Thursday, October 19, 2017

#MeToo: A Few Statistical Points

I plan to write about the #MeToo hashtag more later, but right now it seems useful to point out that the hashtag (used on Facebook and Twitter to denote that the woman (or man) posting or tweeting it has also been the target of sexual harassment and/or sexual violence) does not directly measure the percentage of all women (or of all men and women) who have experienced sexual harassment or sexual violence.  That's because a) not every person is on social media, aware of the hashtag or willing to use it, and b) there's no comparable #MeNeither hashtag that those would use who have had no such experiences or at least do not recall them.

For us to get more accurate data of the overall prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual violence, as well as on how such behaviors are divided into, say, street harassment and workplace/school harassment, we still need surveys based on random sampling from the general population. 

What the #MeToo hashtag tells us is that sexual harassment, at least, seems to be pretty common.  But it cannot tell us exactly how common*, and it cannot tell us what percentage is of the Weinstein-type harassment taking place at work or at school, possibly by individuals who have career-breaking power over the target,  and what type consists of, say, street harassment by strangers.

This seemed worth writing, because I have come across a few essays asking if anything at all could be done about a phenomenon which appears so ubiquitous.  That kind of despondency is unwarranted, in my opinion.

* Both because the hashtag doesn't measure the percentage of all women who have experienced sexual harassment and/or sexual violence and because it doesn't differentiate between one experience and several experiences per each respondent.