Asia Argento is not the Figurehead of #MeToo
BBC.com on Wednesday morning ran with the very misleading headline “Asia Argento: #MeToo figurehead denies sexual assault of minor.” This is, of course, patently false – Asia Argento is not the “figurehead” of the #MeToo movement, no one is. Was the intention simply clickbait, or something far more troubling?
Earlier in the week, The New York Times revealed that even as Asia Argento was alleging sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein, she was secretly arranging a $380,000 hush money payment to a former co-star for statutory rape. The incident is alleged to have taken place in 2013 in a California hotel room with alcohol when he had just turned 17 and Argento was 37. The age of consent in the state of California is 18. Unfortunately, this news has been seized upon by critics of the movement and defenders of Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein’s lawyer Ben Branfman said that this development reveals "a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento.” Charmed, I’m sure.
It is all so sordid. Argento denied that any sexual encounter took place, bringing in her deceased ex-boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain. Then TMZ published a picture of Argento and the then 17 year old in bed, allegedly post-coitus. Who benefits from this week-long descent into sleaze? Certainly not the movement.
The movement, begun in 2006, is a community providing support to survivors of sexual abuse and those who are coming forward with their own experiences. Under the Vision banner, under the “You Are Not Alone” tagline, on the #MeToo site it reads: “What started as a local grassroots work has expanded to reach a global community of survivors from all walks of life and helped to de-stigmatize the act of surviving by highlighting the breadth and impact of a sexual violence worldwide.” The credo continues: "Our work continues to focus on helping those who need it to find entry points for individual healing and galvanizing a broad base of survivors to disrupt the systems that allow for the global proliferation of sexual violence."
How could any person of good faith disagree with those goals?
You would be surprised.
Let’s look at some of the results accomplished by this 12-year-old movement that only recently caught fire on social media in 2017. Polling now shows that a majority of Americans believe sexual harassment claims are not isolated incidents. Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations were the proximate cause of the reignition of #MeToo. The Silence Breakers were crowned Time’s Person of the Year, 2017. Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore was all but certain to win a Senate seat in an Alabama special election, now he is relegated to the dustbin of history. Kevin Spacey was brought low by sexual assault allegations made first on Twitter. As a result of the #MeToo movement, Olympic team doctor Lawrence G. Nassar has been sentenced to 60 years in prison. Louis C.K., Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose are all gone (at least for now).
Further, the movement has gone beyond the hallowed heights of Hollywood and the Olympics, populated almost exclusively by elites. The ripple effects of #MeToo are reverberating through the medical profession, the legal profession, amateur as well as professional athletes, sex workers, architecture and design, accounting, the veterinary profession -- even classical music! For the movement to achieve full strength, however, it must be allowed time to influence every sector of the economy.
And the awakening on sexual abuse goes beyond America. While the #MeToo hashtag went viral in English language speaking countries – particularly India, Australia, and the UK -- within a month, other countries have quickly followed. By November 2017, #MeToo had been tweeted 2.3 million times from eighty five different countries. In the months immediately following Alyssa Milano’s viral post that re-ignited the movement, Kenya, Pakistan, and China saw significant social media outrage over incidents of sexual abuse. International human rights groups are now leveraging the momentum to improve work conditions for women. “By the end of the day, there were similar movements in multiple languages, including Arabic, Farsi, French, Hindi, and Spanish,” writes Pardis Mahdawi in Foreign Affairs. “Today, women in 85 different countries are using the hashtag to bring attention to the violence and harassment they face in daily life and to demand change.” Who can deny that the world is not a better place thanks to #MeToo?
So, no, Asia Argento is not the figurehead of the #MeToo movement. No single person in any single country is the thing that is this movement. #MeToo is all the people that have been abused, their comforters and supporters, and all the people of good will that want to de-stigmatize the act of coming forward with those claims of sexual harassment. Shouldn’t all of us rather cheer than boo the aims and goals of #MeToo, considering what it has already accomplished? Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, who has the greatest claim to the title of “figurehead,” does not accept that prize. “People will use these recent news stories to try and discredit this movement -- don’t let that happen,” she tweeted on August 20. “This is what the Movement is about. It’s not a spectator sport. It is people generated. We get to say ‘this is/isn’t what this movement is about!’”
Thank you again, Tarana Burke.
During the week of International Women’s Day, PWC released the Women in Work 2019 report. Some observations: Iceland is named the most feminist country, Sweden holds second place, and for the first time, New Zealand is number three most feminist country. Very disappointing are the United States, China, and India’s rankings.
Elizabeth Rowe, the principal flutist at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the “big five,” settled her landmark equal-pay lawsuit against her employer for a disparity between her paycheck and that of a comparable musician—principal oboist John Ferrillo. “According to the BSO’s 2016 tax filings, Rowe made 75 percent of Ferrillo’s annual salary, which was $286,621 […]”
The Grammys were on mid-month, and women took center stage. The theme was the power of women and the LGBTQ community, as even former First Lady Michelle Obama showed up for her girls. There were, we cannot fail to note, some disagreements as to whether the Grammys were successful based on the arguments of race, gender, and recognition.
Kamala Harris recently became the fourth woman to announce her candidacy for President of the United States, and drew a rare compliment from the man she seeks to replace. When asked by The NY Times who would be his toughest opponent in 2020, Trump replied: "I would say, the best opening so far would be Kamala Harris. I would say, in terms of the opening act, I would say, would be her." And he is right.
Oby Ezekwesili has devoted much of her career to anti-corruption, a major issue in Nigeria, and was a 2018 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. At present, her mission is to return all the kidnapped Boko Haram schoolgirls back to their families, despite the uneasy fact that the world seems to have moved on from previous outrage.
The new year arrived at cyclonic speed with Lifetime’s Surviving R Kelly. With over 20 million viewers, the #MeToo movement has finally reached communities of color. The New York Times even ran an Op Ed, titled: “After the ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Documentary, #MeToo Has Finally Returned to Black Girls: Let’s keep it there.” Hard questions are being asked, once again, of urban icons.
2018 was a banner year in the struggle for the ever-elusive equality between the sexes. There are many reasons why that was the case, not the least of which was the boiling point of election day 2018 reached after years of recurrent misogynistic remarks by the President and pushback against the rise of misogynistic authoritarians across the globe. Here are the largest moments in the Year of the Woman.
Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent Saudi activist, has been detained for over a 100 days alongside 9 other activists. Concerns for the safety of the detainees are rising, as the Kingdom recently sought death sentence for Israa al-Ghomgham, another woman activist, for mere incitement to protest and providing moral support to rioters.
As the year draws to a close, it is instructive to look back and reflect on the advocacy of women's rights on the basis of equality of the sexes, the classic textbook definition of feminism. Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed; Poland and Argentina had movements to liberalize abortion laws; women marched in places as far flung as South Africa, and Nadia Murad shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
Why are Americans so obsessed with what women politicians, like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, wear? Anna North at Vox looks at the historical sexist obsession with what women politicians wear – and what that says about us as a culture.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi was nominated on Wednesday as Speaker of the House Democrats. This was not a surprise, as she outlined the platform that Democrats used to win this year’s pink wave election. Rep. Pelosi is a second-time Speaker, and this will “most likely be the final act of the 78-year-old legislator’s long career as the most powerful woman in the history of American politics.” More feminist news spanning from India #MeToo to Tunisia’s Gender Equality bill.
“Women won this week,” Joy Reid joyfully declared on MSNBC on Sunday, in perhaps an understatement. Although that other “Year of the Woman,” 1992, was invoked often in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, the latter turned out to be a bigger feminist moment in American politics. Find out why.
Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software, receives a $90 million payout and a hero's exit after it was discovered that sexual coercion claims against him were credible. “Google could have fired Mr. Rubin and paid him little to nothing on the way out,” says Times reporters.
“If, for some, feminism is about legal redress and due process, for others, it requires an extrajudicial set of interventions given the repeated limits and failures of the law to bring gender justice. For some others, it is ultimately the voices of middle class and metropolitan women, journalists, actors, and other professionals that constitute the ‘me’ in India’s #MeToo” writes Srila Roy.
Alongside Halloween making a hit at the box office with over $75 million in its first weekend outing with a woman lead character Jamie Lee Curtis (happy feminist moment), NGO Plan International published a report determining the most dangerous cities for women and young girls in terms of harassment, sexual abuse and violence, as well as their safety and vulnerability when using public transportation, and the top cities with effective policies.
Moira Donegan, creator of the Shitty Media Men list, launched a GoFundMe to offset the $1.5 million lawsuit. The Shitty Media Men List had for intention to collect sexual harassment and abuse allegations so women in Journalism and Publishing could warn one another about potential predators.
A year after #MeToo emerged, Jezebel interviewed Tarana Burke. “She started the movement […] in response to what she saw as a failure to speak—openly, candidly—to a 13-year-old girl who had come to her with her story of sexual abuse.” “Anita Hill was one individual who came forward and shocked the nation with some language and a description that had never been part of the consciousness of the country.”
With the majority of the upper chamber having voted in favor, Kavanaugh’s nomination is advancing to final on Saturday morning. Perhaps the biggest disappointment in contemporary women’s rights. Until recent years, Rachel Mitchell has been firmly sentencing sexual assaulters such as Reverend Paul LeBrun for 111 years in prison, but a decline in the quality of her work has been noticed when it comes to prosecuting assaults reported by immigrants and women.
“In a worsening climate where human rights and women’s and girls’ rights are increasingly questioned and threatened, and in a world of shrinking democratic space, a feminist foreign policy is needed more than ever,” said Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström.
CBS sexual accusation drama including the downfall of Les Moonves has been described as the "most significant #MeToo moment yet," leaving a $90 MM severance on the table. Troubling still is Julie Chen Moonves pledging solidarity to her accused husband. Where is the line between backing a spouse and responsibility towards society at large?
No Name Kitchen a group providing food and kitchen resources to #refugees in Šid, #Serbia, Velika Kladuša, #Bosnia, and in #Rome, and through the #UNHCR has documented over 700 cases of violence against women by Croatian police officers.
There is some good news, some hard news, and some bad news for feminism this week. The latest study by University of Chicago political science professor Cathy Cohen’s Millennial Views on Feminism finds that a majority of women 18-34 do not identify themselves as feminist.
Earlier in the week, The New York Times revealed that even as Asia Argento was alleging sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein, she was secretly arranging a $380,000 hush money payment to a former co-star for statutory rape. The incident is alleged to have taken place in 2013 in a California hotel room with alcohol when he had just turned 17 and Argento was 37.
America seems to be waking up to the reality that all genders are potential victims of sexual abuse. This news has set off a gigantic reaction in the twitterverse. Right-wing hacks like Ben Shapiro and Christina Summers leapt at the chance to discredit #MeToo on the double standards argument/canard.
There was talk on Friday about Hillary Clinton running again, largely because of the indictments released and underscoring how much the Russians helped the Trump campaign win the Presidency. There is a sense of thwarted mission, of feminism, and of the desire for a rematch. The now-infamous audio clip of Trump asking the Russians was played ad nauseum on cable television. After all, Hillary won the popular vote by almost three million votes.