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Libby Znaimer

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - Libby Znaimer ( libby@zoomer.ca) is VP of news on AM740 and Clas­si­cal 96.3 FM (ZoomerMe­dia prop­er­ties).

AT MY FIRST FULL­time job, a se­nior col­league re­peat­edly asked me to show him my breasts, and the photo ed­i­tor kept pes­ter­ing me to pose nude. By the time I got into tele­vi­sion, it was not un­usual to be on the re­ceiv­ing end of the crud­est, most graphic propo­si­tions from men I worked with at os­ten­si­bly so­cial oc­ca­sions. I never gave it much thought un­til the re­cent vi­ral #MeToo cam­paign that fol­lowed the ex­plo­sive Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal.

It started with a tweet from the ac­tress Alyssa Mi­lano, though the hash tag was cre­ated years ago by a Black ac­tivist named Tarana Burke. Ac­cord­ing to CBS News, the hash tag was used in more than 1.7 mil­lion tweets from 85 coun­tries its first week and a half and, on Face­book, there were more than 12 mil­lion posts, com­ments and re­ac­tions in less than 24 hours.

It’s safe to as­sume that most boomer-aged women in the work­force have faced some form of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. Some of my ex­pe­ri­ences left me speech­less; oth­ers were just laugh­able. My ca­reer was never on the line, let alone my safety, and I would never com­pare my ex­pe­ri­ence to women who have been as­saulted. But the band­wagon of so­cial me­dia out­rage leaves me deeply un­easy.

“It con­flates very se­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tions of rape with a whole host of be­hav­iours that are not so se­ri­ous at all,” says Joanna Wil­liams, a Bri­tish aca­demic and au­thor of Women Vs. Fem­i­nism: Why We All Need Lib­er­at­ing from the Gen­der Wars. “I think it triv­i­al­izes the most se­ri­ous of­fenses.” Case in point: the ac­tress Heather Lind ac­cused for­mer U.S. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing her dur­ing a photo op in 2014. “He touched me from be­hind from his wheel­chair,” she said.

The same hap­pened to me ages ago while pos­ing with an Olympic ski star. I com­plained to every­one – but the jerk in ques­tion. I re­solved next time I’d call out the cad on the spot. I never got the chance be­cause it never hap­pened again. Bush apol­o­gized “if his at­tempt at hu­mour of­fended Ms Lind.” This was more fall­out from the #MeToo phe­nom­e­non, which Wil­liams be­lieves pro­motes a cul­ture of fe­male vic­tim­hood with life pre­sented “as a bat­tle­ground where we are all only one bad joke or one wolf whis­tle away from be­ing as­saulted.”

Then there’s the fact that this has been driven by celebri­ties, pow­er­ful women like An­gelina Jolie and Gwyneth Pal­trow. The stom­ach­turn­ing de­scrip­tions of their en­coun­ters with We­in­stein early in their ca­reers were fol­lowed by the un­seemly sight of some other per­form­ers who ap­peared to be try­ing to get in on the pub­lic­ity with vague sto­ries dredged up from the depths of their mem­o­ries. Wil­liams thinks these stars found an op­por­tu­nity to present them­selves as vic­tims, and the women who ad­mire them fol­lowed.

Those who have come for­ward have been lauded for their brav­ery. But it’s hard to see how courage is nec­es­sary to par­tic­i­pate in a vast on­line mob. On the con­trary: this shar­ing makes you part of a wel­com­ing sis­ter­hood, and those without sto­ries of ha­rass­ment may feel left out. “My first thought was that since I wasn’t able to re­spond with a me too was ‘What’s wrong with me?’” says Sara Dimer­man, a psy­chol­o­gist I asked for her take on the phe­nom­e­non.

The A-lis­ters who have now told their sto­ries re­mained silent for years to pro­tect their fledg­ing ca­reers. “I thought he was go­ing to fire me,” Pal­trow told the New York Times. That choice is un­der­stand­able but hardly heroic. Even the ac­tor Rose McGowan – ini­tially banned from Twit­ter for ac­cus­ing We­in­stein of rape – re­fused to al­low the late re­porter David Carr to pub­lish her story, say­ing: “It’s not time yet. The pub­lic con­scious­ness is not there.”

Clearly, the tim­ing is now right. It will be a good thing if the scan­dal con­vinces abusers and po­ten­tial abusers that they can no longer get away with this. But I am a lot less sure about the ben­e­fits to the women in the #MeToo cho­rus. On­line out­rage is no sub­sti­tute for the work that is nec­es­sary for real change. Re­search shows it can ac­tu­ally im­pede that.

Wil­liams is wor­ried about the mes­sage it sends to her 11-year-old daugh-

“It con­flates se­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tions”

ter – “that be­ing a woman is hell.” She wants to con­vey that there’s never been a bet­ter time to be a woman, that “there are so many chances and things to be able to do with your life.”

When our gen­er­a­tion was younger, we were al­ways look­ing for more free­dom. But to­day peo­ple seem to want less. They are look­ing for more pro­tec­tion from vi­o­lence – and from un­wanted at­ten­tion or opin­ions they don’t like. To my mind, be­ing shielded from these things is not as good as learn­ing to stand up to them.

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