Any form of sexual assault should not be tolerated irrespective of the position or status of the perpetrator. But like in any other scenario, the accused should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Perhaps the biggest blockbuster of 2017 was the Harvey Weinstein drama starring Harvey Weinstein himself. A slew of women have accused the movie mogul of sexual misconduct—many of them with their careers on the line. It prompted an avalanche of support from women of all backgrounds along with their own personal story of “survival.” From Hollywood to corporate America to politics, the #MeToo movement brought to light the traumatic encounters that some women have experienced in the work place or in private life.
However, it also created a shoot first, ask questions later atmosphere that sought to burn anyone at the stake for the sin of being accused of impropriety. It has emboldened, though unintentionally, a few mendacious and vindictive women who are hell bent on ruining a man’s reputation or career perhaps due to regret or some deep resentment.
The impetus for change
Any form of sexual assault should not be tolerated irrespective of the position or status of the perpetrator. But like in any other scenario, the accused should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That is the underpinning of any civilized society. Everyone, regardless of sex, race, or religion, must have equal standing under the law—not through “mob justice” and the court of public opinion, but through the proper legal channels.
The breakdown of due process and the apparent media bias
History has proven time and again that the mob is far from infallible. Last year, Rolling Stones magazine agreed to settle a defamation suit filed by a University of Virginia fraternity for $1.65 million after the latter sued the publication over a discredited gang rape story. The story became a feeding frenzy for the largely liberal media who saw it as an opportunity to vilify masculinity; and nothing exemplifies “toxic masculinity” more than rambunctious, unabashedly masculine frat boys. Ironically, the same media isn’t as gung-ho when confronted with former President Bill Clinton’s own history of alleged sexual misconduct and Hillary Clinton’s supposed intimidation of his accusers.
It certainly doesn’t ameliorate the situation when self-proclaimed feminists disparage all men (including the innocent), and see them only as a means to dismantle “systemic sexism.” Teen Vogue columnist Emily Lindin came under fire for a tweet that said, “Innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy.” She further added that it is a price she is “absolutely willing to pay.” Some Twitter users excoriated Lindin, and argued that, if anything, it’s the innocent—not she—who has to live with the consequences of a false accusation.
The movement going forward
For meaningful conversation to take place, all sides must show some prudence and be able to bring up legitimate concerns freely without being maligned or accused of prejudice. Is sexual assault a real problem? Of course. The ugly truth is that some men are just downright despicable, but to cast aspersions on an entire group of people is just plain irresponsible and undermines the true meaning of equality.