The #MeToo movement is currently encouraging feminists around the world to raise their pitchforks. It promotes the condemnation of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Following the heat of the sexual misconduct allegations against American film producer Harvey Weinstein, this hashtag went viral in October 2017.
The #MeToo movement spread like wildfire as it aims to empower sexual abuse victims through empathy. This hashtag informs the world just how many people have suffered from sexual offense. It sheds light to the magnitude of the problem.
As #MeToo takes root in history, it also spelled the day of reckoning for sexual offenders and predators. Both men and women gets accusations, with the scale tipping to the men’s side more. Aside from Weinstein, other popular celebrities such as James Franco, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mario Batali, and Kevin Spacey were also accused of sexual misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
How Margaret Atwood Came Into the Picture
Now, the #MeToo movement has transcended beyond the Hollywood scene. Many victims got the motivation to expose their own sexual harassment stories, regardless of the industry they belong. Whether it be in the political world, music industry, or corporate world, it seems that more and more victims are spilling their harrowing experiences.
And the literary industry is not spared from this.
However, for Margaret Atwood, this movement may be going too far. In her write-up, she likens the #MeToo movement to the Salem Witch Hunt of the olden days. Just like the witch hunt, the movement seems to automatically put a ‘guilty’ tag on men (or women, for that matter!) who get accusations of sexual misconduct. For her, this movement labels the accused guilty even without proper trial. Certainly, guilt by accusation is not a fair way to determine whether the accused is deserving of punishment or not.
Atwood proves her point by putting an example: the case of Steven Galloway, a former University of British Columbia (UBC) creative writing professor. Galloway, despite proving his sexual misconduct charges false, still got fired. On the other hand, the complainants felt they were discredited during the investigation. They also felt that their experiences were trivialized. The saddest about it though is when Canada’s literary world put them on their blacklist. As aspiring authors, that repercussion is like nipping the complainant’s career in the bud.
The incompetent handling of the case by UBC has left everyone involved – the main complainant, ancillary complainants, as well as the accused – in tatters.
Atwood also implies that the #MeToo movement is quite like a vigilante group. Founding on the lack of confidence in the legal system, It uses the Internet as a platform for complainants to throw stones to their offenders. With the overwhelming voice “supporting” the victims, the accused are condemned without due process. With such a large movement enveloping the globe, will the wrongly accused be able to clear their name without heavy repercussions?
The Negative Reaction
After Atwood’s op-ed got published in The Globe and Mail, it immediately garnered attention online. Atwood is not really a social media darling, especially when she firmly stood against the UBC’s mishandling of Galloway’s case. Many berates her for defending the “powerful male counterpart”. They also believe that Atwood is misogynistic. However, is not openly siding with the victim the same with standing against them? Truthfully, Atwood’s point is to promote equal rights for all. Everyone has rights, regardless of gender.
Is It a Witch Hunt? Probably.
So, the question that haunts us now, is the #MeToo movement slowly becoming a witch hunt? When a movement goes beyond the extreme and the scale is tips to one side, it’s time to take a step back. It’s time to reflect on whether the movement still holds its original purpose true. The #MeToo movement simply becomes a cup with poison. It brings about unconditional condemnation without due process. It leaves no room for the wrongly accused to save themselves. Every accusation will easily become a foregone conclusion.