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#MeToo, All In Vain?

BY GRESA RUGOVA 27/10/2018

Over 12 million people across the world have shared their
experience of sexual abuse and harassment by the hashtag
MeToo on social media.

One year ago, Harvey Weinstein, former American film
producer, kicked off the #MeToo movement and the phrase
began trending. More than 80 women confessed to sexual
assault allegations against Weinstein. The sweeping
investigations of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct helped
encourage women all around the world to come forward,
accusing powerful men with long-buried sexual misconduct
stories of their own.

The hashtag, which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions to come
forward and share their story, is part of the picture, but not all of it. This reckoning
appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years,
decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross
boundaries but do not even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the
fear of retaliation, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with
men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers
have started a revolution of refusal. What started with a hashtag became a worldwide
movement.

40 years ago, there wasn’t even a name for sexual harassment until the term was coined
in 1975 by a group of women at Cornell University after an employee there, Carmita
Wood, filed for unemployment benefits after she had resigned because a supervisor
touched her. The university denied her claim, arguing that she left the job for “personal
reasons.”

Nowadays, discussions of sexual harassment in polite company tend to rely on
euphemisms: harassment becomes “inappropriate behaviour,” assault becomes
“misconduct,” rape becomes “abuse.” We’re accustomed to hearing those softened
words, which downplay the pain of the experience.

However, concerns and worries from women and men about MeToo, and campaigns to
reject MeToo are slowly breaking the initial aim. Concerns about MeToo are based on
the fear of false accusations of sexual harassment or assault, women loosing out on
work opportunities because of men being afraid to work with them, and the punishment
for sexual misconduct. Besides, a year after the movements high point theories of
backfire arouse in the media.

Highlighting the large number of women who have been sexually harassed—and
therefore the many men who have harassed women—might lead men to believe that
harassing behavior is widespread and therefore acceptable

Moreover, the criminal case against Harvey Weinstein hit a snag earlier this month
when the prosecution threw out the charge of Lucia Evans, one of three women who’ve
spoken out in court against him. Meanwhile, Weinstein is looking to settle various civil
cases against him outside of court. While many men have faced professional setbacks
and public disgrace since MeToo, the man who started the avalanche has yet to be
convicted of anything. Weinstein’s criminal case could become an example of how
difficult it is to prosecute the powerful, even as the culture has evolved. Political
missteps in the handling of Weinstein’s prosecution could discourage woman from
seeking justice after all.

Luicia Evans lawyer Carrie Goldberg states: “People ask why survivors of sexual assault
don’t come forward in the criminal system – this is why”