is obvious that the issue of sexual harassment, violence, or assault is very important and common. In society, the issue is often downplayed due to the bias in the culture or a gap of power. Therefore, the #MeToo Movement plays a significant role in raising awareness of the issue and healing survivors and defending their rights.

There are many male celebrities who have been accused of sexual harassment. For example, Harvey Weinstein was fired by the Weinstein Company. In Sweden, influenced by the accusations towards Jean-Claude Arnault, his wife Katarina Frostenson left the Swedish Academy. In India, M.J. Akbar, the junior foreign minister, resigned because of the accusations of sexual harassment and assault. In September 2018, Bill Cosby, the famous and revered actor and comedian in the U.S., was sentenced to 3-10 years for felony sexual assault.

Some surveys show that the consciousness of sexual harassment is changing, and many men have re-considered their behaviors and attitude towards women and now support women against sexual violence or harassment.

Candace Bertotti led an online survey from VitalSmarts, which polled 1,100 people to determine whether sexual harassment in the workplaces actually changed. Fifty-six percent of respondents indicated that there has been some improvement after the #MeToo Movement. Forty-five percent of respondents think that talking about their experience of sexual harassment now is safer. Forty-one percent of women have shared an experience of sexual harassment since the #MeToo Movement began. Half of male respondents observed that their previous behaviors that seemed okay before, they could recognize as sexual harassment.

There is a new online research from Fawcett Society of 2,056 adults that determined there is a shift in the attitude towards sexual harassment. Fifty-three percent of respondents say that the #MeToo Movement changes the idea about the acceptability of sexual harassment. Over half of young people aged 18-34 suggest that they would be more possible to speak up against sexual harassment, including fifty-eight percent of men. Fifty-five percent of respondents aged over 55 argue that the acceptable context has changed in 2017.

The #Me Too Movement is undoubtedly profound. The opinions about sexual harassment are changing. Whether people share their own experience about sexual harassment or assault or not, the #MeToo Movement attracts attention. The #MeToo Movement also provides a platform where victims feel safer to talk about their own experience. The movement gives victims a sense of company and also provides legal support and encourages them to have a voice. Commonly, the influence of the #MeToo Movement leads people to attach importance to sexual misconduct.


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Social movements are always related to philanthropy. Payton and Moody (2008) define philanthropy as “voluntary action for the public good” (p6), and the aim of philanthropy is to improve the quality of life. The #MeToo Movement is a movement of empowerment to help females stand out bravely and heal themselves. It is voluntary, and its aim is encouraging people against sexual harassment or assault and defend themselves.

On the one hand, the #MeToo Movement has reached out through the nonprofit sector. More females speak out about sexual harassment or violence in the workplaces. Some scandals about the accusation of sexual harassment have begun to happen in the nonprofit sector.

On the other hand, a lot of nonprofit organizations make grants or take actions to support the #MeToo Movement. For example, Just Be Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded by Tarana Burke in 2006. It focuses on improving the quality of life for young women of color. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in America. Charity Navigator, through evaluating 180 organizations focused on females, suggests that the amount and number of donations towards these organizations increased compared with the last year. With a goal of fundraising more money to help victims, Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund was founded. It can help the survivors who were involved in sexual harassment or assault in the workplace to pay legal fees and costs and have a voice. The Fund encourages more survivors to have a voice through helping them connect with lawyer to gain legal support.

Nonprofit organizations can be instrumental in how to fix the root of sexual harassment or assault problems, as well as how to fundraise more money and support the victims who have the experience of sexual harassment or assault. The #MeToo Movement cannot develop well without nonprofit organizations.


Key Related Ideas

  • Time’s Up is a phrase followed by the #MeToo Movement. Time’s Up focuses on the equity, safety, and gender parity in the workplace by advocating legislation (Langone, 2018).
  • Women suffrage is a movement to enfranchise women, which began in the first women's rights convention in 1848. The 19th Amendment was finally ratified to engranchise women in 1920. (National Women's History Museum, 2018)
  • Feminism is defined as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, and organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests"



Important People Related to the Topic

  • Tarana Burke is an African-American civil rights activist and the founder of the #MeToo Movement in 2006. She was awarded as one of “the Silence Breakers” by Time magazine in 2017 ( Editors, 2018).
  • The Silence Breakers were named as TIME’s Person of the Year for 2017. The Silence Breakers are those who share their stories of or take actions against sexual harassment or assault in public (Felsenthal,2017).
  • Catherine Deneuve signed an open letter with 99  other French women and published it in the French newspaper Le Monde to denounce that the #MeToo Movement goes too far (Andrews, Peigne and Vonber, 2018).

Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S.
  • Just Be Inc is a nonprofit organization founded by Tarana Burke in 2006 and focuses on improving the quality of life of young women of color
  • Time's Up Legal Defense Fund is launched by over 300 actresses, writers and directors on 1 January 2018 to help survivors who involved in sexual harassment or assault in the workplace pay legal fees and costs and to have a voice.

Reflection Questions

With the development of the #MeToo Movement, more and more people are speaking out against sexual harassment or assault. However, some critiques suggest that it ignores due process for the accussed. Therefore, how to push the #MeToo Movement towards betterment is an important issue to consider.

  • What are the negative influences of the #MeToo Movement?
  • Do you think the #MeToo Movement will continue to have influence in society?
  • Has the #MeToo Movement changed your attitude or behavior towards women or the nature of harrassment?



  • Editors. 2018. “Tarana Burke Biography.” The website, July 17, 2018.
  • me too. “About”
  • Robert L. Payton and Michael P. Moody. 2008. Understanding Philanthropy. Indiana University Press. 2008.
  • Alix Langone. 2018. “#MeToo and Time's Up Founders Explain the Difference Between the 2 Movements — And How They're Alike.” Time, March 22, 2018.
  • National Women’s History Museum. “The Woman Suffrage Movement.”
  • Edward Felsenthal, 2017. “The Silence Breakers.” Time, Person of the Year 2017. 2018).
  • Frank Andrews, Yelena Peigne and Judith Vonber. 2018. “Catherine Deneuve denounces #MeToo in open letter.” CNN, January 11, 2018.


This briefing paper was authored by a student taking a philanthropic studies course at The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.