We in the United States are having our “Harvey Weinstein” moment, where after decades and decades of silence about everyday sexual harassment and even abuse, women are finally being heard. No cases have come to trial, and yet perpetrators are losing their jobs.

This great “turn” that allow our society to finally hear to voice of women is so heartening. And yet it also brings questions. Some of these questions have already been raised, such as “why didn’t we listen to these women before?” And for women, “why did we put up with this?”

But there are other questions, too. What principles is our society drawing from the “Weinstein moment”? Is the principle our society is drawing really “don’t harass or abuse women”? Or might there be other calculations at work? For example, how many women have to come forward before you lose your job? If you have offered a certain form of apology, can you just take a sabbatical from your job and return? If you are a politician, how bad does it have to be before the other party calls for you to step down? Before your own party calls for you to step down? What’s the statute of limitations in the court of public opinion these days?

More seriously, what do our readers think will be the upshot of our nation’s “Weinstein Moment”?

Full Citation for this Article: Editorial Board, SquareTwo Journal (2017) "Reader's Puzzle Fall 2017: What is the Upshot of the Weinstein Moment?," SquareTwo, Vol. 10 No. 3 (Fall 2017), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleReadersPuzzleFall2017.html, accessed <give access date>.

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 100 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 7 Comments

I. Neal Kramer

The fact that the Bill Cosby trial is currently underway is heartening and disheartening. The crimes he is charged with, if he committed them, are beyond heinous. They bespeak a terrible lasciviousness in our society at large, not to mention a law enforcement system dominated by males who still believe that most sexual assaults occur because women "really" want it.

I'm afraid this carte blanche attitude about violent non-consensual sex (sexual relations without consent are by definition violent) has hardly been affected by the now-powerful women in the entertainment industry who have brought down Harvey Weinstein.

In the 1970's it was possible to think political dirty tricks were reason enough to bring a president down. In the 1990's, a president came within a gnat's eyelash of being dismissed because of consensual sexual relations. Our current sybarite-in-chief is apparently allowed to get away with anything. In this case, one could reasonably argue that the Weinsten Moment has yet to happen. A Clinton/Trump moment would require us to confront what we now assiduously dismiss as mere political correctness or fake news.

I do think that what was once seen as teasing or playfulness is being defined now as a kind of sexual abuse rather than sexual dalliance. For me, that is a step forward. I also think thoughtful people are trying to suggest ways that create a formal discourse of appropriate behavior. Having to stop, think, speak, and consent gives people a space in which to consider their actions--and to stop before violence occurs.

I hope a very sudden change can happen. The evidence of widespread disregard for women as dignified human beings that comes to light daily is heartbreaking and chilling. Perhaps what was once hidden behind a lewd wink or a clumsy grope can now be brought to light and treated as the shameful abuse it really is.


II. Kent Harrison

The sexual indiscretions of Harvey Weinstein are, unfortunately, those of only one man of many. Over the last few years we have been exposed to claims that Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Bill O'Reilly, Al Franken--to say nothing of Bill Clinton--have similarly transgressed. Many of our former US presidents have been guilty of such behavior, while others, thankfully, were faithful.

Hundreds of women, and some men and children, are now coming forward with accusations of rape or sexual abuse against alleged perpetrators. The Church is now being sued by a woman who claims being abused at the MTC. Why didn't they report it before? Because it was typically hushed up, or they were afraid or threatened by their perpetrators.

It is good that people are coming forward at last. It is bad because even an unsubstantiated accusation can ruin a person's career. I was at a professional meeting in Italy when my friend, out on the street, had his pocket picked by a man. When he started to give chase, the woman accomplice yelled, "Rape! Rape!" Unscrupulous persons can use such strategies to get money from innocent others.

Regarding men's libido--I am optimistic that we can eventually accommodate it in our society. But I remember a rueful comment, from, I think, Hugh B. Brown, just after returning from the excommunications of two stake presidents: "You know, if I were the Lord, I think I would have reduced the libido just a little."

We have to handle current accusations, with justice for victims but compassion for perpetrators, while remembering that not all accusations are as severe as made out and may even be false, while others are more severe--putting enough fear into men that maybe they will back off from their bad behavior. It's a mess. I dealt with some situations like this when I sat on church courts; I hope I never have to do that again.


III. Michelle Brignone

I am conflicted about the Weinstein moment. On one hand, I am thrilled these predators are finally being called out. However, only those predators who have high profile jobs in the entertainment and political arenas, and a very small handful in the business world are being called out. The majority of predators are still getting away with their atrocious behavior and the majority of women (and some men), in jobs where they have no leverage, are still suffering. Those who are not in the limelight being shamed to reform are not reforming.

Even if none of these cases are going to court, the predators are losing their jobs and families and being forced to finally pay for what they have done through the court of public opinion. While it may be deserved given how many victims have lost jobs, and had their lives destroyed unfairly, make no mistake, there is no justice playing out here, only a mob mentality shaming. As someone who has suffered sexual harassment and assault, I am inclined to take whatever reckoning I can get.

However, on the other hand, none of these cases are going to court. As a lawyer, I am highly disturbed these men are being accused, judged, and sentenced without any kind of due process. Today it is sexual predators – who may totally deserve it, but tomorrow it could be any one of us, being judged and sentenced for ‘crimes’ we may or may not have committed without the benefit of due process and a full hearing of the facts. The justice system and the rule of law is foundational to our democracy, if we decide to by-pass it now, even for something we think is a good cause, we cannot be surprised when that mob mentality comes back to bite us. There are already people who are losing their jobs because they have expressed their opinions online (whether racist, anti immigrant, anti Muslim, misogynistic or any of a dozen other forms of hate speech). As much as I might hate the opinions being expressed, where does it end? One day will you or I be publicly shamed, penalized, or lose our jobs because we hold certain opinions? Because we voted a certain way? Because of what church we attend? If we dispense with due process for these sexual assault/harassment crimes, it will be so much easier to dispense with due process for everything else.

While this shaming and reckoning may seem like a good thing and may make us feel better, I am concerned it may be leading us down a slippery slope that ends when vigilante or frontier ‘justice’ reigns. A return to lawlessness is a step backward, not forward. Look at all of the women in history who were killed for being ‘witches.’ Some had trials, or at least mock trials, many did not even get that. They were accused, judged, sentenced, and executed in the court of public opinion or sham ‘courts.’ Are we not doing the same thing here? We need due process and the rule of law.

I think the conversation the #MeToo movement has started is a fabulous thing. And I truly hope it brings change. But, it does not matter how much victims/survivors complain, real change will only come when predatory men decide to take responsibility for their actions and willingly choose to change their entitled behavior. They have to stop justifying their lazy lack of self-control on ‘uncontrollable’ biological desires. There are way too many men and women who are not sexual predators, for those who are to claim ‘they can’t help it’. Everyone else can behave themselves, so can the predators, they just choose not to. I don’t think predators will ever change until they see themselves and everyone else as children of God.


IV. Steve Cranney

In the end, people will be more cautious in the workplace and institutions will have to make adjustments accordingly. The backlash we're already seeing against some of these adjustments will help assure that it doesn't descend to the level of a witch hunt (which, in my opinion, it has not at this point), but sexual predators will adjust accordingly and find other ways to offend.

In regards to Marche's comment: about one in three men say that there's some likelihood that they would rape a woman if they knew they could get away with it. The cross-cultural and cross-time universality and commonality of rape suggests that there's something deeply ingrained that is causal here. Whether you accept the very controversial Thornhill and Palmer hypothesis that rape itself is an evolutionary adaptation, or whether rape is a natural outgrowth of general sociosexuality, it's clear that the "natural man" or "state of nature" includes a lot of sexual violence--so this will be a horror our society will have to constantly fight against regardless of how we change or supposedly progress as a society.


V. Rachel Zirkle

The upshot of our nation’s “Weinstein Moment” is the shattered silence that has long enshrouded sexual harassment in our culture. There are many important questions waiting to be answered-- like will this moment lead to permanent, tangible change for the better—and yet in the interlude of answers, we can’t overlook the importance of the silence shift. Sexual harassment is a difficult topic to navigate, especially with few, if any, examples where speaking up made a difference. And then, in a seemingly short span of time, the media was exploding with women’s stories and the fall of their perpetrators. To collectively decide that such behavior is unacceptable and worth talking about is what will begin to make the difference for future generations.

To see the difference come to fruition, however, and be more than just “a moment,” sexual harassment needs to be taken seriously in our laws and government. Prosecuting sexual harassment, and not making exceptions for those in high places, is what will lend muscle to the discussion. It is difficult to have any confidence in politicians creating and enforcing laws to protect against sexual harassment when so many are perpetrators themselves. I think of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, calling saints to put on the full armor of God, because “we wrestle…against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Thus, we need to take a more active role in electing and supporting politicians with high moral fiber instead of seeing such traits as nice but unnecessary in our leaders. We need to collectively learn to take responsibility for what is acceptable in our culture.


VI. Valerie M. Hudson

I believe #MeToo is a huge forward step for our societies. Sexual predation used to be a “perk” of power, and not just at the highest levels. When I myself was younger, nearly every boss I had tried to hit on me, whether they were married or not. Even a married BYU professor! To see such men finally pay a real price where it hurts—money, position, reputation—is incredibly gratifying. Justice deferred makes the heart sick. I have often said that women were sent to this planet to learn the value of justice (not mercy), because if you live as a woman on this planet you will know why justice is the foundation of all good.

At the same time, I am also heartsick to see the backlash. This very morning as I write this, I read a news story saying that UK police have been instructed not to believe sex assault allegations automatically, especially if the suspect is a celebrity. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5643021/Police-change-policy-dealing-sex-abuse-allegations-against-celebrities.html ) I’m not sure whom I am more upset at—the cranks and liars that created the justification for this u-turn, or the police who were so quick, even eager, to make the u-turn. As long as the justice system is primarily staffed by men, there will always be the suspicion that justice takes a back seat to male entitlement and fraternity. For example, the infamous Telford child sex grooming scandal in the UK has revealed that a county councilor, an Anglican vicar, and a local parish councilor were all abusing children for years without any police response—it is hard not to believe that inaction was an expression of male solidarity. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5643585/Social-services-chief-one-three-politicians-exposed-paedophiles.html )

Nevertheless, I am hopeful the high-profile cases will be a deterrent to predators as well as encouragement to victims that they have a chance of being heard if they speak up. If norms change—if everyone is appalled enough—we can hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct. And yet I remember what someone quipped: “What happens when the girls raised on #MeToo meet the boys raised on Pornhub?” Good question. Can we really expect norms to change if men are imbibing sexual predation 24/7 as their primary form of entertainment? And why can’t we even have that discussion in today’s culture? Is “hands off my porn” another expression of male entitlement that must change before there can be any real progress towards peace between men and women?


VII. Carl Brinton

On the one hand, the Weinstein moment is thousands of years overdue. On the other hand, it's surprising that it came during our lifetimes. One of the questions I've been asking during this moment is, "How do we make this a permanent part of our culture and society, rather than a mere zeitgeist?" My current thinking on that question is that we must continue to be clear in calling out what is wrong while also providing some pathway for redemption. As faithful Christians, we practice this all the time - discerning good from evil while taking part in the process of repentance. Now individually and as a society we need to consistently articulate what is right and wrong in gender relations and how you can change and do right after having done what is wrong.

Interestingly enough, one of the clearest examples of this in recent pop culture can be found in the movie Moana, where Moana helps facilitate a reconciliation between Maui who had violated Te Fiti, thus sending both of them into a downward spiral where they lost their powers for good. In the movie, Moana opens up Te Ka (the post-violation alter ego of Te Fiti) by helping her see that she is so much more than a victim of violation, that she is more powerful than what has been done to her. Moana also opens up Maui to acknowledging that he was wrong to have violated Te Fiti (though this part of the story is much less rich, probably because repentance and redemption is something our culture has yet to master outside a religious context). So we as individuals and our society should find ways to help victims of Weinstein-esque wrongs feel and believe their power, and we should also be able to answer the question: What should Weinstein (Donald Trump, Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, etc.) do now? If we can do those two things and apply our answers consistently, we will have not only better gender relations, but better interpersonal and familial relations, a better criminal justice system, and better political conversation. We're unlikely to do it perfectly, but every incremental step we take toward that end will have outsized impact for generations.