Hashtags like #metoo opened the floodgates, and now it's time to believe women


  • Catastrophic failure of the Teton Dam/image via Wikimedia Commons
In November 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress played Orlando. He was on a bit of a pop-culture high, having performed the biggest bit of his career thus far the previous month, when he stood on a stage in Philadelphia and dragged Bill Cosby with a joke whose punchline revolved around what was an open secret in show biz: Cosby was said to have drugged and raped dozens of women. A year later, Cosby was charged in one of the complaints, which had been made 11 years before. (The original prosecutor had declined to bring charges – wonder why.)

The court of public opinion took even longer, though; the general consensus was that these women were attention-seekers. No one wanted to believe such things of good old Bill Cosby!

But it seems to have been a watershed moment. In the ensuing three years, as 60 women spoke up about Cosby, as a man heard on tape saying that “when you’re a star, you can grab ’em by the pussy” went on to be elected President of the United States, women decided they'd had enough.

The floodgates opened. Hashtags like #yesallwomen, #believewomen and #metoo aired millions of personal stories. In just the past month, we’ve heard about Harvey Weinstein’s unruly bathrobe, Al Franken’s roaming hands, Charlie Rose’s “crusty paw” (gross), Louis C.K.'s poor houseplants (double gross). We’ve heard accounts of Roy Moore’s and John Conyers’ predatory behavior. Statehouses in more than 20 states are roiling with accusations of mistreatment of female staffers. Both Florida gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala and Florida DNC Chairman Stephen Bittel have been accused of sexual improprieties.

Have we heard enough yet?

Men are shocked and horrified. Women are horrified, but far from shocked. This isn’t a sudden surge of sex crimes, it’s the drip-drip-drip of women’s stories finally wearing away the rock of society’s unwillingness to believe. Women have been speaking up and being silenced for decades; what's changed is a sudden willingness to not just hear but believe them.

And anyone who is “surprised” by this burgeoning flood of #MeToo stories just hasn’t been listening – or has been choosing, intentionally, not to hear.

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