The Unintended Consequences of the #Metoo Movement

Posted in #MeToo,Sexual Harassment on January 9, 2018

For the last several months, women throughout the United States have been empowered in a truly remarkable and historic way. Since Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein had his past history of sexual misconduct fully exposed in the media, countless women have come forward to make known exactly the way they were sexually harassed or assaulted.

A disappointing, but all too predictable backlash has occurred, coming in a few forms: pushing the fear of a witch hunt; trying to minimize the behavior of certain perpetrators; and, sexist hiring practices.

Hiding Behind Due Process

The USC football team’s kicker in 2016 was expelled from the university after he allegedly violated the school’s policy on sexual misconduct between intimate partners. He allegedly put his hands around the neck of his girlfriend and pushed her against a wall. The woman first confirmed the attack and then recanted a few months later, calling the school’s investigation “horrible” and stating she had never been abused, assaulted or otherwise mistreated by the alleged perpetrator.

An alleged perpetrator’s right to due process cannot trump the protection of victims. Refusing to alter long standing practices of sexual harassment and the mistreatment of women over due process fears would allow boorish old habits to continue to undermine women everywhere.

The Matt Damon Explanation

“I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behavior, right? And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” – Matt Damon in an interview with Peter Travers of ABC News

Obviously rape and sexual harassment are not the same, but minimizing the negative impact of any type of sexual misconduct is a way to sweep the behavior of certain individuals under the rug. Women in all professions have been subjected to sexual harassment for years. Are they supposed to stay quiet? Is a woman who has been groped by a boss less deserving of justice than a woman who was raped at a party? Executives and employers are attempting to create a “spectrum” so that they can downplay the impact and convince the general public that some behavior is less severe and less deserving of any form of justice.

Sexist Hiring Practices

Sheryl Sandberg, a Facebook executive, stated she had heard “rumblings of a backlash” amid the airing of women’s claims across the country. There is a fear that male executives will say, “This is why you shouldn’t hire women.” Ms. Sandberg went on to say, “Actually, this is why you should.”

The idea that not hiring women is a solution to sexual harassment is arcane at best, purely sexist and regressive (not to mention illegal) at worst. These brave women chose to step forward and acknowledge that they were treated as less than human, and there are employers, corporations, executives and political leaders who want nothing more than to quiet those voices.

These tactics and the backlash must be exposed for just what they are: an attempt to quiet the voices of the brave and erase the stories of millions of women throughout the country.