Side effect a consenting partner of MeToo

By Rong Xiaoqing Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/27 17:03:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

About three weeks before Christmas, Eric Sprankle, an associate professor of psychology at Minnesota State University at Mankato posted an eyebrow-raising message on Twitter portraying God as a #MeToo predator. "The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen," wrote Sprankle. "There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario."

This unsurprisingly became the butt of jokes on the conservative Fox News channel. In his program, after showing the post to viewers, presenter Tucker Carlson sarcastically asked commentator Mark Steyn whether he has taken any of Sprankle's classes.

"No," Steyn said, the reason is "50 years ago, this kind of shallow banality would have been the province of a drunk undergraduate at three in the morning."

On the same day, liberal Daily Show host Trevor Noah happened to reserve a punch for #MeToo as well. Noah went back to his home country South Africa to host the Global Citizen Festival commemorating the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela the weekend before, and lost his voice because of that. On the day he got his voice back, Noah jabbed: "I was kissed by the prince this weekend so I can speak again. But he didn't get my consent beforehand so I've reported this to HR."

At a time when conservatives and liberals seem to never be on the same page, the concurrent jokes from both sides can only mean that the #MeToo movement, despite all its revolutionary achievements, has also produced clearly ridiculous side effects.

But this is no laughing matter. A recent story by Bloomberg, based on interviews with more than 30 Wall Street managers, found that they are shunning women - not mingling with female colleagues after work, not talking to them when they are alone in an office with the door closed, and, if possible, not hiring them at all just to avoid being burned by the flames of #MeToo.

Even women themselves are worried. The Bloomberg story quoted Karen Elinski, president of the Financial Women's Association and a senior vice president at Wells Fargo & Co.: "Women are looking for ideas on how to deal with it, because it is affecting our careers. It's a real loss."

The #MeToo movement has been growing rapidly. It's been only a little more than a year since the hashtag became a staple of social media after sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced. Since then it has brought down dozens of powerful predators and has been reshaping a culture long embedded with toxic masculinity.

Every movement, even when it is overwhelmingly for the good of society, has its negative side. The civil rights movement, for example, led to directives that place racial quotas at the center of the concept of diversity. Such a system worked well for a while to help minorities find coveted jobs such as those in law firms or on Wall Street.

But at a time when some minorities have advanced a bit further, it has become a drag, as can be seen in the ongoing trial of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, a case brought by a group of Asian college applicants who believe the race-conscious admissions policy of the Ivy League school took away their opportunities in the interest of black and Hispanic applicants.

So did the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The law added disability to the basis of discrimination listed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to offer critical protection to the challenged. But in recent years, the meticulous requirements for accessibility have been used to make a fast buck by unscrupulous lawyers who hire people with disability to visit shops around the country and sue them for failing to fulfill one or two requirements. Defendants - such as restaurants - often choose to pay settlements running into the tens of thousands of dollars to avoid being dragged to court and fined. Many of them only have one or two steps in front of their doors and clearly state that wheelchairs will be lifted manually upon request.

This brings to mind the famous quote from American social philosopher Eric Hoffer: "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

This shouldn't undermine the achievements of such movements, and shouldn't deter us from participating and pursuing causes that eventually improve the well-being of human beings.

But it is also important to acknowledge the existence of the side effects and try our best to avoid them or solve the problems whenever they appear. To look away or treat them as the unavoidable cost of the movement, as some activists tend to do, will be undermining the cause in the long run.

The author is a New York-based journalist.


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