Emotional Health

#MeToo: Humiliation Revisited

The forces unleashed by the Harvey Weinstein scandal refuse to go away. He has been fired from his company, ousted by the Motion Picture Academy, and stripped of his medals from such prestigious institutions as Harvard University and the government of France, which had bestowed on him the Order of Légion d’Honneur. A question naturally arises: if it was common knowledge that Mr. Weinstein was a bully and a serial abuser of women, why did he garner all these accolades? Does talent trump character? This is the question often asked. The answer is no. It isn’t talent. It is power, especially the power of money, that has always gone a long way, if not all the way, in protecting men like Weinstein. The New York Times revealed, that another serial abuser, Bill O’Reilly, had been accused in a number of assault cases, including one that led to a settlement for $35 million dollars shortly before his  contract came up for renewal in January. According to The New York Times, “It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him.” Still, the network negotiated to keep him on the air, until the allegations and their pursuant settlements became front page news. Only then did Fox decide to break with him; the Murdochs having made the business calculation, finally, that it wouldn’t profit to keep him on the air.

How can women find justice in the face of such reluctance to punish abusers? In response to the Weinstein allegations, the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Margaret Renkl writes in The New York Times that “Within minutes the hashtag #MeToo was all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — more than 500,000 times on Twitter and 12 million times on Facebook in the first 24 hours alone — and the deluge shows no sign of slowing. The numbers keep climbing as women tell the stories of men who used their power to overwhelm or coerce them.”

Not only are more and more women in Hollywood coming forth with their own Weinstein stories, people, including men,  from all over the country have been giving voice to their outrage.

The actress Lupita Nyong’o, wrote in the Times that while she is glad that the “secret” is out, it comes at a price: “Now that this is being discussed openly, I have not been able to avoid the memories resurfacing. I have felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I have felt such a flare of rage that the experience I recount below was not a unique incident with me, but rather part of a sinister pattern of behavior.”  She goes on to tell her own Weinstein story, now familiar, but no less shocking.

Despite the solidarity and perhaps comfort women are feeling as we discover how very common such experiences are, the revelations themselves are causing many to relive the pain of the original incidents. One young woman I spoke with told me that she is finding the “#MeToo” movement triggering, and has suffered in the past week painful flashbacks of incidents dating back from when she was twelve. Now, at only twenty-three, she already has a long history of assaults: just last week, in her university library, a middle-aged man began screaming at her when she declined his offer to chat about which bars “hot women hang out in around here.”

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