Finding the Will to Fix #MeToo

Terry Schwadron
4 min readJan 8, 2018

Terry H. Schwadron

Jan. 8, 2018

Unless you’re Donald Trump or or Harvey Weinstein or maybe Roy Moore, who could be against the goals of the #MeToo movement? Really, who wants to line up in favor of more sexual harassment in the workplace? Who wants to say they are in favor of unwanted grabbing and assault?

And yet . . .

As spirited protest and speeches at last night’s Golden Globes awards showed, no one sane believes that the parade of shame has ended in Hollywood. No one believes that workplaces have been cleansed of such boorish behavior. Indeed, every woman in our society has been touched by sexual innuendo or worse.

While we have yet to clarify whether #MeToo is only about the workplace or about social interaction at large, it seems true that we have big, fat problems in these areas and whether we actually now are starting to recognize behaviors that should have been addressed long ago. In like fashion, it seems to me, that a minute ago, people were declaring that we were in a post-racial era in which Barack Obama’s election marked such progress that racial discrimination was over. . . which none of us believes.

Still, what we have to this point in #MeToo is a campaign of exposure and punishment.

So far, what we have is a brave woman (or man) — or even dozens — who have detailed workplace groping by more powerful figures in their world who variously assaulted them, only to have the spotlight turn on the assaulter, who then publicly acknowledges (or denies) the reports, and feels public pressure to leave his job.

This approach saves a few more women from being hurt by the same men, and it gets the offenders out of the workplace. But other than the shame of publicity, this approach does not create the atmosphere of trust and safety that we probably really want.

“Due process” has given way to quicker pressure for resignation. For private companies, the desire for legal inoculation from public lawsuit and for avoiding bad public relations is forcing fast resolution through resignation. Among public office holders, excepting Trump and Moore, the reaction has been a few steps shorter, but nevertheless significant enough to force a half-dozen resignation moves in Congress.

Of course, if you are Trump, you just stand there and deny it all, as if you had never said on tape you are an avowed assaulter. Or you are a Harvey Weinstein or a Roy Moore who never acknowledges his onerous behavior, however long ago. It would be comforting to believe that #MeToo could become an equal-opportunity, nonpartisan prosecution.

But it would still be a campaign for punishment.

It may be too early to expect something else, but I would like consideration of policies that might help eliminate the problem’s more basic causes. I suspect that is way too difficult for these male-dominant systems to handle. It is easier to “sacrifice” a few to try to look responsive to a public swell but not address the actual base issues.

There are not enough women in leadership in politics and business alike, for example. But I doubt that any “affirmative action”-type programs to hasten promotion of women would be adopted as public policy. Congress will not vote for equal pay-for equal work laws. In the current anti-regulation climate, there is no chance for more rules to govern behavior in the workplace.

We should be looking hard at what rules already exist, whether written policies or current practice. Eventually, #MeToo needs to expand to handle harassment of many kinds in our workplaces. Certainly, there is age bias, lookism, unequal pay and promotion issues, bias against contrary voices, bias basically best defined by race, sexual orientation and national origin issues. There is a lack of job training programs, and there are inadequately diverse recruitment methods.

Eventually, we need understanding more than restrictive rules. How difficult is it to understand keeping your hands to yourself? Still, making that kind of thinking seems to be harder to convey than defending “boys will be boys” talk, or “locker room” antics as reflections of “human nature and gender” even in civilized society. What do “appetites,” whether sexual or other, have to do with running efficient, prosperous and safe workplaces?

In my view of the world, public companies and notable nonprofits should be rewarded in valuation if they run safe workplaces, as well as turning a quarterly profit. Companies should be able to shine in the markets for being good community citizens as well as proving themselves to financial shareholders. But that is my view, and not something that I can impose or even expect.

We all need to be against harassment. I hope we can get beyond the current period of J’Accuse and get out there to do the work to make the gains permanent and part of the expected culture.