Government censors, apparently fearing social unrest, are trying to hobble the campaign, blocking the use of phrases like “anti-sexual harassment” on social media and deleting online petitions calling for greater protections for women. And officials have warned some activists against speaking out, suggesting that they may be seen as traitors colluding with foreigners if they persist.
"I think we will never see equality at the top until we clean up the culture at the bottom, until the cooks that enter our culture enter clean, safe spaces. I hope for a shift in the culture, very, very badly. Because when I look at who’s still left at the top, I just have to wonder who else would be there if they weren’t the butt of the joke."
Italian conservatives are not alone in attacking the #MeToo movement. Many leftist intellectuals are convinced that it threatens sexual freedom. Author Chiara Barzini says this leftist view reflects snobbery against America, a society many Italians see as puritanical and having a take-no-prisoners mindset. "There is no compromising," she explains, "and Italians love to live in the gray zones of life, you know."
Jennifer Hatch, who runs wealth manager Christopher Street Financial and started her career at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bear Stearns Cos., says some women feel pressure to remain silent because of the amount of money they stand to lose. “People spend their entire educational and professional career trying to get to this pot of gold, and some guy dropping his drawers is not going to get in the way of that,” she says. And much of Wall Street pay gets handed out in bonuses controlled by bosses. “Access to this pot of gold is based on, ultimately, the complete discretion of the men in this club,” Hatch says.
The boom of sexual harassment websites and apps is "clearly responding to a need," says Jhumka Gupta, an epidemiologist at George Mason University who focuses on issues of gender-based violence. "I think these platforms are great because the control is given to the women," she says. "They don't have to go through the police or public authorities who may not take them seriously."
In warning about a new “puritanism,” the Deneuve letter also revealed a classic cartoonish vision of America, land of puritans and prudes—even though the conversation on harassment would never have begun in France, or maybe anywhere, if it weren’t for the investigative journalists at The New York Times and The New Yorker who broke the Weinstein stories. The grotesqueries of the Trump administration may be the backdrop to the Weinstein scandal, but here in France, the fallout comes in a strange moment of generational shift, in which President Emmanuel Macron, who just turned 40, has been shaking things up. The letter in Le Monde was written by women of a certain age who seem eager to preserve the same establishment that let the shenanigans of one-time presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss Kahn be an open secret for years.
Wroblewski, a graduate student in new media photojournalism at George Washington University, has been working on a project called “I Was On the Metro When,” highlighting the experiences of other women on public transit. She’s photographed and interviewed a handful of women about their personal encounters with harassment on the system. Ultimately, she said, she wants to interview 50 people, and find a way to share their photos and stories at an exhibit inside a Metro station. “There are so many small moments, and a lot of women feel that their story isn’t valid, or valid enough,” she said. “And they just brush it off and move on with their day. But it is valid, and it’s important.”
“There is too little respect for women,” said Brussels State Secretary for Equal Opportunities Bianca Debaets, who requested the survey. “If women on the streets are being shouted at using sexual insults, that is no small crime,” she added. Debaets, who also spearheaded a campaign to encourage women to file reports with the police, is planning to introduce an app called “HandsAway Brussels” in March. The app will allow victims, as well as witnesses, to report on instances of harassment or assault and provide information about the time and location they took place. A similar app is already in use in France.
“At first, it felt as if the term had the potential to change everything,” she wrote in the New York Times. “But…the term, which once held so much promise, has been co-opted, sanitized, stripped of its power to shock, disturb and galvanize.” Over the years, Farley watched in dismay as the phrase became a standard part of corporate orientation sessions, intended for businesses to defend themselves against lawsuits by female employees. “The working women’s revolution I once envisioned hasn’t happened,” she wrote recently. Though Farley recognizes that the term has sparked change in the workplace, she feels it did little to change the power dynamics that allow harassment to flourish.