In her speech at the Women’s Convention in Detroit late last month, actress Rose McGowan told the crowd that “we are all Me Toos,” in reference to the hashtag that went viral following initial reports of assault and harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
McGowan has said that Weinstein raped her.
That’s a crime, if the accusation is true. No woman should have to endure the horror of such a violation. And no man who is guilty of sexual assault should get away with it.
“I have been slut-shamed,” McGowan said to the women gathered in Detroit. “I have been harassed. I have been maligned, and you know what? I’m just like you because what happened to me behind the scenes happens to all of us in this society.”
But what if we aren’t all Me Toos? Is that OK?
I get the feeling some women are trying too hard to join the #MeToo phenomenon, which is targeting an ever-growing list of men, largely in Hollywood and politics. It’s almost overwhelming to keep up with the sordid accusations.
There are stories like the one that surfaced last week, from an anonymous Dearborn woman claiming former President George H.W. Bush touched her posterior during a photo op in 1992. Other women have made similar allegations against the now 93-year-old Bush. The woman reporting the old incident explained to CNN she didn’t want to be named so as to avoid media attention.
It’s hard to imagine what she hopes sharing that story now will accomplish.
Similarly, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, joined the fray Friday with her own groping experience. She said a “historical figure” in the early 1980s kept putting his hand on her leg at an event — and she kept taking it off. In addition, she talked about a senator from that time who was “aggressive” toward her and other women working on Capitol Hill.
Not naming these men is almost worse, as it can only lead to speculation and perhaps misidentifying the culprit.
Women are having a real moment right now, seemingly fueled by the election of President Donald Trump. The Women’s March, the Women’s Convention and now the #MeToo initiative are all about reclaiming women’s power and taking the upper hand. Men are falling like flies with ruined reputations, and the women’s accusations are taken as truth, whether or not they can be corroborated.
That means women need to wield this power with care.
They also should avoid overplaying the victim card, differentiating between awkward human interactions and dangerous, predatory behavior.
For an example of what happens when claims of sexual assault are tried in the court of public opinion, just look at the mess that’s been created on college campuses.
Under pressure from the Obama administration’s Education Department (especially its Title IX office), university administrators were told to quickly adjudicate complicated cases of sexual misconduct allegations — and schools were pressured to find the male student guilty, even when evidence was lacking. That’s led to a backlash among accused students and many lawsuits.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is making it a priority to reform these campus assault investigations and return to due process.
Something DeVos said in her September speech on this issue offers the #MeToo movement a valuable lesson:
“If everything is harassment, then nothing is.”