The Current

Has the #MeToo campaign gone too far?

Some feminists are questioning whether the movement has created a moral panic, saying different forms of sexual misconduct are becoming conflated.
Some critics are asking whether the #MeToo movement has created a moral panic. (CBC)
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Story transcript

Following online backlash against Liberal MP Sherry Romanado for sharing what some say shouldn't be considered a #MeToo moment, critics are questioning whether the campaign has gone too far.

"We have all these discussions going on of these men who have acted really devastating ways, and here's an example of someone who said something foolish. Can we really say that these are the same thing?" said CBC News columnist Robyn Urback.

Last week, the Liberal MP accused Conservative MP James Bezan of making "inappropriate, humiliating and unwanted comments" in May that she said caused her great stress in the workplace.

According to the chief human resources officer, his report "did not support a claim of sexual harassment" and that no disciplinary action was recommended against Bezan.

Bezan has apologized.

Participants march against sexual assault and harassment at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

After a wave of sexual assault allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein became public in October, the #MeToo movement took off on Twitter, exposing high-profile men accused of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.

Some critics are now questioning whether the campaign has created a moral panic.

"In this discussion about what's been happening culturally, I think there's been a bit of a conflation between behaviour that is predatory, criminal — in many cases, chronic," Urback told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"I'm thinking of people like Harvey Weinstein and Roy Moore, and behaviour of those who have acted foolishly and stupidly and perhaps can make amends for what has happened before."

Urback said the Romanado-Bezan case "falls into the latter category."

'Not a matter of conflation' 

These are not necessarily two different categories of men but about looking at the whole spectrum of how male behaviours manifest themselves.- Metro News national columnist Vicky Mochama

Metro News national columnist Vicky Mochama called the backlash against Romanado "predictable."

"I think there's a sense that someone has to have the perfect instance of experiencing sexual or gendered harassment in order for it to be considered valid."

It's unfortunate, she said about the desire to create separate categories of "there's just boys who will be boys" and "the evil terrible men" for women who experience sexual violence.

"The two categories are not any different. It's not a matter of conflation … These are not necessarily two different categories of men but about looking at the whole spectrum of how male behaviours manifest themselves."

After a wave of sexual assault allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein became public in October, the #MeToo movement took off on Twitter. (Michael Sohn/Associated Press)

When should an individual be held accountable?

"The airing, this speaking out, speaking to each other is crucial," Judith Levine, author and journalist told Tremonti. "At the same time, maybe we should keep it political — figure out when an individual needs to be held accountable."

"And those are not totally separate categories, but given the consequences of speaking about a particular person, I think we can do the political part without ruining people."

We're not at a moment of excess.- Vicky Mochama

Mochama called the movement "fairly restrained."

"None of those people have been called out or been called to account or been publicly named and shamed. We're not at a moment of excess."

A number of women "retreated," said Mochama, after former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi's "not guilty" verdict.

"We're seeing again, you know, moments where women need help and need a defence from the systems that are meant to protect them and they're not getting them."

On the smaller, individual level, the power of exposure just isn't quite there to the same degree.- CBC News columnist Robyn Urback

Urback said there's a distinction to be drawn between someone being found criminally responsible and being found socially responsible.

The challenge with this movement is it works really well if you're talking about "predators" who have a public profile, said Urback.

If you're going to make an allegation against Bill in finance, and no one knows who Bill is, the processes that have worked in those cases might not necessarily work at that individual level, argued Urback.

"The movement is working very effectively in some cases. In other cases, on the smaller, individual level, the power of exposure just isn't quite there to the same degree."

"So I think for those women, it's more of a struggle to actually be heard publicly and to seek the justice to receive the justice that they seek," said Urback.


Listen to the full conversation above.


This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Ines Colabrese and Donya Ziaee.