Has #MeToo Gone Too Far — Or Not Far Enough?

Written by Angel Burns

The #MeToo movement backlash has arrived. Rush-to-judgment detractors say it vilifies males, threatens men’s jobs and limits sexual freedom. Should we return to silent acceptance and occasional hush-money lawsuits? Is it too much noise? Has it gone too far?

I know the answer: Actually, it is not enough.

“Tell everyone, LOUDLY!” I instructed my daughters. “Make the creep the one embarrassed.” Bad behavior is enabled by secrecy. It doesn’t matter what that behavior is—it needs fresh air, not a cover. Besides, it might take a village to get help. The kind of clamor the #MeToo movement and others like it initiate is needed to get a society to sort out its values. How can we decide what those values are—and fight for the ones we believe in—without the scope of the conversation?

When I was about 7 years old, an old man came behind me and stuck his fingers between my pant legs as I was peering over a table of goods at the store. It startled me, so I ran to tell my mother. “I can’t do anything unless I catch him myself,” she told me, “but if it happens again, kick him as hard as you can!” She wasn’t surprised by what happened, but she felt limited in how she could respond. Moments later, I was again grabbed despite my vigilance—and met with a slow, hard wink. I ran to my mother and clung to her, terrified, until we left, and long after whenever we went shopping. Nothing more was said or done about it. This was typical of the time—it was accepted that victims would be wary, and most accusers would be discounted.

The subject of sexual harassment and molestation has been shrouded in silence for too long, with those in the know reticent to speak up. But silence is a facade of normalcy that allows misconduct to fester like bacteria in darkness. If it makes sense for kids to yell, “he’s hitting me!” for immediate relief, why do we have such a problem with shouting about harassment and abuse? Our culture has implicitly made us overly polite—forcing us to side-step the “drama” of accusations, and the doubt and humiliation they bring. The fear of that sort of backlash sends traumatized would-be or were-once whistle-blowers back into the shadows.

If #MeToo seems to stigmatize men, remember there are male victims too—such as Terry Crews and Kevin Spacey’s accusers. I know of workplaces that feature frat-boy teasing, graphic jokes and flashed porn images that make men uncomfortable, but they play along for the paycheck. Let’s separate the bad behavior out from norms and stereotyping. If men now fear retribution at work, remember that the same kind of threat is what has kept women silent—for the sake of maintaining their own livelihoods and creative pursuits. How can we uphold perpetrator’s power-wielding careers when victims gave in to coercion and silence to preserve theirs? And if sexual harassment limits sexual freedom, well, any freedom must be limited when it clashes with another’s. Women would love to lose the anxiety over being on guard or ambushed—wouldn’t it be nicer for everyone to function free from the same?

Sexual harassment has costs. According to a piece in Entrepreneur, “often people who engage in sexually predatory behavior also faked expense reports, plagiarized writing or stole credit for other people’s work… All of these behaviors are the actions of someone who feels entitled to other people’s property—regardless of whether it’s someone else’s ideas, work, money, or body.”

Sexual harassment has been on HR policy books for some time, yet it hasn’t managed to secure us enough. The widespread release of secrets is a needed catharsis to begin a scale of mediated fixes. But just like in a mediation, open talk must precede solutions. We can’t have change without the freedom to declare where it’s needed first.

I can’t help but wonder the difference—what if I had screamed as a child in that store? Harmful actions should speak louder than protesting words. Now I have changed the protocol of my youth—if boundaries are crossed, my voice will also cross into a justified public wail. I preach this to my daughters. I hope more of us are preaching it now.

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine.

Photo Credit: Backbone Campaign/Flickr

98 comments

Marie W
Marie W20 days ago

Thank you

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Jack Stroud
Jack Stroud4 months ago

No Swenson.. it is you who does not get anything at all.. go on ranting all you want.
Subjects like you there are plenty, like weeds, they will always come back for more.

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson4 months ago

@Jack Stroud--You said it--"It seems unreal", because it is! Congratulations, you finally get it!

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Jack Stroud
Jack Stroud5 months ago

@Karen Swenson. You seem to be careless. My insight about this subject is clearly in my first intervention.. But you cannot seem to wrap your intelligence around what I added in previous comments. It seems unreal.. right..?? But true. So, take care and do not forget to take your meds as prescribed.
Thank you. Have fun

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Karen S
Karen Swenson5 months ago

Mr Stroud---You are not providing any insight about the thread question, but postulating unproven material about more women raping men. What has that got to do with the subject at hand. I am not going to engage in name calling, as you have done, but I suggest you stick to commenting on the subject and not go on a ridiculous rant concerning your unproven Rape accusations that women rape more than men. It is not a contest, Jack--rape is horrible no matter who is the perpetrator! NO ONE has said Women NEVER commit crimes, rape, molest or murder.

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Jack Stroud
Jack Stroud5 months ago

Miss Swenson.. I do not see you providing any insight about the thread in question.
But I see you going after posts that attack your beliefs and convictions somehow making you a fiery beast going after anything that moves and/or goes against what you hold dear in your mind. That's not the way to proceed. If you could you would comment on the subject and bring something to the table but you don't. Therefore I advise you take your medication as prescribed by your doctor-

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Jack Stroud
Jack Stroud5 months ago

Miss Swenson.. are you out hunting today..?? You do not care about the thread in question.. you just wanna score points..
-get out of here..!!

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Karen S
Karen Swenson5 months ago

@Jack Stroud-- Why is there NO PROFILE on you? SERIOUSLY?--Love and Respect for others--YOU? Laughable!

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Jack Stroud
Jack Stroud5 months ago

All those who say that women are not raping men and boys as much, if not in more numbers as men do, are in the dark.
Cretins, delusionals who fake the facts for their own selfish and blind interest are the ones making things worse. #MeToo could apply to those men and boys who have been and who are being raped as we speak.. but no!! it is sadly not working for anyone. In the short term men are being questioning themselves and/or being fired without fair trial. In the long term #MeToo movement does not hold any water if people with short vision and wrong info deny the fact that WOMEN ARE RAPISTS TOO.
Thanks Leanne K- for so much love and respect of others-

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Leanne K
Leanne K5 months ago

Care2 can we remove the trolls or at least run a story that shows how to spot these manipulative abusive fske personas, info on their NPD, their pathetic motivations snd how they target caring empathic people in real life and the sites they visit? There are so many now, or rather that one cretin with quite a number of fake profiles

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