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In the early days of the #MeToo movement, women sought solidarity by sharing experiences of sexual abuse online. In the dying days of the movement, women sought publicity by holding famous men guilty without charge. The fate of #MeToo was sealed after the sisterhood turned its back on Lady Justice and marched down the path of social justice. Never before has a single movement done so much damage to women’s welfare in the name of feminism.
On October 5, 2017, The New York Times published allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood media executive Harvey Weinstein. Investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey found Weinstein had paid hush money to women to cover up sexual abuse allegations.
The list of famous women speaking out against Weinstein grew. Angelina Jolie joined Ashley Judd, Heather Graham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette in alleging he had made unwelcome sexual advances towards them. Damning evidence included the revelation that Rose McGowan had reached a $US100,000 settlement with Weinstein after an unwanted encounter in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. Salma Hayek wrote an article for The New York T imes in which she claimed Weinstein subjected her to several unwanted sexual advances and threatened to kill her when she rejected him. She wrote: “The range of his persuasion tactics went from sweet-talking me to that one time when, in an attack of fury, he said the terrifying words, ‘I will kill you, don’t think I can’t’.” Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to multiple sexual charges.
TV actress Alyssa Milano used social media to announce she too had experienced sexual abuse. She encouraged other women to express solidarity online using the hashtag “me too”. Within a week, thousands of messages appeared on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook from women and some men who said they were victims of sexual abuse or harassment. The reality that men are victims too is important, but was largely overlooked as activists began to frame the contours of the #MeToo movement with a sledgehammer. Before a single verdict was reached against the accused, MeToo-ers had created a meta-narrative featuring a system of patriarchal control in which all men are cast as beasts of prey and all women their unwitting victims.
Despite the strength and volume of allegations that inspired the #MeToo movement, it began to falter as the personal became more political and the political became more partisan. The tipping point was the campaign against Supreme Court nominee and conservative Brett Kavanaugh.
Academic Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s when they were teenagers. She agreed to testify before a Senate judiciary committee. Despite the #MeToo movement’s belief in the virtue of women and the vice of men, problems with Blasey Ford’s account of events became readily apparent. In a memo to Republican senators, prosecutor Rachel Mitchell provided a damning analysis of the allegations. Mitchell noted inconsistent accounts of when the alleged assault occurred; that Blasey Ford had neglected to identify Kavanaugh by name in historical marriage therapy notes on the alleged assault; and her apparent inability to remember key details about the night during which the assault allegedly took place.
After Donald Trump questioned the veracity of the Blasey Ford allegations given their timing with Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Milano leapt to her defence. She wrote an anecdotal piece for Vox that exposed the increasingly partisan nature of the #MeToo movement: “The courage of survivors will always be stronger than Donald Trump’s misogyny. The lives of survivors will always be more important than Brett Kavanaugh’s career.” Milano had drawn a battle line between sexual abuse survivors and conservative men. The #MeToo movement became a partisan political bloc against conservatism and right-leaning men.
In The Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Solomon Jones illustrated how the pursuit of social justice could trump the presumption of innocence: “In the midst of a #MeToo movement that seeks to punish sexual abusers, powerful men like President Donald Trump … are supporting an accused sexual abuser’s bid for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment. This, despite the Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, a white woman who said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.” After a federal panel of judges dismissed all 83 ethics complaints against Kavanaugh, he called the allegations “a calculated and orchestrated political hit fuelled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump … revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups”.
Only a year after the #MeToo movement began, it had been corrupted by partisan politics, peer pressure and groupthink. The persecution of men the mob declared guilty without trial shows how social justice perverts the course of justice. However, as men started to fight back against their accusers, the alleged victims began to look more like rebels without a reasonable cause.
In Australia recently, actor John Jarratt was accused of sexual abuse. Jarratt was acquitted of a historic rape charge last month. The jury took less than two hours to find him not guilty, yet the actor had to suffer months of reputational damage from the charge.
The #MeToo movement proved beyond a doubt the power of social media in the information age. It has reduced innocent men to tears and destroyed reputations in the court of public opinion. Never has a movement for women so closely resembled the witch hunts that fed on mass hysteria and hearsay to condemn the innocent.
Throughout history, Lady Justice has been venerated. She was often depicted as blind or blindfolded to represent impartiality in the weighing of evidence and the application of justice. If women want a heroine, forget about the #MeToo narcissists. Set your sights on Lady Justice.