Protesters at a #MeToo rally last month in front of...

Protesters at a #MeToo rally last month in front of the Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle. Credit: Louis Lanzano

This year’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony with its black outfits and impassioned speeches about the problem of sexism and sexual abuse in Hollywood has been a triumph for the #MeToo movement that emerged after the downfall of film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

But the movement, seen as a women’s revolt against sexual harassment and assault, is also encountering increasingly visible pushback. And it’s not from misogynistic males, but from women, including self-identified feminists, who say that the “Weinstein moment” has turned into a witch-hunt against men and a debilitating message of victimhood to women. Is it time to rethink the revolution?

Over the weekend, reports came that a major Democratic donor, San Francisco-based Susie Tompkins Buell, who has been particularly active in promoting female Democratic politicians, is reconsidering her support over what she sees as the unfair treatment of former Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat. Buell complained that Franken, who was accused of inappropriate touching by several women, was given no opportunity to defend himself before being pressured to resign, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) leading the charge.

Franken’s coerced resignation troubled many others across the political spectrum who thought the charges were vague, ambiguous, or disturbingly trivial; the final accuser said he squeezed her waist during a photo opportunity. (The initial accusation related to an incident from Franken’s career as a comedian when, during a USO tour filled with ribald material, he kissed a fellow entertainer as part of a skit rehearsal and mimed groping her breasts for a humorous photo.)

Several firings in the media have also caused dismay. The New Yorker dismissed reporter Ryan Lizza over what he says was a consensual relationship with a co-worker; no other details have been released. Garrison Keillor, the legendary Minnesota Public Radio host and humorist, was ousted over still-unspecified allegations; he says they stemmed from a sole incident in which he hugged a female co-worker while comforting her and inadvertently placed a hand on her bare back.

In New York, another beloved public radio veteran, WNYC’s Leonard Lopate, was fired over several comments that offended a female producer — such as the remark, during preparations for a cooking segment, that the avocado gets its name from the Aztec word for “testicle.” This sparked anger among many of the station’s liberal listeners.

These incidents are troubling not only because of the unfairness to the men but because they take us back to stereotypes of the frail woman who faints at raunchy language.

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A few days ago, The New York Times ran an essay by writer Daphne Merkin asserting that many women who consider themselves feminists have private misgivings about #MeToo. Among other things, Merkin was worried that an overbroad anti-harassment campaign will kill flirting and romance among co-workers and colleagues. (Ironically, some people who criticized her, such as Vox politics reporter Jane Coaston, seemed to validate her concern by categorically stating that there should be no flirting or romance in work settings.)

Other feminist dissenters, such as writer Francine Prose and attorney and scholar Wendy Kaminer, are speaking out as well. (Kaminer’s criticism was voiced in a symposium at Spiked Online, a British online magazine, in which I was also a participant.)

The critics agree that the #MeToo moment included some major positive developments — above all, breaking the culture of silence that surrounded abusive and exploitative behavior by the very powerful. But it wouldn’t be the first revolution to lapse into its own abuses of power. It’s too bad that the speeches at the Golden Globes did not include at least one cautionary note to remember that.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor to Reason magazine.

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