A year and a half after the #MeToo movement gathered steam — a decade after founder Tarana Burke first started her campaign by the same name — advocates say it has drawn needed attention to women’s claims of sexual harassment and everyday sexist encounters.
“Some people really doubted this [movement] back when it first came out, meaning that they were saying, ‘This is sort of a scare,’” associate professor Tina Opie told Jim Braude on WGBH’s Greater Boston on Wednesday. “I think we’re at the point where we’re realizing that there [are] some legitimate and valid things that have been raised.”
However, some of the more prominent accused men seem to have emerged largely unscathed or unapologetic, raising questions about whether the momentum has slowed.
Woody Allen, long ago accused of sexual abuse against his adopted daughter, is set to beginning filming a new movie in Spain this summer. Allen has repeatedly denied the accusations of abuse. Lawyers for Kevin Spacey, accused of plying a teenager with drinks and then groping him in 2016, on Monday continued their aggressive defense, which has included accusing the alleged victim of potentially making up the accusations to cash in on a lawsuit. And former Sen. Al Franken, who resigned after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct by colleagues, which he denied, received some support this week from presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who said he would not have pushed the legislator out of Congress.
“The reality is that women have been dealing with this for a long time,” said author Jen Deaderick.
The movement’s progress seems to have also stoked anxiety among men about unwittingly doing something wrong, Braude argued. He pointed to a recent survey from the organization Lean In showing male employers’ reluctance to take work trips with female employees.
“It used to be that a lot of times the women who went along on those trips would get sexually harassed,” Deaderick said, adding that such gender-based concerns are not new, and that they are simply now more acknowledged on both sides.
“It’s not ridiculous [for men to have concerns], but again, women have had to worry about this forever,” she said. She noted the classic example of women being accused of “sleeping their way to the top.”
The Lean In study found that 60 percent of male managers are uncomfortable mentoring women, and that they are nine times more hesitant to take a professional trip with a junior female employee than a male one.
Tina Opie added that it’s not necessarily negative for a male employer to have such worries, if it comes from a place of wanting to be respectful.
“When we’re interacting with people who are different that us, we should be aware of the fact that, ‘I could say something to you that’s offensive,’” she said. “It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about sensitivity.”
The women also spoke about the issues of accountability and forgiveness.
Deaderick praised Franken for stepping down in the wake of his accusations. She dismissed Buttigieg’s recent claims that the case was an example of Democrats engaging in purity tests that harm the party.
“He should have been held to a higher standard,” Deaderick said. “It’s a pretty low standard right now in the … Republican party.”
Opie said there was a need for “restorative justice” after someone is accused of wrongdoing.
“There’s a spectrum of behavior,” she said. “I would like to think that if I were to make a mistake … and we were sincerely apologetic, [and] wanted to learn, that we would be able to repent and that our communities would welcome us back.”