Commentary: Flaws in #MeToo don’t negate its importance
The #MeToo movement – a watershed cultural reckoning against sexual abuse – is about to reach its one-year anniversary.
Last October, The New York Times published an article accusing Harvey Weinstein of patterns of abusive behavior and sexual misconduct. Since then, more powerful men across all industries have been accused and held accountable for sexual misconduct.
Now, Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh is facing sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University. According to Ford, Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were both teenagers in the ‘80s. On Sunday, Deborah Ramirez told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh “exposed himself” to her at a dorm party in 1983. Kavanaugh denies the claims.
MeToo, like many social movements has grown to include a lot different issues. Addressing hostility and inappropriate behavior in the interactions between men and women is a frequent conversation appearing alongside the hashtag.
A complaint I hear all too often from male colleagues and friends is that they are in fact the ones victimized by the movement as it conflates coarse behavior with sexual abuse.
It would be naïve to assume that heightened sensitivity around #MeToo has never been exploited to ruin someone’s career. It’s also fair to recognize the dangers of letting opinions on social media take the place of a prosecutor, judge and jury.
There are undoubtedly flaws in #MeToo that shouldn’t be ignored. On the other hand, when thinking about the implications that come with reporting abuse, it’s more likely that there are more victims still too scared to come forward. Women especially are conditioned to downplay instances of abuse to avoid conflict rather than confront the issue. Additionally, as social media comments flog alleged abusers, accusers are slut-shamed and called liars seeking attention.
MeToo should not be weaponized in a regressive war between men and women. It’s important to note that #MeToo does not exclude male victims and female abusers. Nimrod Reitman accused his former New York University graduate adviser, Avital Ronell of sexual harassment.
An 11-month Title IX investigation found Ronell responsible of “physical” and “verbal” sexual harassment. A report called her behavior “sufficiently pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of Mr. Reitman’s learning environment.” Ronell’s position has since been suspended.
MeToo has also revealed that its most fervent supporters can also face sexual misconduct accusations. In August, The New York Times reported that Italian actress and #MeToo advocate Asia Argento paid $380,000 to her former co-star, Jimmy Bennett, after he accused her of sexually assaulting him when he was 17. Argento has since denied these accusations.
With every instance of abuse containing so many nuances, it’s okay to not be sure how to feel. It means you’re using your critical thinking skills.
If #MeToo is making you worry about your behavior, that’s a good thing. We should all be more conscious of how we interact with others. I’ll take the collateral damage of an imperfect movement if it means we are heading toward a kinder, more socially conscious society.