The MeToo Moment
By Jean Godden
This much is clear: The nation is having a MeToo moment. It's driven by revelations about powerful men who have acted inappropriately. Some have taken advantage of women or have sexually harassed, abused and assaulted women and sometimes men.
The floodgates are open. Each day brings fresh accusations and charges about boorish, reprehensible and even criminal behavior. Accusations have touched a range of professions, centered in political and entertainment arenas, but extending into journalism, academia, arts and media, medicine, technology, sports and the restaurant industry.
The list of names of alleged offenders began growing after an avalanche of charges (83 accusers so far) against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The list of abusers has grown long. Now there is scarcely a prominent profession, particularly one that is male dominated, that has escaped accusation.
A strong MeToo response -- women relating stories of sexist outrages -- has taken hold all over the country. Time magazine named "the silence breakers" persons of the year; Merriam-Webster has picked "feminism" as the word of the year. We are in the midst of a cultural revolution, an upheaval of gigantic proportions.
One can trace the revolution's beginnings to the New York Times' Harvey Weinstein expose'. But the Weinstein revelations landed on fertile soil, tilled by earlier revelations about the president himself. All of us saw Donald Trump on the infamous Access Hollywood tape. His own bald statements ("I moved on her like a bitch") confirm that he has been an unapologetic sexual aggressor.
Support for the MeToo movement has been swift and decisive. A group of 40 women's
organizations met recently in Washington D.C. to address the appalling situation. They ranged from academic groups to the National Women's Law Center and the National Congress of Black Women.
The women leaders worked on the question of what can be done to end bad behavior.
They concluded that there must be changes in the rules of how individuals interact. They cited human resource policies that are outdated and require reform. Many HR operations, drafted decades ago, were designed to protect male bosses and preserve reputations, rather than handling complaints.
When someone, usually a woman, accuses a prominent male of aggressive behavior, she often is branded as a problem. If she speaks out, the accusation hangs over her forever. If there is a settlement, the outcome often is kept secret, allowing the culprit to get a free ride while accusers remain scarred for life.
The women leaders who met in D.C. are calling for new rules. They want changes in HR policies, they want laws drafted that hold aggressors accountable and they want more certainty and transparency in dealing with bad behavior in the workplace.
The women's meeting signals that this is a whole new stage in the movement of women into the working world and into public life. While women have been struggling for equal opportunity and treatment, many men have failed to adapt, relying instead on a sense of empowerment.
There have been practical solutions put forward. Women leaders have proposed a fund to protect women who speak out. They talk about creating an independent panel to protect women in the future. There has been much concern for lower-income women who lack a proper forum for their complaints. Who will protect mistreated women who clean, cook and clerk for a living?
One positive sign in the midst of distress over the present situation is the torrent of women stepping up to run for office. Washington state, which has done well nationally, already has two times as many women running for office in 2018 than have filed previously. This groundswell is occurring all over the country.
If more women are elected, if more women are represented on corporate boards and if more women become gatekeepers, we can reach a better place in public life for women and for men as well.
In the past, reform efforts have too often lapsed into outrage forgotten. This time the mood seems different, white hot. The hope is that the MeToo moment will become the tipping point, a real revolution that will gain momentum and change our hazardous and unequal workplaces for all time.