I know the title of today’s blog post may get some of you angry. But this is how I feel. And before you yell and scream at me, men and women alike, allow me to explain why I ask this question today about MeToo and how I struggled to sleep last night as it’s all I could think about.
I will say it again that I have not been the victim of sexual harassment or abuse. Whatever the reason may be, I am a fortunate woman that I have had only positive interactions with men throughout my life. In fact, the majority of my mentors throughout my career and the people I have looked up to most in life have been men.
The MeToo movement was necessary. Women have been abused and harassed for too long, and it was about time that our society woke up and heard their voices. Whether it was dozens of young gymnasts assaulted by their coach or aspiring actresses who faced harassment from men in powerful positions, our world is a better place now that we are speaking publicly about inappropriate sexual behaviour.
But now I ask my question: has the MeToo movement gone too far?
Canadian society is based on a culture in Britain that evolved over hundreds of years. During the Dark Ages and Middle Ages there was no concept of justice, fairness and equality. For the most part, if an individual was accused of misconduct or a crime, he or she was considered guilty before proven innocent. During the European Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries life began to change.
Over a period of time, and it didn’t happen overnight, British, and its North American colonies that became the United States and Canada, society worked hard to change into one that focused on innocent until proven guilty. Just because someone is accused of misconduct or a crime does not necessarily mean that he or she committed it.
Now I know that this specifically refers to our judicial system. Everyone is given their day in court to defend themselves. However, this is quite different from the court of public opinion. Just being accused of a wrongdoing can ruin a person’s life. There are countless examples, even in the 20th and 21st centuries, of people being accused of the most heinous crimes, going to jail and being found innocent later or being found innocent from the outset. These innocent individuals’ lives are ruined. There is no going back.
With respect to sexual misconduct, harassment and abuse, the majority of women in our society have historically been scared to come forward. There was a stigma attached to a woman who accused a man of sexual misconduct. Never mind that it could rarely be proven “beyond reasonable doubt” in court, society often looked down on that woman, making her feel like she did something wrong.
I believe that changed in 2017, with the evolution of the MeToo movement. Women were not being stigmatized for speaking out, rather they were being hailed as heroes. Their communities supported them and assured them that they would do whatever was necessary to bring these men to justice. And that was what our society needed.
But has that gone too far? While I don’t doubt that many of these allegations are true, what about the ones that are not? But whether these allegations are real or not, the court of public opinion has deemed that the accused man is guilty every time. He is not being given the chance to defend himself. His life as he knew it is over. He may be guilty, no doubt, but what if he is innocent? What if a woman brings forward allegations against him that are fabricated?
This is exactly what has happened over the last 24 hours in the province of Ontario. I am referring to the allegations brought forward by two women against the now former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, Patrick Brown. Everything I know about this story I got from the media. He is accused of sexual misconduct going back about ten years ago, and whether these allegations are true or not, his career and life as he knew it are over.
Because of the court of public opinion, no one wants to be aligned with him at all anymore. His closest advisors abandoned him. His political party, one that he led in the province of Ontario, wants nothing to do with him. He is tainted goods now. Whether he conducted himself in an inappropriate manner or not is irrelevant. He has been accused, and that’s enough for his political life to be over.
I believe that is unacceptable. Our forefathers worked so hard to create a just and fair society, and I fear that we are now going backwards. I am urging caution and thoughtfulness. Sexual harassment and abuse are unacceptable, and women should feel confident in speaking up and speaking out. I know there is no easy balance and it may be a rough road moving forward. But if indeed we live in a just and fair society, I know we can find a way.