It hasn’t even been a year since the fall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein lit a spark under the #MeToo movement. It hasn’t even been a year since the allegations first surfaced that, for decades, Mr. Weinstein repeatedly harassed, stalked, assaulted and raped dozens of actresses and everyone in Hollywood knew.
Since that Pandora’s trash can was pried open last October, the reality that sexual misconduct infects just about every workplace has kept getting stinkier. It’s hit entertainment hard, as well as restaurants, and those who work in auto manufacturing plants, hotels and finance have told their stories, too.
All this in less than a year. It seems quick, except that activist Tarana Burke actually came up with the phrase “me too” in 2006. Anti-violence advocates spend their lives working for change, and for them, this is a long-awaited garbage day. And as they’ve long-known, getting rid of those who seem the most predatory is just the beginning of the cleanup.
Just as the movement gains momentum, some are already trying to say it’s time is over. Unsurprisingly, that includes a number of men who have had enough of repenting for their alleged slimy actions.
Those with the audacity to already be seeking a comeback include former NBC host Matt Lauer, who allegedly had a button under his desk to lock his office door so he could assault junior staff. He just announced an interest in getting “back on TV.” Oakland, Calif., chef Charlie Hallowell, accused of harassment by more than 30 employees, reappeared at the cliquey Berkeley farmers' market. He’s also put a sign in his restaurant’s window that reads “Love, Redemption, Good Food.”
Most boorish was comedian Louis C.K., who admitted that yes, he did masturbate in front of female comics who saw him as a mentor. Earlier this week, he made a surprise appearance at New York City’s Comedy Cellar, not bothering to tell the club’s owner or the audience in advance.
Even as a slew of accused men work hard to minimize their actions, one woman’s apparent transgressions are fuelling those who always thought #MeToo was a warlock hunt.
In mid-August, court documents revealed that actor Asia Argento paid US$380,000 this past spring to a young male actor who accused her of sexually assaulting him when he was 17 and she was 37. One of the first to openly accuse Mr. Weinstein, Ms. Argento initially denied the allegations, then went silent when leaked photos and text messages seemed to prove them.
That a woman so closely linked to the rise of #MeToo seems to have also engaged in sexual misconduct has kicked off a flurry of discussion about the movement’s supposed hypocrisies and inconsistencies. That includes the idea that men are always perpetrators and women always victims – but that isn’t what anyone said.
Women are more vulnerable and sexually objectified in society, and so yes, they are more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators. But brave male survivors have been crucial to the movement’s spread, particularly Terry Crews, whose accusations against powerful Hollywood agent Adam Venit helped chip away at ideas of stoic black masculinity that most often hurt black men themselves.
And anti-violence advocates have always known that trauma is a cycle – it’s not surprising that Ms. Argento could be both a victim and an abuser. But as with novelist Junot Diaz, who revealed his own childhood assault just before a number of women accused him of harassment, that’s not an excuse to inflict pain on others. Hurt people hurt people, but what we want is for that to stop.
It’s also not true that redemption is impossible or that it always involves criminal charges. What many survivors have always wanted is what advocates call “restorative justice:” an honest effort on the part of the perp to admit what they did was wrong, and to change.
As comedian Jenny Yang wrote on Twitter this week, there are so many ways Louis C.K. could have addressed his wrongdoings that might have seen him truly welcomed back on stage. Those include genuine apologies to the women he hurt, making a real effort to help their careers and using the power and influence he still has to make his industry more welcoming to different types of people.
Instead, he once again went for what he wanted without asking – and, if you can believe it, he actually made a rape joke. Thankfully, the reaction has mostly been mocking disbelief. Meanwhile, Mr. Weinstein himself just filed a motion to have charges made against him by Ashley Judd dismissed.
So no, #MeToo isn’t over – it’s just begun. There’s still mess everywhere. Plug your nose, and pull on your yellow gloves.