Thursday, April 4, 2019
Catharine MacKinnon, What #MeToo Has Changed
But #MeToo has been driven not by litigation but by mainstream and social media, bringing down men (and some women) as women (and some men) have risen up. The movement is surpassing the law in changing norms and providing relief that the law did not. Sexual-harassment law prepared the ground, but #MeToo, Time’s Up, and similar mobilizations around the world—including #NiUnaMenos in Argentina, #BalanceTonPorc in France, #TheFirstTimeIGotHarassed in Egypt, #WithYou in Japan, and #PremeiroAssedio in Brazil among them—are shifting gender hierarchy’s tectonic plates.
Until #MeToo, perpetrators could reasonably count on their denials being credited and their accusers being devalued to shield their actions. Many survivors realistically judged reporting to be pointless or worse, predictably producing retaliation. Complaints were routinely passed off with some version of “She isn’t credible” or “She wanted it” or “It was trivial.” A social burden of proof effectively presumed that if anything sexual happened, the woman involved desired it and probably telegraphed wanting it. She was legally and socially required to prove the contrary. In campus settings, in my observation, it typically took three to four women testifying that they had been violated by the same man in the same way to even begin to make a dent in his denial. That made a woman, for credibility purposes, one quarter of a person.***
The #MeToo movement is finally breaking this paralyzing logjam. Structural misogyny, with sexualized racism and class inequalities, is being challenged by women’s voices. No longer liars, no longer worthless, today’s survivors are initiating consequences few could have gotten through any lawsuit—in part because the laws do not permit relief against individual perpetrators, more because the survivors are being believed and valued as the law seldom has.***
The #MeToo mobilization, this uprising of the formerly disregarded, has made increasingly untenable the assumption that the one who reports sexual abuse is a lying slut. That is already changing everything. A lot of the sexual harassment that has been a constant condition of women’s lives is probably not being inflicted at this moment.