LONDON — The wave of revelations and revulsion over Harvey Weinstein has gone global.
As A-list actresses level claims of sexual misconduct at the now-disgraced Hollywood mogul, ordinary women everywhere engaged in a collective outpouring of their stories of assaults and sexual harassment inspired by an online campaign made famous by Alyssa Milano.
And, as the #MeToo ranks swelled, there is also a sense of bitterness about how sexism remains rooted in many parts of the world — including places seen as progressive in women’s rights.
“This has been part of our world — women’s world — since time immemorial,” said the British actress Emma Thompson when asked by the BBC about the Weinstein scandal.
Indeed, the statistics compiled by the Stop Street Harassment campaign in the United States make for sober reading.
The group highlights a 2014 study by YouGov that ranked the safety of transit systems for women in 16 cities around the world. Bogota was the most unsafe city in the survey, while Mexico City was the worst for verbal and physical harassment with 64 percent of women respondents saying they had been groped or harassed on public transit.
Within hours of Milano’s #MeToo call, the hashtag was trending worldwide with stories pouring in from Calgary to Cairo, from Paris to Perth. The two-word hashtag has been tweeted over half a million times and has been featured in more than 12 million posts on Facebook. On Arab social media sites, women jumped into the conversation using the hashtag #AnaKaman, the Arabic translation of “me too.”
A 63-year-old Australian woman tweeted that harassment was present "all through my early working life in the 70's & 80's" while working at the Department of Defense in Sydney.
“Looking back it was horrendous,” she wrote.
A parish priest in rural England tweeted where she faced harassment: "Paris when I was 16 heading to visit my pen friend. Norfolk when I was 22 being expected to 'earn' some bar work. Others I can't say."
A self-described German-Finnish world traveler tweeted: "And then there was that old man who placed his sweaty hands on me in an overfilled metro in Rome acting as if it's not him."
“Tailors in Pakistan who always need to measure your chest and hips at least 7 times,” wrote a press officer in Lahore. “You always know when the hand lingers too long.”
"When I was in India, Egypt, Mexico, Belgium, and pretty much everywhere I've lived," wrote a Mexican living in Brussels.
Even in countries considered to be progressive, women were sharing stories of abuse. "5 years ago at Copenhagen Airport I was sexually assaulted by a security guard," tweeted a British comedian and actress.
In France — where President Emmanuel Macron said he would revoke Weinstein’s Légion d’Honneur award — a separate but similar campaign took root with thousands taking to social media with the hashtag #balancetonporc, or “squeal on your pig.”
Sandra Muller, a French journalist, kicked off the #balancetonporc campaign when she encouraged people to name and shame those responsible for sexual harassment. She named her own former boss, whom she said commented on her breasts and told her that she was “my type of woman.”
Stories began flooding in, like that of a Paris-based radio journalist who tweeted that an editor of a major radio station once grabbed her by the throat and told her she would have sex with him "whether you want it or not." She said she filed a complaint but that nothing happened.
On Monday, Marlène Schiappa, France’s gender equality minister, said that legislators will debate proposals for cracking down on sexual violence and harassment, including fines for “wolf whistling” and other sexually tinged comments on the street.
This isn’t the first time that women — and some men — have turned to social media en masse to highlight examples of harassment and abuse.
Five years ago, Laura Bates, a British writer and campaigner, founded #Everydaysexism, an online project that catalogues everyday, street-level sexism.
She said in an interview that the recent campaigns following the Weinstein allegations highlight how “enormously widespread” the problem is and how too often women are ignored or silenced.
“Women are often told that the problem doesn’t exist, sexism is the thing of the past, we’re equal now, those things only happened in the 70s, you must be overreacting, you got the wrong end of the stick, he probably meant it as a compliment, you just need to smile darling,” she said.
Many of the patterns seen in stories that have emerged in recent days — stories of abuse at home, in the workplace, at schools, in public spaces — are not new, Bates said. But she said that more women are speaking out.
“I don’t think we’ve seen great strides in the last five years with the problem shifting. What we are seeing is thanks to the incredible courage of women and girls all over the world speaking out about their experiences is the increased tendencies for survivors to be able to talk about what’s happened to them,” she said.
She added that she hoped that the outpouring of grief and frustration will help shift the conversation from “this point, where we are constantly trying to raise awareness that the problem even exists” to the next phase, “where we are having a debate about how to fix it.”
Heba Habib in Stockholm contributed to this report.