No, the #MeToo Movement is Not a Witch Hunt

Irish actor Liam Neeson is just the latest to describe the #MeToo movement as “a bit of a witch hunt.”

I know quite a bit about witch hunts of the past, since I’ve been researching my ancestor Alice Molland who was the last person executed for witchcraft in England, in 1684. Along with most of the tens of thousands of people accused of being witches in early modern Europe, she was female and an outsider, with little power. She was accused of “witchcraft on the bodies” of three people, causing them to die. Other so-called “witches” were accused of causing the harvest to fail, keeping a toad as a familiar and killing off pigs. All the testimony was hearsay.

The witch trials in Europe and England involved innocent people, mostly women, who were powerless against the state and the church, and who were hanged, drowned or burned. 

There have been plenty more modern-day witch hunts since then. The Holocaust, the internment of the Japanese in the U.S., and McCarthyism are all examples, since they entailed the systematic persecution of powerless people.

So let’s be clear: the #MeToo movement is not a witch hunt.

In fact, the #MeToo movement is the very antithesis of a witch hunt: it’s a coming together of people who have been exploited, wronged and harassed to fight against established powers that have perpetrated these wrongs. 

A witch hunt involves people in power targeting those with no power and blaming them for what’s wrong.

Yet Liam Neeson is not alone in seeking to make this comparison.

Writing in “Pacific Standard,” David M.Perry provides this example: 

“Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson wrote on behalf of former Senator Al Franken: ‘I firmly believe in due process, which is a cornerstone of our democratic way of living. Whenever in history we abandoned it, we severely damaged ourselves. Just think about the lynching of blacks in the Southern, the internment of people of Japanese descent in World War II, or the era of McCarthyism when lives were destroyed based solely on allegations.’”

These historical events are examples of modern-day witch hunts; asking the a U.S. Senator, someone with a great deal of power, to resign because of allegations of sexual harassment, is not.

Margaret Atwood, author of the dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is another critic who doesn’t seem to get this difference. Atwood has expressed concern that there will be no due process for the accused harassers. This follows her actions last year when she signed an open letter calling for due process for a University of British Columbia professor who was facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

Her comments brought many responses including this one on twitter:

“In today’s dystopian news: One of the most important feminist voices of our time shits on less powerful women to uphold the power of her powerful male friend.”

French actress Catherine Deneuve also drew heavy criticism when she signed on to an open letter published in the French newspaper “Le Monde” declaring that the #MeToo movement was taking things too far.

Along with more than 100 other women from the worlds of entertainment and academia, she rejected a type of feminism that could lead to “a hatred of men.”

She appeared to pull back a little this week and apologized to “victims of horrible acts…and to them alone.”

However, Deneuve also implies that men and women will lose their sense of fun in flirting because of #Metoo.

This makes no sense. As  sums up in The Guardian, the accusations of sexual misconduct include:

“Louis CK masturbating in front of non-consenting women. Harvey Weinstein ejaculating on to a woman’s nightclothes after raping her. ‘Things’ done by men who lied, insulted, threatened, cornered, touched up, fingered, groped, squeezed and penetrated those whose power and status were less than their own.”

These are the violent acts of the powerful taking advantage of the powerless. 

Flirting has nothing to do with sexual harassment. Good flirting is mutually pleasurable, a subtle way of building desire, but it only happens when two people are paying very close attention to each other. It’s a respectful and playful exchange resulting in both sides feeling good.

Sexual harassment, the concern of the #MeToo movement, is about one person forcing his will on another person with no regard for that person’s desire.

Let’s keep our attention on the victims and the powerless and stop using “witch hunt” unless that’s really what we mean.

Photo Credit: Screenshot from vimeo online video


Deborah W
Deborah W7 days ago

ALLEGEDLY always gets my attention, permanently diluting the issue unless documented ... and not years, even decades later, for some people DO SHAPE UP. Still, coming forward often presents just enough harm and questions to make one wonder. Personally believe the money's good if sensational enough to bring headlines ... just ask Karen McDougal. And what about those as yet not "caught". Would love to see media investigate their competition for the big story and top headline. Or is the brotherhood just too big, and the sisterhood too small?

Frank Hanline
Frank Hanline28 days ago

@ Karen H: I appreciate your POV, but how is it not a witch hunt when a person is believed before found guilty? As for the "pendulum", that all depends. Do you know what most of the lynching in the south a result of? Also, 30% of those lynchings were against white guys, the poor almost exclusively, as well.

Karen H
Karen H28 days ago

There are males who are aggressors. There are women who will falsely accuse a man of assault. This is why each case must be investigated. Impartially. For far too long it's been he said/she said, with he said being believed more than she said before anyone had any details. The pendulum has now swung the other way, and we are apt to accept she said before we know the full story. Witch hunt? No. This is when women speak out after being silenced far too long. This is when both men and women have to determine boundaries. What is "flirting"? What is "coming on too strong"? How does a woman say NO so a man understands she really means NO? And does a man know that NO means STOP?

Frank H
Frank Hanline29 days ago

@ Heather G: Not all are as wise nor reasonable as you!

heather g
heather g29 days ago

Seems the majority of North Americans don't know how to flirt - well, apart from other shortcomings...

Frank Hanline
Frank Hanlineabout a month ago

@ Janis K: No, the real witch hunt was the "Benghazi Trial by repetition"

OBTW Aziz Ansari is a self-proclaimed and celebrated "Male Feminist". Wow, when a guy calls himself a "Male Feminist", I start a clock to see how long before he's accused of something. Remember, Harvey Weistein was called a "Male Feminist" and a great supporter of "Women's Causes"

No, I'm not a feminist, I'm an Egalitarian who feels very strongly about "Equality of Opportunity"

Frank Hanline
Frank Hanlineabout a month ago

What about this:

And the rebuttal, as in men are not mind readers:

janis k
janis kellerabout a month ago

The real witch hunt is the "Russian Investigation" of Trump.

Dot A
Dot Aabout a month ago

I'd say women have had enough of experiencing their 2nd class citizenship, and part of this rally is due to the feeling of being the underdog of the genders for thousands of years. That said, as several of the previous comments mention, this movement can be abused, just like anything else. It is good that women are inspired and feeling propelled by the circumstances to speak out loud about their feelings when men think it's funny 'to grab them by the ***** '. I too have my own 'metoo' story, yet, I don't want this to become a "Hang 'em high" for any male that has corned me for a kiss, or done some other testosterone inspired foolishness. Women absolutely COULD come out as losers if they act out in revenge, hatred, manipulative attacks, or some other less virtuous ambition. Semantics plays strongly here in how this issue is discussed openly and fairly. Women need to use their wisdom as well as their right to change our culture for better treatment, equitable conditions, and respect for our gender. We are completely and utterly fed up with the way women are viewed and will not go along with 'the way things are' - in the future. Common sense, reason, logic, compassion, and intelligent discussions will help the cause. Witch hunts create warts.

Carl R
Carl Rabout a month ago