On Monday morning the #MeToo hashtag had taken over social media as, one by one, thousands and thousands of American women identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment and abuse, laying bare yet another facet of our national shame.
None of the men I spoke to in the days following the waterfall of admissions were surprised that almost all the women we know have suffered some form of sexual aggression — gropes, rapes, assaults both verbal and physical, unwanted sexual attention or some other leveraging of the sexual power dynamic that men have been exploiting for… well, forever.
Men I spoke to of an age similar to mine were forced to acknowledge the normalization of what we now recognize as “rape culture” — the caricature of the boss chasing his secretary around the desk, tales of the casting couch, examples of the Elektra Complex writ large across our culture for generations. Some of us remember “The Benny Hill Show,” a BBC export that was basically an episodic montage of sexual harassment set to saxophone music.
We can’t say it was a different time or that we didn’t really know better, because we did.
And this Facebook and Twitter revolt feels different than anything in the past.
The roots of the #MeToo movement go back to the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which the future president of the United States gave some jarring examples of his gross behavior. Similarly piggish behavior came out of Silicon Valley and the halls of Fox News. After the election, when it became evident that Trump would suffer no consequences for his transgressions, millions of women took to the streets in pink hats.
Months later, Hollywood legend Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a serial sexual abuser and female actors began confirming the worst of the accusations. From this, #MeToo tumbled forth.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that casting Weinstein out of Hollywood will suddenly end centuries of misogyny. But as men, perhaps we’re starting to recognize that we’re not doing enough to hold each other and ourselves accountable. With each #MeToo post, that becomes more clear.