EDITORIAL: “Me Too” movement continues to spark strong debate

This week’s sentencing of popular African American comedian/actor Bill Cosby, and accusations of sexual impropriety against US Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh ensures the controversy surrounding the “Me Too” movement” remain relevant.

The movement is essentially one against the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment against women, especially at the workplace. Since the movement was  initiated in October 2017, several prominent men in various sectors of American life have been accused of sexual harassment and/or abuse and have been removed from lofty positions.

Common thread

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As the movement persists it has implicated men outside the workplace, but the common thread is most of the men were middle age or older men who hold positions of power, are wealthy, and committed the alleged sexual assault or harassment years before.

Listening to a mixed gender televised group discussion a few days ago as the first-year anniversary of the movement approaches, one senses the bitter division among the genders on the matter.

Strategic investors?

One young man, in particular, fueled the discussion to boiling pitch when he referred to the “Me Too” movement as one in which women were “strategic investors.” According to this young man’s opinion, women who were sexual harassed and didn’t report the act immediately it happened did so deliberately with the objective of publicly accusing the male perpetuator when he either gained a position of prominence or acquired great wealth. “It’s like some women place their unfortunate experience in a life bank then make the conscious decision to withdraw dividend in kind or revenge when the man becomes a prominent figure.”

Similar views by several men

This argument is not peculiar to this young man. Although men have shown unique sensitivity in not publicly commenting on the “Me Too” movement, the rash of accusations and the frequency of prominent men falling from grace, see them expressing similar views in private conversations.

In fact, in the Caribbean American community several women join men in questioning this long delay between when a woman was sexually harassed or abused, and when she made her unfortunate experience public.

Although Bill Cosby has been convicted, there are men and women who still find the accuser’s allegations dubious because they took place years ago. Not a few people have commented that the long-time gap made the accusations seems contrived; a set up even.

Fears by victims of abuse and harassment

On the other hand, some of those who have been victims of sexual abuse/harassment said prior to the advent of the “Me Too” movement, they were reluctant to publicly accuse their abusers for fear of repercussion, or not being believed when they make such allegations. Some,  naturally so, feared losing the job they were already in by accusing the men who supervised them, or were executives in the businesses where they worked.

Double standards

To make matters worse the “Me Too” movement is surrounded by sad double standards. In recent weeks it has been seen where men accused of sexual impropriety has supporters if he is a strong, or potentially strong asset to a business or pollical organization. Also, people who are quick to condemn the average joe who sexually assaulted a woman is willing to give a reprieve to the “Mr. Big” who committed the same act.

It’s seen while some people who condemn sexual abuse and harassment in general, and quite outspoken about these abuses, are ready to give a pass on similar abuse committed when the man was in his youth. if a woman is forced into a sexual act, or harassed sexually yesterday or 30-years ago the act is still wrong. If the act was committed by a poor unemployed man, or a rich, prominent businessman or politician, the act is still wrong.

Movement began too late

Regrettably, the “Me Too” movement, in which women are now more courageous and willing to publicly accuse their abusers, started too late, making it difficult to accept. Also, regrettably, at times the movement is made to seem too much of a fad when publicized at high profile public events and when the media revel in accuser and accused to enhance their ratings.

Accusations must not be made glibly

The movement cannot be one in which men are glibly accused of sexual improprieties without empirical evidence given, or after long time has elapsed making the accusations seem dubious. These accusations, although they can never be condoned, once made, whether true or false, damages a man’s character. Even if the accusation is false the man risks being forever tainted.

Men must stop behaving badly with women, but it’s important that women making allegations of sexual harassment do not seem, as the young man in the group discussion said, as if they are being “strategic investors.”

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