The Review area’s 2018 #MeToo summer


Solomon Gustavo staff writer

The #MeToo hashtag has become a catch-all for shining a light on male sexual predators who have preyed on women with impunity. 

The fervor and attention was sparked following allegations brought against highly visible people, in highly visible fields, like entertainment and news. 

Reports first detailed alleged sexual harassment and attacks largely involving people with massive power — super-celebrities like Woody Allen and Bill Cosby, Hollywood kingmaker Harvey Weinstein, directors like Brett Ratner, and TV news royalty such as Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer. 

Alleged victims gaining the courage to reach out to law enforcement or a lawyer, or openly talking about their experiences, became front page news. What was often lamented in each story by accusers was all the factors holding them back from coming forward — things like a justice system and culture that can be at best indifferent, and at worst, victim-blaming in response. 

Many of the women whose stories of varying sexual victimhood that splashed across social media timelines and ended — or, more realistically, momentarily halted — the careers of very influential men, were celebrities themselves. 

Allegations brought forth by hugely famous, beautiful and white actors like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow made ignoring potential abuse impossible. 

Each mega-star case was drawn as a very public example involving very powerful men to bring attention to the issue of sexual violence. Superstar circumstances were to be extrapolated and applied to the lives of the less flashy. 

That never seemed to happen. Newfound attention to sex crimes came with the same old patterns of privilege.

 

Looking to White Bear Avenue

The essence of #MeToo is about exposing pockets of sexual exploitation and openly discussing rape, harassment and assault. Those pockets can appear anywhere and affect anyone — even Gwyneth Paltrow — but those at most risk, who most regularly experience rape, are the point of the movement. 

The hashtag was coined by a black woman, Tarana Burke, as a way to specifically liberate women of color and those who are most vulnerable.

It’s so that anyone — anyone — can stand up and say, me, too, be it people on Madison Avenue or White Bear Avenue. 

There’re no Hollywood movie sets in the Review coverage area of Maplewood, Oakdale, North St. Paul and Lake Elmo, no esteemed TV news anchors who moonlight as sexual predators. There are plenty of women of color and those who are the most vulnerable to sexual violence, though. 

Last year saw local law enforcement cracking down on the sexual abusers who wreak havoc on their lives. 

There was the international sex trafficking ring with branches in Oakdale and Maplewood that was shut down in August, where women were crated in from China. 

Police sniffed out a potential prostitution operation looking to run out of an Oakdale parlor in July. 

The #MeToo movement has had its up and downs, propelling discussions after large breakthroughs of bringing abusers to justice, which have been surprising and encouraging, and also deeply discouraging. 

Here’s hoping the Review area can keep progressing toward sexual safety for all. 

 

–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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