Margaret Atwood faces backlash for #MeToo op-ed

Margaret Atwood is facing backlash online after writing a controversial opinion piece published in the Globe and Mail Saturday about the potential downside of the #MeToo movement.

The Handmaid's Tale author also called for transparency in UBC's high-profile firing of Steven Galloway

The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood has written an op-ed explaining her reasons for demanding due process in the Steven Galloway case, a former UBC professor who was fired after an investigation that has not been made public. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Margaret Atwood is facing backlash online after writing a controversial opinion piece published in the Globe and Mail Saturday about the potential downside of the #MeToo movement.

In it, she also called for more transparency in the case of Steven Galloway, a former University of British Columbia professor who was fired in 2016.

The revered Canadian author of the The Handmaid's Tale, who titled the essay Am I A Bad Feminist?, is being criticized by some for expressing reservations about the direction of #MeToo — she points out the historical dangers of "guilty because accused" in which "the usual rules of evidence are bypassed."

"Such things are always done in the name of ushering in a better world," she writes. "Sometimes they do usher one in, for a time anyway. Sometimes they are used as an excuse for new forms of oppression."

Atwood, 78, notes the success of the movement, but says it "is a symptom of a broken legal system" which, if not addressed, can result in new power struggles that divide women against one another.

"In times of extremes, extremists win," she writes. "Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn't puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated."

Accountability or deniability?

Atwood was one of dozens of Canadian authors who signed an open letter in 2016 demanding that UBC be held accountable for the way it handled sexual misconduct allegations against Galloway and his subsequent termination.

The letter conveyed that the investigation should have been public and was done unfairly. The university, which cited a "record of misconduct," has not released the official findings publicly.

The authors have faced a lot of backlash on social media for their involvement and there have been calls to take down the letter's website. Many argue the writers were using their positions of power to silence complainants who already face hardships in coming forward.

Atwood said in her op-ed that a "fair-minded person" can't make a judgment until "the report and evidence are available for us to see."

Renewed debate

"If not," Atwood wrote, those opposed "are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment."

The commentary has re-invigorated the debate on social media over the issue and Atwood is once again taking heat for her stance.

Tuscarora writer Alicia Elliott said on Twitter the letter "wasn't calling for systemic change; it was upholding status quo."

Atwood, who's active on Twitter and replied to many of the messages, said she was "taking a break" from responding to the numerous comments and would "be back later."

CBC News reached out to UBC's public affairs department, which replied that it has no comment.