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#MeToo Backlash

December 27th, 2018

Sexual harassment has existed as long as sexuality has existed. In years past, some women spoke out and were vindicated, but many were humiliated and lived to regret their attempts to seek justice.

Over the years, it became clear that not all of the claims were valid, but it was also evident that far more of the legitimate complaints were left unvoiced.

Alyssa Milano’s request that victims respond to her tweet with a #metoo has changed the course of the relationship between the sexes irrevocably. The sheer volume of responses was the shot heard round the world, and that shot is not going back into the cannon.

That’s a good thing – right? Women have been abused verbally and physically in far more numbers than anyone could have guessed, and we finally have the power to stop it and the power of retribution. Men have also jumped on the band wagon of castigation against those men who have harmed women.

Although this appears to be an organic revolution rather than a planned coup, the results of this tsunami of lashing out are just beginning to be felt.

Initially, the abusers were fair game. If a man perpetrated an unwanted act on a woman, anything from bugging her for a clandestine kiss to an unsolicited showing of his privates to full on violent sexual assault, this dude deserved to lose everything, including career and family, and maybe even do some jail time. He had no right.

That is true. Any of these actions constitute a violation of a woman’s rights, and reprisal for callously damaging women has been long overdue. But the very nature of a tsunami implies that everything in its path is swept up, there’s no time to insert a leveler for balance. So, men who have committed minor indiscretions and even men who have never stepped outside the bounds of propriety are feeling villainized – not all, but many.

The whole point of this epic cleansing was to restore equanimity to women, and right wrongs that have been done. To a large extent that has happened and women all over are feeling vindicated. But does it end there? Sadly, these colossal equalizers rarely do.

We’re starting to see the price women may have to pay for enabling this tsunami to take its full toll without any check points. In an October article by The Economist, several polls have revealed that support of women is waning in many areas, and a growing number believe that false accusations are more concerning than actual abuses. Ironically, the largest swing has been among women.

What is even more worrisome is the fact that reports of men opting to avoid working with women, going on business trips with women and being in partnerships with women is starting to build according to an October article in The American Lawyer. As a woman business-owner, that presents a whole host of concerns and challenges moving forward.

The question remains to be asked, has #metoo leveled the playing field and brought long awaited justice to women, the balance we needed, or has it created an uncrossable chasm between the sexes that will inevitably reconstruct all of those broken glass ceilings?

A recent LinkedIn list of “50 Big Ideas for 2019” states that Ross Martin, CEO of marketing firm Blackbird, has coined a term “the sorry cycle,” which has been described as “compressing the time and space between success, failure and redemption.” We are already starting to see this cycle in effect. Several men, who were labeled as untouchable and doomed to a solitary life with no career and no support network, have made their way back into polite society. How many of these outcasts will be welcomed back into the fold? Will they all find their way back? What is the tipping point?

How will the backlash from #metoo ultimately affect women and their careers? Will we end up in a much better place, or much worse? Do we need a strategy to proactively control the after effects of #metoo to avoid the looming undertow?

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