As I wrote in Crest and Fall the wave that came from #MeToo and Times Up is now up and over. I cannot stress enough that the Kavanaugh confirmation secured that when it comes to the he said she said, he rules, enough said.
The New York Times one of the pre-eminant sources of this movement working in tandem often with Ronan Farrow and his story's in The New Yorker devoted quite a large section to this issue. And this is what I found:
‘This Moment Turned Out to Be Fleeting’
Nine reflections on #MeToo, one year on.
Oct. 6, 2018
Over the past year, the #MeToo movement spawned hundreds of articles reflecting on where all this is headed. Some reveled in an unexpected revolution — in late October, Margaret Renkl celebrated “the raw power of #MeToo.” Some fretted about its potential to sprawl: In January, Bari Weiss wrote that a story about Aziz Ansari’s behavior in his personal life, not his workplace, “trivializes what #MeToo first stood for.” Still others used the moment to train a lens on the Bible, advice columns and Bill Clinton.
We asked some of our contributors whose articles seemed to strike a particular chord with readers to revisit their pieces in light of developments since they were published — were they more hopeful now or less? What disappointed them, and what surprised them? Below are nine reflections on #MeToo, one year on.
‘“Harvey wants you there now.”’ — Oct. 14, 2017
I have felt of late that #MeToo was akin to keying an expensive sports car that just kept on moving. We all celebrated the victory of putting a scratch in the paint, and now that car (misogyny) is turning around and speeding straight toward us.
We see men whose careers have fallen because of the terrible things they have done to women blatantly rewriting their own histories in thinly veiled attempts to garner sympathy. We see Brett Kavanaugh spitting irrational rage, hypocritically undermining the very process he was assailing as a sham.
We hear Rick MacArthur, the publisher of Harper’s, condescending to host Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC Radio’s “The Current” while commenting on her “tone.” He barks over her, his own voice so full of anger and entitlement when questioned about his decision to publish an essay by John Hockenberry, a man who was accused of harassment, and interrupting so much that he makes it almost impossible for her to speak long enough to do her job. It’s the kind of behavior that would immediately be labeled “strident,” “whiny” or “hysterical” in a woman. It’s familiar behavior, it’s what misogyny has always looked like, but it feels as though there is an extra cup of rage mixed into it now.
So much ink has been spilled on #MeToo creating a kind of censorship or exile for men, when we are all so accustomed to men not letting a woman get a word in edgewise on her own turf.
When I wrote on the #MeToo movement last year, I said, “I hope that the ways in which women are degraded, both obvious and subtle, begin to seem like a thing of the past.” I really hoped that more space and time would be carved out to dive deeper into the underpinnings of the #MeToo movement before the inevitable backlash. I think it’s important to acknowledge how quickly we went from looking openly at the challenges women face to how the conversation about misogyny affects men.
We’ve got a lot more unearthing of women’s experiences to do before we confine #MeToo to a blip in history, or accuse it of things it has not done. We’ve certainly moved history an inch forward with this movement. Let’s keep pulling, hard, despite the shift in the wind. All together now.
Nona Willis Aronowitz
‘At bottom, #MeToo is not about hashtags or individual firings. It’s a chance to reset the table of sexual politics.’ — Feb. 16, 2018
Back in February, my optimism about the #MeToo movement was high. I hoped that it wouldn’t just target monstrous, larger-than-life abusers but would also lead to ways in which we could rethink sexual pleasure in our everyday lives. In the spirit of radical pro-sex feminists of the 1960s, I thought #MeToo’s condemnation of harassment and assault needed to be coupled with an active, pleasure-based vision — or else women would forever be fending off Tinder dates who feel entitled to sex.
Eight months later, that broader vision has been sidelined by a moving target trained on bad apples. In retrospect, my piece was deeply colored by one woman’s account on the website Babe.net of a joyless and coercive sexual experience with Aziz Ansari, which the media would eventually call a “bad date.” It had come on the heels of the viral “Cat Person,” a short story in The New Yorker detailing a female college student’s equally icky, decidedly non-pleasurable sex and its aftermath, when the man is revealed to be a rageful misogynist in hipster clothing. Though the latter was fictional, both encounters had something in common: Unlike the horror stories of, say, Harvey Weinstein or Eric Schneiderman, they were extremely recognizable to the average woman, yet difficult to name. Despite the controversy over how the Ansari piece was reported, I felt heartened by how people were gradually, tentatively connecting the dots between outright abuse and sexual encounters based on men’s entitlement and pursuit rather than mutual desire.
This moment turned out to be fleeting. The pattern now unfolds like clockwork: allegations, outrage, fallout. And increasingly, comebacks (Mr. Ansari himself dipped a toe back into the public eye last month with a standup routine in Nashville). When it comes to shining a light on workplace harassment, this relentless cycle has moved the needle tremendously. The recent cases of Asia Argento and Avital Ronell demonstrate how regardless of gender, unchecked power can sexually intimidate the powerless. But when it comes to discussing whether we need to change the age-old sexual dynamic of male offense and female defense, we haven’t gotten very far at all.
A common refrain from older men accused of misconduct has been, “The world is different now.” If #MeToo has any hope of curbing abuse, it can’t just drain the swamp of this old world. It needs to propel a clear, rushing, exhilarating current leading directly to the new one.
Katie J.M. Baker
‘The bad men are going to make their comebacks whether we like it or not. It’s up to us to determine what it looks like when they do.’ — April 27, 2018
It was the comedian Louis C.K. who went first. He made an unannounced appearance at New York City’s Comedy Cellar in August, performing his first stand-up routine since admitting last year to sexual misconduct with women in his industry.
Louis C.K.’s return to the stage was followed in September by a nearly 7,000-word essay by the former radio host John Hockenberry in Harper’s. Mr. Hockenberry, who was accused last year of harassing several female colleagues at WNYC, wrote that he now wants to create “a new universal scaffold of love and romance.” The same month, The New York Review of Books offered its own lengthy essay by the former Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who cutely described himself as a #MeToo “pioneer.” You could read all 3,400 words and never know he was accused of punching a woman in the head.
In April, I argued that it’s important to think about next steps, beyond shunning, when considering what should happen to the #MeToo-ed men who aren’t headed to court — not out of sympathy but because it’s delusional to think these guys will simply disappear once they’ve been fired or otherwise pushed out of their industries. My goal in writing the piece was to think about systemic change, instead of endlessly arguing over whether individual men should shut up forever, a question that is not really grounded in reality. We may still be struggling to reach consensus on what to do with these men, but for now, one obvious step should be demanding that industry gatekeepers who facilitate these comebacks take more responsibility for how they do so.
Mr. Ghomeshi was accused by more than 20 women and some of the allegations included serious violence: biting, choking and punching. Yet The New York Review of Books allowed him to gloss over these facts and misrepresent the number of allegations and how they came to light; it allowed him to portray himself as simply “tone deaf” and “emotionally thoughtless.” (The editor of the N.Y.R.B., Ian Buruma, left his position in the wake of the much-criticized piece.) Similarly, Harper’s gave Mr. Hockenberry thousands of words to ramble on about his new goal of “reinventing romance” but seemingly asked him for nothing on what it must have felt like for his female colleagues who felt compelled to quit instead of put up with his behavior.
After Louis C.K. recently performed another surprise Comedy Cellar set, the late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel told The Hollywood Reporter that “ultimately, the audience decides” whether someone “is welcomed back.” But the public sphere is not a democratic free-for-all: Who gets to take part in it and how is determined by producers, editors, managers, comedy club owners and other powerful people in industries that have long been complicit in covering up or ignoring sexual misconduct claims.
What if the editors at these prestigious publications had forced Mr. Ghomeshi and Mr. Hockenberry to seriously address the allegations against them, rather than seek pity while evading and dismissing reality? What if whoever let Louis C.K. perform that night insisted he explain whether he has made any sort of reparations to compensate for the harm he has done before starting his set? (At the very least they could have barred him from surprising audience members with his presence.)
There’s a big difference between shunning and effective gatekeeping. And bad gatekeeping is a disservice not only to victims but also to anyone interested in thinking about what restorative justice might look like. Would these men have gotten a better reception if they’d acknowledged, thoughtfully and non-evasively, the harm they had caused and were explicit about the work they were doing to repair not just their own reputations, but the pain they caused others? We’ll never know if no one forces them to answer.
Catharine A. MacKinnon
‘Women have been saying these things forever. It is the response to them that has changed.’ — Feb. 4, 2018
After four decades, or two thousand years, depending on when you start counting, indications are that #MeToo is working. The imposed silence that has walled off reports of sexual abuse is crumbling. Sexually abused women, and some men, are rising up; perpetrating men, and some women, are tumbling down. What was previously ignored or attributed to lying, deranged or venial discontents and whiners is being regarded and treated as disgraceful and outrageous misconduct with which no self-respecting company or university can afford to be associated.
Last February, I noted that #MeToo was accomplishing changes that the law so far had not. Sexually assaulted women were being believed and valued who had been disbelieved and denigrated. That momentum continues, in resistance to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and a hearing that presented Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault as a long-familiar dialogue between her facts and his resume. As framed by him, the question was whether someone as valuable and accomplished as he would be denied advancement over something as dubious and negligible as the abuse against Dr. Blasey. Yet events much like hers are now being widely reported in the mainstream media as pervasive and endemic rather than sensational and exceptional. Reports of sexual harassment are occurring regardless of sex, gender, or politics. Perpetrators are revealed as not just those men over there, but our men right here.
In law, many crucial issues are being newly discussed, fresh and creative solutions proposed. These include consideration of the role and content of nondisclosure agreements, independence of investigation and adjudication, equitability in procedures at all stages, elimination of criminal law standards from civil and administrative adjudications, and — radiating out — equal hiring, equal numbers of women on boards, equal pay and many more women in politics. Anyone who doubted that sexual abuse was central to the second-class status of women might consider what taking it seriously for once on a systemic basis has set off. Outcomes in these cases, with many others, will provide some measures of the distance traveled and the distance yet to go.
Courts are typically more hidebound and less nimble than culture, although they are embedded in it. The norms of rape culture still infuse much existing law. Rape law largely uses a “consent” standard often consistent with acquiescence to unequal power. Sexual harassment law’s equality standard is unwelcomeness. Criminal law’s burdens of proof, difficult for survivors to meet, are often imported, tacitly or explicitly, into civil and administrative processes as standards for the credibility of the victim. Statutory law against discrimination has a statute of limitations that is measured in months, before almost any victim of sexual violation is past trauma, far less beyond post-traumatic stress. No movement to change it exists in Congress.
Liability standards for holding institutions accountable for sexual harassment remain unrealistically stacked against survivors, more so in education for young people than in employment for adults. Investigative and adjudicative processes in most employment and educational settings remain within the chain of command of the institution rather than independent of it, further stacking the deck against victims. Transparency is not the rule in these proceedings; secrecy is, protecting the organizational brand. Legal standards for retaliation — one of the biggest fears behind nonreporting — need to change to protect reporters.
Culturally, it is still said “women allege” or “claim” they were sexually assaulted. Those accused “deny” what was alleged. What if survivors “report” sexual violation and the accused “alleges” or “claims” it did not occur, or occur as reported?
#MeToo may be the first change toward women achieving human status since the vote. Indifference to sexual abuse contributed to electing this president, an election that in turn fueled the #MeToo movement against that indifference with a rage that the events surrounding Judge Kavanaugh will likely continue to focus and accelerate further.
Gosh who wore it best? I wrote my blog piece alone and embedded in rage knowing first hand what it means to be a woman of a "certain age" to face a system largely one of men and my case had a Judge who was Black and Prosecutor who was a woman. Only one face of color existed on my Jury and the my right to defend myself was taken away at the bitter end by a Judge who seemed both clueless and arrogant a state that I have now come to realize is the standard. So BITCH PLEASE. I know now that one Attorney was a Junkie at the time hooked on meds due to his Colestemy and in turn the lead Attorney just lazy. Between these two men I watched my civil rights and savings dissapate as they did nothing. While Ted Vosk is now in rehab, Kevin Trombold is back being a compensated equivalent of a Public Defender and the Prosecutor, Jennifer Miller is in private practice. The Judge, Willie Gregory, still on the bench likely being challenged daily by doing nothing but securing plea deals. These are not people who anyone will care about or have to deal with until they have to. As Vosk is out of law, why anyone would hire the other two means you have less sense than cash and that is often the true reason anyone hires an Attorney as you hire what you can afford.
Judge Kavanaugh made his life one of Government service, choosing to serve on a partisan investigation and make his living by being the good white boy who is Catholic and Republican. That he has or had a drinking problem, has issues with women or had them and is basically an asshole is not that different than a lot of men in America. This story is not unique but his appointment to the highest court of the land in a job for life is and he will ruin more lives in more insidious and legal ways now that he wears the robe. What one wears underneath however is more telling. This story has an end and it is not a good one. These kind of stories never do.