In 1997, activist Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement, which has helped many. It stemmed from a difficult conversation that she had with a 13-year-old girl, a victim of sexual abuse. Earlier this year, actress Alyssa Milano adopted the name of this movement to issue a public plea for women to step forward and share their stories of sexual harassment or abuse. The response was incredible. A tsunami of stories washed over this nation. Countless women finally felt strong enough to articulate their hurt and name those responsible for it. What had been ignored for so long was finally being acknowledged. Some of the allegations were particularly sordid, however. Consequently, in light of the extent of the abuse and the openness with which some purportedly carried it out, a number of people have begun challenging the claims of ignorance of some, including Georgina Chapman, Harvey Weinstein’s estranged wife, and even Hollywood legend Meryl Streep.
This latest development has represented a new direction for the #MeToo movement, and it has decidedly been a trickier one to navigate. In early December, actress and artist Rose McGowan lambasted her former Charmed costar Alyssa Milano in a couple of tweets for her support of Georgina Chapman. Equally, McGowan openly questioned how much Chapman knew. The backlash was immediate and considerable. Many were unhappy with McGowan for what they saw as attacks against other women. When she also later criticized Meryl Streep for her decision to wear black as a form of protest against gender inequality at the Golden Globe Awards, despite having worked for Harvey Weinstein, some were further dismayed with McGowan.
Nonetheless, the ensuing brouhaha has raised some interesting and necessary questions: Does the #MeToo movement have any sacred cows, or should it have any? In the interest of maintaining the transparency of the movement that has been the antidote to many victims’ despair, the response can only be no. No one should be exempt from or be able to duck valid queries.
The growth and the strength of this movement have prompted further concerns from some observers. While they understand the anger that permeates this activist wave, they believe that reason should not be abandoned. Certainly, for the sake of real justice, the need to distinguish among the different types of unwanted conduct is essential. When actor Matt Damon recently made this point, he was heavily criticized. Joan Vennocchi of the Boston Globe rightly highlighted the validity of Damon’s contribution to this discussion, however.
Damon’s input raises yet another question: Can or should men be part of this movement? The answer is an emphatic yes. In order to address this issue effectively and definitively, the movement cannot permit itself to limit participants in this national discussion or bar anyone from action. It would only hobble itself in the process. Moreover, such activity would deny the fact that alleged abusers can also be female.
For the #MeToo movement to have a positive, lasting impact, transparency and honesty, both intellectual and emotional, must prevail. Without it, this movement has the potential to create vast divisions among women and complicate interactions between the genders greatly.