Hot off the press – In the wake of Weinstein: Hollywood, #MeToo and sexual harassment

Sunday 29 October, 13:1013:50, Free StageHot off the press

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.

What should we make of this? 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 every woman 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?