What can the MeToo campaign accomplish?

Thousands of women have described their experiences of sexualised violence on social networks using the MeToo hashtag. They are reacting to the public accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly harassed and raped a number of actresses over several decades. All sections of society must engage in the fight against sexual harassment, commentators urge.

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Suomenmaa (FI) /

Debate alone is not enough

Concrete measures are needed in the campaign against sexual harassment, Suomenmaa stresses:

“The debate launched by the MeToo campaign is necessary. We can only hope that it prompts more people to review their behaviour and bystanders to intervene in cases of inappropriate behaviour. A culture of harassment has been created and maintained by normal men and women. Beyond a change of attitude, concrete measures are needed to eliminate harassment from the workplace, schools and groups. Speaking out clearly against instances of harassment, a zero-tolerance policy fully backed by the leadership and advanced plans set for intervention in cases of harassment will prevent undesirable behaviour.”

Expressen (SE) /

Keep a cool head amidst the outrage

Journalist Ann-Charlotte Marteus warns in Expressen that the campaign must not be allowed to get out of control:

“MeToo is a fantastic campaign in many respects. But once all have agreed that they must fight for a noble cause, once everyone is marching in the same direction, gripped by the same righteous euphoria, I start to feel claustrophobic. And anxious. Such movements can become confused and lose all sense of proportion. ... I suddenly feel the desire to cry out: NotMe.”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (EE) /

Those who remain silent give their consent

Columnist Rain Kooli contributes to the debate on sexual harassment on the website of Estonian broadcaster Eesti Rahvusringhääling:

“I don't believe in collective guilt, but I do believe in collective responsibility. We men need not feel guilty because of what other men do. But we are responsible for whether harassment continues or not. And not only through our own behaviour: if we react to any type of harassment with nothing more than embarrassed silence, we create the conditions for further harassment.”

Krónika (RO) /

Internet activism is not enough

The campaign against sexualised violence should be put on a more permanent footing, Krónika urges:

“One thing is clear: the virtual campaigns will sooner or later die down. In the meantime, however, this exclamation mark should remain in the public memory. Beyond the hashtags more concrete steps are required to put an end to this phenomenon. Nevertheless attention must be paid to the fact that innumerable perpetrators and victims are not even present in the social media. Of course the Internet's tentacles reach almost everywhere nowadays. But the message of the MeToo campaign should also reach those people who are not part of the virtual world. Because the potential offenders are among us: they're always on the prowl, on the bus, at school, in parks, in the theatre and in bars, ready to harass us whenever they get the chance.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Sexual harassment remains taboo topic

Unfortunately society still isn't ready to tackle the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace, writes Merle Albrant, a lawyer at a centre for women in Eesti Päevaleht:

“Talking publicly about sexual harassment helps to prevent new cases and suffering and fears. It helps companies to retain skilled workers who would otherwise quit because of harassment. But are we as a society prepared for this? Apparently we aren't yet ready to conduct an appropriate dialogue about sexual harassment. All you need do to confirm this is read the reactions to the cases of harassment in the media. We need to ask the following questions now: Do harassed women need help, and how can we help them? Unfortunately they only receive help in exceptional cases. In most cases people try to cast doubt on the accusations of harassment. In the end it's mainly the behaviour of the victim that is judged.”

Mediapart (FR) /

The left is not pulling its weight

France's left has barely reacted to the MeToo campaign. Feminists Caroline De Haas and Anna Melin voice their disappointment - and their concern - in Mediapart:

“It's too bad that neither the most important movements nor the key figures on the left have seen fit to speak out. What's going on? Are these organisations and politicians aware of the extent of the problem? ... After seven days [of hashtagging on sexual violence], this silence raises concerns over their ability to defend us, to represent us, in a nutshell to fight alongside us. One would expect them to admit that they haven't done enough so far, and to propose measures that will put an end to such macho violence - in society and in their own ranks.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Groping is not a compliment

Gazeta Wyborcza is unhappy that men now worry that their innocent advances could be misinterpreted under the MeToo hashtag:

“They fear that oversensitive feminists will kill off flirting and cite variations of Woody Allen's bon mot: 'Every guy who works in an office is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.' First of all it's better if a man has to fear lawyers than if a woman has to fear being raped. Secondly, not every wink is the same. If a guy in a store winks at you you can tell him you don't like it, but if your boss winks at you it's more difficult. Thirdly, vulgar come-ons aren't the same as flirting, and groping someone's bottom isn't a compliment. And fourthly, just because a woman wears a mini-skirt that certainly doesn't mean you can touch her without her consent.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Speaking out prevents abuse of power

Helsingin Sanomat explains why women should be commended for bravely talking about their experiences:

“It's not an innocent joke, normal macho culture or harmless petting if one party has said no. Drawing a boundary isn't always easy, which often makes things difficult for the victim. ... Ultimately it all comes down to power. Harrassment often comes from a position of power which affords protection in the form of superior rank, economic dependence or physical strength. Not saying anything only encourages abuse of power. For that reason the problem needs to be discussed and tackled now.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Hollow hashtag feminism is just divisive

The campaign on social networks will only pit men and women against each other, columnist Zoe Strimpel fears in The Daily Telegraph:

“This movement lacks the intellectual coherence put in place by our femininist foremothers in the 1970s and 80s. It is obsessed with sex and objectification rather than other forms of discrimination. And it doesn’t make the kind of arguments that would actually persuade those who most need the persuasion. ... No amount of divisive hashtagging will achieve this. It just validates and entrenches a bitter rhetoric that pits women against men in a way that seems to be merely regressive rather than effective.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Men should still be allowed to compliment women

The Weinstein scandal shows that the women's movement in the US is more powerful than ever, writes Los Angeles-based columnist Irina Asiova in 24 Chasa:

“Women in the US have the men so firmly by the balls that all we can hear is a pathetic whine, which in the case of Weinstein is just how it should be. Men like him deserve to be publicly scorned and see their career and family destroyed. While American women are celebrating, however, they are forgetting a tiny detail: men should be controlled, but not castrated. ... I want to live in a society in which my rights as a woman are protected, but that shouldn't be taken to such extremes that men no longer dare pay me a compliment.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Weinstein is everywhere

The real scandal is just how widespread sexual exploitation is, Die Welt writes:

“Does anyone seriously believe the system is confined to Hollywood? In schools and universities, companies and administrative authorities, churches and the media, in America and Europe, socialism and capitalism, democratic and authoritarian systems - powerful men everywhere still believe they can demand that women give up their dignity in return for favours. And if some women believe they can take up the offer without suffering any harm, it's generally because they're fooled by their own inexperience. Perhaps they have already been damaged in the past; perhaps their self-esteem was already low.”