In the wake of Weinstein: #MeToo, calling out and sexual harassment
This debate is part of Battle of Ideas Stockholm.
The startling accusations from a plethora of actresses levelled at Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein have led to millions of women across the world sharing on social media their experiences of sexual harassment, using the hashtag #MeToo. The Weinstein allegations have highlighted a seemingly broader issue of sexual misconduct, not just within the entertainment industry, but far beyond.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, joined #MeToo by disclosing harassment in top EU circles, and according to one report called for ‘more forceful political measures to stop sexual violence and harassment’. Cultural institutions also see themselves as having a role to play. The Nordic Museum, Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history, is collecting stories that have been shared under #MeToo, arguing ‘now that there is an opportunity to make [a difference] in our cultural heritage as private individuals, we want to be a channel for that’.
What should we make of this? Many say the public naming of, mainly, male creeps is necessary, since the judicial system has, over and over again, proved ineffective or even unwilling when it comes to dealing with women’s experiences of oppression. But while calling out harassment is said to be empowering, there are concerns that there is a danger of a name-and-shame witch-hunt, with calls to blacklist named individuals for behaviour of various levels of seriousness. In the US, there is a spreadsheet circulating with the names of dozens of men who work in journalism, titled ‘Shitty media men’, containing anonymous and unverified allegations of everything from creepiness to criminality, which has already led to the sacking and disgrace of one well-known literary editor. Some worry that conflating a wide range of behaviours can dilute the response to the most serious incidents.
Is #MeToo a valuable way for the everywoman to show solidarity with victims and raise awareness of the broader problems of sexual harassment everywhere? Or does it stir up the gender wars, exaggerating the idea that most men are sexual predators and most women their victims? What does #MeToo reveal about deeper cultural trends?