What Happens after #MeToo? Will Anything Change for Women?
The #MeToo movement over the past year opened up a wound in our society and allowed women (and some men) to exhale — to tell their stories of sexual abuse by powerful men and be believed — and see powerful men be held accountable by losing their jobs. But many of these powerful men are starting to reemerge as though nothing happened. Is this going to be like the Catholic Church moving predator-priests around from parish to parish to protect them at the expense of vulnerable parishioners? Is society going to continue to fail women and go back to protecting powerful men? Jennifer Weiner of the New York Times notes that “one by one, like bad dreams, the #MeToo men have come back from the allegations against them, having suffered . . . the equivalent of a misbehaving child’s timeout.”
Here are some examples of #MeToo men reemerging:
- Aparna Nancherla of the New York Times writes about comedian Louis C. K., accused by five women of sexual misconduct by masturbating in front of them, who decided that enough time had passed for his second chance when he appeared, unannounced, at a comedy club in New York City roughly nine months after the accusations. Once on stage, he never mentioned the allegations against him or apologized to his victims. Nancherla notes, “The women who came forward as victims of Louis C. K. had nothing to gain except to be bullied, ridiculed, and insulted.” In many cases, their careers were damaged and they did not get a second chance.
- Nathaniel Popper writes that in the tech industry, the founder of Social Finance (SoFi), Mike Cagney, was ousted in September 2017, by his board for committing sexual misconduct, lying to his board, and fostering a pervasive hostile work environment in his company. Just four months later, two SoFi board members invested $17 million in his new start-up company. Popper notes that other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors who lost their jobs in the #MeToo movement have also rebounded. He cites Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, as saying that investors only care about making money and not about the employees who will be hurt by the toxic cultures these abusers create.
- Accused harassers who also hold public office are hoping that voters will forget and will reelect them for office. Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder of the New York Times write about sexual harassers running for state office in Arizona, Washington state, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who have been accused by long lists of women. All of them are running again. The authors note that while some have apologized, others have not. Even those who apologized feel that all should be forgiven and the slate wiped clean — even though in some cases behaviors have not changed.
- In the case of retired federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski, more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment and other misconduct. Leah Litman, Emily Murphy, and Katherine H. Ku, writing for the New York Times report that the judge retired before the investigation could be completed and the investigation was dropped. Because no formal finding of guilt occurred, the retired judge discounts the allegations and has never addressed them. He receives his federal pension and is now planning to teach — where vulnerable law students will be easy prey for him.
Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times notes that for the most part, the powerful men who are reemerging have not grappled with the pain and embarrassment they have caused to women. She notes, “I feel sorry for a lot of these men, but I don’t think they feel sorry for women or think about women’s experience much at all.” I agree. I fear that nothing is really going to change in our society unless these actions are taken:
- Men need to do some serious reflection together about why women are so furious with them.
- Men must offer ideas about how to make things better and play an active role in confronting other men (young and old) about their disrespectful behavior toward women.
- All of us need to take action when we hear rumors about inappropriate behavior by a friend or colleague. Confront your friend or colleague about what you have heard.
- Men who have been accused of serious misconduct must be held accountable and reckon with the past as they move forward.
- Institutions must consistently acknowledge the past accusations against a person who has been given a public platform, or we risk failing women again.
We must not go back to silencing women and sweeping sexual harassment under the rug.
Anne Litwin, Ph.D. is an Organizational Development and Human Resources Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together.’
Originally published at www.annelitwin.com on October 1, 2018.