It’s been a banner year for the #MeToo movement, with a now staggering list of men in power facing sexual assault and rape allegations. And in May, media mogul Harvey Weinstein turned himself over at last to the police, and social media exploded with the victorious cries of survivors of sexual violence worldwide. It was undoubtedly a huge step in the eyes of the brave people who finally felt safe enough to speak out after years of silent shame. However, there may have been some unfortunate side effects in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement’s success, despite its excellent intentions. #MeToo was, in part, supposed to break the silence and stigma of sexual violence, and yet it’s possible that for many, it has done the opposite.
#MeToo? Doubt and Fear
Ever since survivors of assault began speaking up in 2017, good things have happened – in fact, it is likely that Harvey Weinstein will do actual jail time, and we’ve seen the result of Bill Cosby’s sentencing already. This is great progress, but as more men are incarcerated, the void between women and men seems to have widened.
Men are more frightened than ever of being falsely accused of sexual assault, harassment or misconduct. The natural reaction to this fear and uncertainty is to avoid interaction with women altogether. We’ve already heard reports from many who are afraid even to ask a woman on a date in case it is misconstrued as misconduct or harassment. But what follows this fear and avoidance?
It’s still early days of course, but it’s possible that workplaces may subconsciously avoid hiring too many women if men are concerned about offending, especially as the punishment for sexual misconduct will likely be more severe than it has been previously. But the most shocking thing about this outcome is that it isn’t men who are voicing these concerns.
A nationwide survey conducted by Vox media in March 2018, months after social media surged with the tiny but powerful hashtag #MeToo, found that the majority of women surveyed believed that while it was a very good thing to bring these dastardly deeds to light and punish those responsible, they had concerns over women’s rights and opportunities in the workplace as the momentum of the movement barreled on. After all, what better way is there to avoid offending women then by not hiring them? (Is my sarcasm showing?)
Ironically, the #MeToo movement spurred the infamous #TimesUp campaign in Hollywood as well, which was meant to ensure equality and safety in the workplace. But women have become increasingly worried that these powerful movements may just prevent them from having opportunities in the workplace at all, if men continue to be concerned about offending women and being accused, falsely, of any sort of misconduct.
The Truth About False Accusations
If change is ever going to happen, survivors of assault genuinely need to be trusted, especially since coming forward about something so painful and personal is almost always judged and questioned in the most humiliating ways, particularly in the court of law. Survivors are berated in court with personal questions about their bodies, what they wore, how much they had to drink – and those are just the PG questions.
The reason they are questioned so ferociously is that sexual violence is extremely difficult to prove legally, and the challenge grows the longer survivors wait to come forward. This leads, naturally, to the concern that some accusers are actually fabricating the truth, perhaps out of regret or anger.
In reality, it is extremely rare to be falsely accused of rape, as several studies have shown. But as more men are outed, the ugly truth becomes a harder pill to swallow, particularly when our favourite celebrities are accused.
Morgan Freeman was recently accused of sexual misconduct. Morgan Freeman: beloved celebrity by all, and with impossibly twinkly eyes to boot. He even played God, once. Harvey Weinstein on the other hand, is easy to despise. There are dozens – maybe hundreds – of powerful men who have been accused since the #MeToo campaign blew up the internet in 2017. Some accusations are easy to believe, like Weinstein’s, while others come as a shock. There is also an insane number of accusations of sexual assault, harassment or misconduct – so much so that we may actually start to become desensitized to them altogether.
Apathy is easy – acceptance is harder. We are becoming so used to sexual assault due to the sheer volume of charges thrown into our faces everyday, whether we read about it on our morning commute or experience it first hand, that it’s becoming old news. Women are finding themselves less concerned with their safety and more concerned with their workplace rights as well, which feels like a step backwards in history. The consensus among #MeToo supporters, however, is that the currently defined “normal” sexual interactions between men and women just don’t cut it anymore for women, and they are bent on changing that definition. Fear and doubt aside, it’s clear that #MeToo and the millions supporting it aren’t giving up the fight anytime soon – and that could still be a very good thing.