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Taping #MeToo Mouths At Harvard

It was inevitable that the #MeToo movement, started with valid anger at sexual harassment, would open the door to bizarre accusations. It’s just surprising to see it go off the deep end at Harvard University, where rational thinking tied to principle is supposed to be a requirement for admission.

Do note that the student group hounding law school Dean Ronald S. Sullivan to resign is described as “small but vocal.” Dozens of law faculty have backed him. And many at Harvard no doubt find the histrionics deeply embarrassing.

But it’s amazing how far the aggrieved ones have gotten. They should know that they are a source of wonderment mainly because they are so obviously ignorant of the legal system and they’re supposed to be smart.

The rap against Sullivan is that he joined the team of lawyers defending Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer facing multiple charges of sexual harassment and worse. In the American judicial system, every defendant deserves legal representation. Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh had lawyers, none of whom approved of the client’s gruesome crimes. The legal aid movement rests on the belief that poor people have a right to adequate legal representation, whether they are innocent or not.

In a teaching moment, Sullivan tried to gently explain. “Lawyers are not an extension of their clients,” he said. Representing a client “doesn’t mean I’m supporting anything the client may have done.”

Sullivan is also African-American, which shouldn’t matter but seems to here. Some foes have weaponized race against him. In a public letter, the Association of Black Harvard Women wrote, “You have failed us.”

In cases where emotions overcome facts, the poorly armed resort to self-dramatization. Some #MeTooers put tape over their mouths. Get it? They’re not allowed to speak, which should come as a great surprise to their audiences.

Danu Mudannayake, a student, wrote in a petition, “Do you really want to one day accept your diploma from someone who … believes it is OK to defend such a prominent figure at the center of the #MeToo movement?” Why not? By the way, no one has to go to Harvard.

Some of the Harvard grown-ups are so lacking in courage that you almost feel sorry for them. Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana put in a good word for the right to skilled representation — but then called for a study of how students at Winthrop House, where Sullivan is a faculty dean, regard the law professor’s role in the Weinstein case. He called it a “climate review.” Uh-oh.

In a similar vein, another faculty dean, Diana L. Eck, said that everyone has the right to a strenuous defense but, on the other hand, Sullivan’s work is “fracturing that sense of community.” As if everyone in the community has to agree.

On campus, Sullivan’s picture is being paired with that of Roland Fryer, a renowned Harvard economist who is also African-American. Fryer is being dragged over the coals amid charges of sexual harassment. Why didn’t they add a portrait of the Marquis de Sade?

Fryer’s main crime seems to have been telling off-color jokes. Students in his teaching lab laughed at them, but, you see, that just showed the “power dynamics” between Fryer and the others. Of possible relevance, none of the women claims that Fryer made a pass at her or asked for sex.

You don’t really know what to make of all this. For the students, it’s kind of late in the game to develop a sense of humor. And for the administrators, well, their mouths have two sides, so why not talk out of both of them? That gives you plausible deniability at whatever party you attend.

So looking forward to the climate review.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: A statue of John Harvard looks over Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts January 20, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Anonymous Attacks And Revenge Porn: How Far Is Too Far For #MeToo?

Some years ago, a married woman of my acquaintance confided that a locally famous physician kept squeezing her thigh under the table at a dinner party. Actually, the fellow was famous for that too. Removing his hand hadn’t worked. She’d thought about stabbing him with a fork, but hadn’t wanted to make a scene.

However, my friend also didn’t appear to feel diminished, ashamed or “objectified,” as people say. Apart from taking her assigned seat at the table, she’d done nothing to encourage him. He’d made his move; she’d ignored it. Her tone was one of bemused contempt verging upon pity.

If the survival of the human race depended upon her sleeping with Dr. Feelgood, she made clear, we would go extinct.

“What a total dork,” she said. “I just feel terrible for his wife.”

wondered if such awkward passes ever got him anywhere—doubtful—and whether his wife was as oblivious as she appeared. Also whether he acted that way at the hospital—pestering nurses, lab techs, interns, etc. If so, how long could he get away with it?

Apparently not forever. Not long afterward, Dr. Feelgood’s career took an unexpected U-turn, and then ended somewhat prematurely. People speculated, but there was nothing in the newspaper. Anyway, he wasn’t seen as a villain so much as a fool. Good riddance.

If the foregoing sounds as dated as a Jane Austen novel, blame my advanced age. Sexual mores have mutated so much during my lifetime that it wouldn’t shock me to see a return to the pre-birth control attitudes of the 1950s—with pornography, of course.

Also with role reversal: shaming wanton men instead of slutty women appears to be the newest participation sport among the literati.

(Historical note: in olden times, porn was considered degrading and shameful. A politician credibly reported to have paid hush money to a porn “star” would have had to emigrate to some Third World sh**hole.)

Like everything else, this is all Bill Clinton’s fault, although ever the sentimentalist, he preferred amateur talent.

Anyway, for a while there—basically post-birth control, pre-AIDS—things got rather out of hand. Going on the road with a professional sports team was like joining the circus. I once got mistaken for a member of the Montreal Expos in a hotel elevator in by a very polite woman who apologized and put her breasts back inside her blouse when I explained that I was a writer, not a relief pitcher. The same kinds of women’s magazines that now publish angry manifestos by rival feminist cliques then published memoirs by famous rock groupies.

But I digress. In the wake of the Weinstein-O’Reilly-Halperin-Lauer-Rose unmaskings—utterly indefensible every one—the going thing in New York journalistic circles appears to be bitter disputes about whether it’s even possible to go too far in denouncing the male of the species. Also in Paris, I’m glad to say, if only because it lets me quote the French version of #MeToo. It’s #BalanceTonPorc, which translates roughly “expose your pig.”

Led by the legendary actress Catherine Deneuve, French thinkers have formed warring camps alternately denouncing and declaring solidarity with each other in the traditional way.

Denueve signed a manifesto opposing “the new puritanism,” declaring that “the liberty to seduce…[is] essential.” She has since added that she “fraternally salute[s] all women victims of odious acts” who mistakenly thought her a rape apologist. What would the world do without French intellectuals?

Here in America, it appears that many of the daffier campus sex crusaders of recent years have since graduated and taken the fight to another level.

Item: the anonymous creator of an online spreadsheet titled “Sh***ty Media Men,” purportedly exposing the sins of male journalists who’d allegedly mistreated women, freaked flat out when she (erroneously) feared that her identity was about to be revealed in Harper’s Magazine. A great hullaballoo broke out during which twenty-something Moira Donegan, a former New Republic staffer, outed herself. As near as I could tell, hardly anybody thought that unsourced, intimate denunciations of men by name—essentially a middle school “slam book” updated to the Internet age—were a problem.

Item: an online feminist journal called Babe published a pseudonymous, first-person account of a drunken one-night-stand gone bad with comedian Aziz Ansari. In The Atlantic, Caitlyn Flanagan correctly characterized the thing as “3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari.” Again, anonymously.

In this instance, a synonym for cowardly.

How long, do you suppose, before some aggrieved young Ivy League graduate is lugging a mattress around at the New York Times?

Then came Oprah Winfrey’s star turn at the Golden Globes, cheered on by scores of Hollywood actresses expressing their vast moral indignation in black gowns cut dramatically to the navel.

#BalanceTonPorc, indeed..

#EndorseThis: Trevor Noah And Michelle Wolf Solve ‘The Weinstein Problem’

“I’m glad Harvey Weinstein likes people watching him shower. Because there’s a lot of that in prison.”

Yes, Trevor Noah is righteously outraged over the Hollywood producer’s misogynist aggressions, which now include at least two allegations of felonious assault under investigation by New York police detectives. But as the Daily Show host points out, that trending hashtag #MeToo indicates that the scourge of sexual harassment extends beyond the entertainment industry.

“This isn’t a Hollywood problem,” he tells a live audience in Chicago. “This is a men problem.” That line cues the hilarious Michelle Wolf — who tries to explain to the male gender what life is like every day for the sisterhood. And Wolf has a bold proposal to “solve the Harvey Weinstein problem,” which you probably shouldn’t watch at work.

#MeToo: How I Learned What Predators Like Weinstein Do To Women Every Day

OK then,  #MeToo.
Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching—always in social situations–but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks hinting that being a “hunk” was how I’d gotten hired.
My “pretty little wife,” as she was insultingly called, got to stand there and watch. We had no idea how to defend ourselves. There was a second guy in my department, also an administrator with power over one’s career, who made a practice of inviting younger men on manly hikes in the woods and making aggressive passes.
It was a thoroughly poisonous atmosphere. I knew that to complain would invite ruin: initially through what’s now called “gaslighting”—claiming I’d imagined everything—followed by accusations of sexual panic and homophobia.
A definite no-win situation.
Ironically, life in a New England college town had been among my Arkansas wife’s girlhood dreams. Instead, she found herself patronized to her face when she opened her mouth—always by academics, never ordinary New Englanders, I should stipulate.  
I quit before they could fire me.
But it was a real learning experience. In consequence, although definitely not Mr. Sensitive, when it comes to sexual abuse I’ve always understood what women are talking about.
Much of the time, it isn’t even about desire—apart from the desire to put you down and keep you there.
Yet my situation was far less threatening than that of the women preyed upon by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein,  and so many others confronting harassment or worse. First, there was no possibility of physical force. Second, my antagonists’ power was limited to the precincts of one provincial academic department.
All I had to do was walk away.
No harm, no foul.
Not so with Weinstein. As the head honcho at one of the most successful movie companies in the world, he had the wherewithal to advance or ruin an actress’s entire career. Based upon first-person accounts in Ronan Farrow’s lengthy New Yorker expose, he was a calculating predator who set the same trap repeatedly in luxury hotel suites in New York, Hollywood, London, and Paris.
He’d invite a young actress to meeting in his hotel suite, greet her with drink in hand wearing nothing but a bathrobe, and then pounce, sometimes violently. A bigtime Democratic donor, Weinstein followed the script as written by Donald J. Trump. You remember how it goes: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. . . Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
If certain of the New Yorker allegations could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt —alas, they probably cannot—Weinstein belongs not in some luxury European rehab but an American penitentiary. He’s more than a sexual harasser; he’s a rapist.
Also, apparently, a bully in other ways. “Lucky me,” commented the British actress Kate Winslet, “I somehow dodged that bullet. The fact that I’m never going to have to deal with Harvey Weinstein again as long as I live is one of the best things that’s ever happened and I’m sure the feeling is universal.”
Although he’s produced humane films such as Good Will Hunting, The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, and Shakespeare in Love, tales of his temper tantrums are indeed universal.
That said, Weinstein didn’t invent the concept of the Hollywood casting couch nor the louche sexual ethics of the movie business generally. Trading sexual favors for sought-after parts is as old as the theater. The ancient Greek dramatists Sophocles and Euripides were famous for their adventurous love lives. Indeed, one of the most interesting articles to emerge from the Weinstein affair appeared in Slate, recounting a British fan magazine’s 1956 expose titled “The Perils of Show Business.”
Incongruously illustrated with cheesecake photos, it featured the following rules from actress Marigold Russell that working women everywhere would be well-advised to heed: “One: when you have to talk business, stick to offices—and office hours. Two: refer invitations and offers to your agent. Three: don’t give your home phone number, give your agent’s.”
Actress and director Sarah Polley writes that her agent wouldn’t let her meet Weinstein alone when she was 19, which told her all she needed to know. She also figured that “the idea of making people care about [Hollywood sexual predation] seemed as distant an ambition as pulling the sun out of the sky.”
Me, I’m so vain that I can’t imagine wanting intimacy with somebody that didn’t want me back. Which in the final analysis makes a bully like Weinstein seem almost pathetic to me, although not to his victims, I’m sure.
Awful as he is, there’s also something smug and ugly about these ritual media stonings. For a columnist like the New York Times Bret Stephens to write that Weinstein’s “repulsive face turns out to be the spitting image of his putrescent soul” strikes me as seriously over the line.
 We sinless pundits hide carefully behind our bylines.