The #MeToo social movement is not a witch hunt as some may believe. The movement is meant to speak out against all forms of sexual assault and harassment.
After Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and other high-profile celebrities have been accused of sexual misconduct, criticism about the validity of the movement and its claims has started.
“There is a bit of a witch hunt happening,” actor Liam Neeson said on “The Late Late Show” that aired in Ireland about accusations against actor Dustin Hoffman and radio personality Garrison Keillor.
Director Woody Allen, who has himself been accused of being a predator by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, also warned about “a witch hunt atmosphere” in an interview with the BBC.
Male celebrities’ skepticism about the validity of victim’s cases only serves to impede changes in male-dominated cultures that the movement wants to make, especially when it comes to women feeling comfortable shutting down the advances of men.
The term “witch hunt” is usually associated with the trials of women wrongly accused of witchcraft during the 17th century. Parallels to the baseless accusations of Salem’s witchcraft trials are also found in the 1950s Red Scare with communism.
However, the #MeToo movement does not fit in with these other moral panics since most of its accusations have substantial truth to them.
“The more egregious allegations of rape and assault… have generally been corroborated by multiple women,” said Richard Beck in his Vox article, “and those accused have mostly acknowledged that their accusers’ stories are true.”
Still, many of the accused have denied their actions or said that they were misinterpreted. One recent example is from a Babe.com article about a woman named Grace (not her real name), who detailed the bad date she went on with actor Aziz Ansari.
Grace didn’t make a verbal or physical effort to stop their romantic activities, which she described in the article as “traumatic.” Opponents of the movement used her story as an example of witch hunting because Ansari did not commit unconsensual acts, but he is being targeted anyway.
Ansari has not yet received major pushback because of the article, perhaps because Grace’s criticisms seem unmerited since she waited to communicate her disgust with his actions.
Still, there is a lesson to learn from Grace’s hesitation to make her emotions clear during the date.
Ansari and his date had a skewed power dynamic that Grace claimed kept her from expressing her true feelings during the date and during sex, an underlying problem with many male and female relationships.
One of the reasons women are speaking up about sexual assault and harassment experiences is so that other women will be brave enough to stop that kind of behavior as it happens.
The perpetrators of such acts also have a lesson to learn: they are not entitled to people whenever and however they want.