The Long History of #MeToo

About this Episode

Guests
Treva Lindsey, Kimberly Hamlin, Martha Chamallas

From Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes to the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment and sexual violence seem to have suddenly burst into the news cycle. Nearly every day, new allegations against powerful men emerge as more women come forward. But, while many are heralding the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements as an opportunity for change, many of those who are raising awareness about these issues today have protested them in the past. So what’s different now? And how does contemporary activism fit into the longer history of awareness? On this episode of History Talk, hosts Jessica Viñas-Nelson and Brenna Miller invite three experts—Professors Treva Lindsey, Kimberly Hamlin, and Martha Chamallas—to discuss the social and legal histories of sexual assault and harassment in the US, past movements to fight it, and how the conversations going on today fit into the broader story of gender and sexual equality.

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Cite this Site

Brenna Miller, Jessica Viñas-Nelson , "The Long History of #MeToo" , Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
January, 2018
https://origins.osu.edu/index.php/historytalk/long-history-metoo?language_content_entity=en.
January, 2018

Transcript

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Welcome to History Talk the podcast that brings together a panel of experts to discuss current events in historical perspective. I'm your host, Jessica Vinas-Nelson.

 

Brenna Miller 

And I'm your other host Brenna Miller. From the infamous Access Hollywood tapes of now President Trump, to the allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, sexual harassment and sexual violence seem to burst into the news cycle.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

New allegations against powerful men seem to emerge almost every day, as more and more women come forward, and many are heralding this as a new era and a moment of change. But this isn't the first time such allegations have come to the forefront of public consciousness. Many of the women who are raising awareness about these issues today have protested them in the past. To discuss this longer history  we've invited three experts to discuss the history of sexual assault and harassment in the US and the movements to fight it. Via phone we have historian Dr. Kimberly Hamlin from Miami University in Ohio, who focuses on gender, women, and science in the United States.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

Hi, thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

 

Brenna Miller 

In the studio with us we have Dr. Martha Chamallas, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University where she is a leading scholar on torts, employment discrimination law, and legal issues affecting women.

 

Martha Chamallas 

Nice to be here.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

And finally, also in the studio we have with us Dr. Treva Lindsey from Ohio State University's Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department, where she specializes in African American women's history, black popular and expressive culture, black feminism's critical race and gender theory and sexual politics.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Hello, nice to be here.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Thanks for joining us today. What is the #MeToo movement and how have people responded to it?

 

Treva Lindsey 

So the hashtag comes into existence in late 2017, in response to Harvey Weinstein and these various, very serious allegations ranging from sexual harassment to sexual misconduct, to at this point, allegations of rape and sexual assault. But the movement itself can date back over a decade with the work of Tarana Burke, an activist who based on the East Coast out of Philadelphia and New York, which was really creating space for survivors to find community with each other. But also to push back against policies, against laws that will make, very much so, making it difficult for women to come forward about sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and other forms of sexual violence. And encompassing in this is also a movement to create things that don't necessarily always center on the perpetrators, but actually think about what's necessary work for the women who have survived these acts of violence. One thing that seems very important to think about is why has the #MeToo movement, in a sense, gained so much visibility and become almost mainstream, despite the fact that it's been percolating for so long. We can't forget Donald Trump in this, that the kind of simmering frustration of the lack of response to the victims of Donald Trump who had come forward, I think, laid the groundwork for the #MeToo movement. And as I was reading The New York Times today, about the victims in the current case against the physician for the Olympics, and 150 victims testified at the sentencing hearing. And I've been looking at these kinds of cases for a long time. And I never remember I've never seen that kind of setting where 150 victim impact statements were taken in this kind of legal proceeding. So this idea of solidarity, the idea of all people coming forward to give support, whether it's against a particular perpetrator, or about the kind of story, seems to be a hallmark of the #MeToo movement.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

In terms of the momentum of it. I think it's also important to, I mean, to think about the momentum, what it means for women of all generations. I think that's, I think it's interesting, to think about this generationally, and then the sense that it really marks a see change and things that women in my generation, I'm 43, and older were taught even still, that this is just how it is. And just a huge, the liberating aspect of realizing that things that you were told, or just how they were, someone's going to, you know, grab you inappropriately or say wrong things, and you just have to suck it up. The idea that we don't have to suck it up anymore, is so thrilling and liberating, but I think it really helps perpetuate and encourage women of you know, from all demographics and ages and localities to share their stories and just say, oh, thank God, we don't have to do this anymore. I mean, it's a real, I think, a historic shift.

 

Martha Chamallas 

When Anita Hill was at Ohio State, and gave a series of lectures, she mentioned that she had, and it’s still in her basement, hundreds of letters from women who had written her to tell her about their experiences and what her coming forward had meant for them. But they were in Anita Hill's basement. They weren't online.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yes, I think the digital has a large part to do with this as well. When the #MeToo movement started a decade ago, we didn't have kind of the robust Twitter and Facebook and other venues that we have now. And I think another important thing to acknowledge in this moment is that it gains this kind of momentum also, because one of the first sites that's really coming forward about sexual misconduct in this moment is in Hollywood. So there's also this kind of celebrity that there's this kind of cachet. In the initial inception of the movement, there was this kind of moment where you see the hashtag from Alyssa Milano, and then actually Twitter jumping in to be like, hey, just so you know, #MeToo as a movement has existed prior to this moment. So it's really important. And I think #MeToo, has always been about women from all class backgrounds, racial backgrounds, sexual orientations. I think it's really important. But it's also that we have to think about this in terms of the movement and how we build solidarity around this when, you know, very powerful women compared to some of the kind of low wage workers, undocumented women, women who are having racial backgrounds that aren't always adjudicated equally in our justice system, are coming forward, too. And so #TimesUp, which is the kind of counterpart to #MeToo, it's really about Hollywood, reaching across those lines, and finding ways to make sure that the most vulnerable are also protected and covered in this movement, too.

 

Brenna Miller 

For some, the #MeToo movement seems to have sprung out of nowhere, but when did the concept of sexual harassment and these kinds of ideas even begin?

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

So the first time you have a formal coining of the term, although of course, you have incidents before this and women who were talking about this in various ways, whether we're talking about enslaved black women, and sexual harassment on plantations and sexual misconduct and sexual violence--but the term comes into existence in 1975 at Cornell University, in response to a woman who resigns her position but is demanding that the university provide her with unemployment benefits because she was resigning because of a sexual misconduct by her employer, by her supervisor, direct supervisor. So this term by this group of women at Cornell becomes this term that now spawns this whole greater conversation, you see reports in The New York Times with saying over 18 million women were indicating that they had had some experience with sexual harassment in the workplace. And then you start to have some language that develops around that fairly quickly, considering how slow sometimes change can be with the work of Catharine MacKinnon using the words “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” in order to think about the different ways we talk about sexual harassment in the workplace. And also the work of Eleanor Holmes Norton at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC, doing work there also to start to try and lay some groundwork for legal frameworks for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

Martha Chamallas 

To give you a little bit of a legal timeline, the EEOC, the agency that you mentioned, first uses the term “sexual harassment” in its published guidelines in 1980. And they were inspired to do so by the Catharine MacKinnon book in the grassroots movement that preceded it. The cases start percolating through the courts and the first Supreme Court decision is in 1986. It's interesting that by the time we get to the Hill Thomas hearings in 1990, there's often mentioned in the press that people don't understand the concept of sexual harassment, yet it is  decades old in terms of its legal status. The Hill Thomas moment referred to the Senate confirmation hearings of the nominee, Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court. And as part of the kind of background on the judge, it came to the attention of members of the committee, that there was a number of incidents involving Anita Hill who had worked for Clarence Thomas, ironically at the EEOC when she was a lawyer there. So they asked her to testify about what had occurred while she was a lawyer at the EEOC. She told the story of sexual harassment that Thomas had frequently made remarks about his sexual proclivities. He had shown an interest in pornography and he asked her repeatedly what she thought of various types of positions. So it was rather, for that time, rather graphic testimony involved, what we now know as verbal harassment. Of course, Thomas was ultimately confirmed, and now sits on the United States Supreme Court. But the Hill Thomas moment really catalyzed the legal concept of sexual harassment.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

I've been thinking a lot about two things as we've been talking, one is the way in which the Anita Hill trial has played out. So when I started off teaching 10 years ago, at the college level, most people had, still it was kind of more fresh in people's minds, that most people like the students in my intro classes thought, oh, who knows? He said, she said. And how over time, the pendulum even before #MeToo, how the pendulum has really shifted to that now when I bring it up students know less of the details, but the sort of general cultural sense that it seems to be, oh, yeah, he was totally guilty. He did everything she said. So it's like, in some ways, I feel like our culture has grappled with that differently even before #MeToo. But the way, the many unfortunate things about it is, of course, Clarence Thomas is on the Supreme Court for life. And recently, I saw that Anita Hill was appointed to lead the Hollywood commission investigating sexual assault and harassment throughout Hollywood. And at first, I thought, oh, wow, how great but then I thought, how not great. You know, I bet if I were Anita Hill, I would much rather be sitting on the Supreme Court myself, than having to lead this commission investigating sexual harassment which, you know, really shaped, changed the trajectory of her career in her life. And I've also been thinking about the ways in which women entered the formal workplace in large numbers around the turn of the 20th century. And how the very gendered and sexist ways that women came both into what became known as pink collar work like secretaries and also factory and lower wage jobs between, you know, 1870s and 1920s, has also really shaped this conversation. So in particular, if you think about the emergence of the job of secretary, you know, in the 1870s 1880s, this job emerges as industry grows, as middle management grows. And at first, the job of secretary is a male job, and it's more like an apprentice, and it means you follow your boss around and help them out. And that may be that you, too, might one day become the boss. But then with the invention of the typewriter, the job secretary changes to be more manual labor, smaller tasks, menial things, and it becomes gendered, highly female. So by 1920, I think the studies show that 95 or 98% of all secretaries are female; whereas, it used to be mostly male. And that this is a job, as everyone who has been alive or watched TV knows, is also really a place where sexual harassment often happens between bosses and their female secretaries. And of course, it's even worse for women who enter lower wage and factory labor at this time where the sexual harassment is much more flagrant and generally violent. So it's, I think it also, the history of it is not just a legal concept. It's also a labor concept.

 

Treva Lindsey 

I would just add too, that also for black women and women of color working inside the home during that period is an extraordinary part of how sexual harassment happens in domestic spaces. Because the employment space for a lot of black women is actually in the homes of post slavery. And thinking about the kind of dynamics of building solidarity in this moment are fraught and complicated, because if we think about families that have domestics, there are white women who are recognizing that this is happening in their homes, and it's not a movement around that. So I think we have to be very precise in thinking about all of the different ways that this shows up and how we address this holistically and inclusively.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

So a large part of it is when and where women are working?

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

Yes.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

So it emerges in the 1970s as a term. But when do we have legislation around this? Is it just with the EEOC?

 

Martha Chamallas 

A congress has never amended the civil rights laws to specifically prohibit sexual harassment. But when the Supreme Court declared in 1986, that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the federal civil rights law, Title Seven. So it's, in a way it's similar to what the court is now considering is discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and gender nonconformity, a form of sex discrimination under Title Seven, even though Congress has not yet acted. So it's a, it is interesting how sometimes you don't need congressional legislation, you have a grassroots movement. The meaning of what is sex discrimination changes, and then eventually  even a, and at that time it was a pretty conservative court, in 1986 said, we all agreed that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

How do you think perspectives and attitudes towards sexual assault and harassment have evolved over time?

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

I think it's been a slow process. So I think it's been maybe more like a snowball effect. Whereas now with the #MeToo movement, I think the impetus and the battle, not just the balanced evidence, but the sort of emotional weight, and the numbers mean that the idea that we should believe women is finally something that, you know, mainstream American men and women are really grabbing onto and saying, yeah, we maybe we should believe women after all these years.

 

Martha Chamallas 

And I also think that the question, whether it's the Hill Thomas hearings, or any of the specific cases, often really involve two questions, not just he said, she said, in which person do we believe--a credibility question. But even when we have a sense of what happened? Is it something that's wrong and deserves consequences? Because I do think the American public believes many of the allegations made against Donald Trump, and yet, for a variety of reasons, are not willing to impose consequences.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

It's just locker room talk, right? The idea that it's not deserving of a real punishment.

 

Martha Chamallas 

Yes. That, that it's not serious enough. And I think in some respects, that was also present even in Anita Hill, although many people said they didn't believe her. I think others thought, well, what's the harm in having this discussion? And because both Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas were both African Americans, I think there was a racial element about well, that's just sort of, they're talking amongst themselves, that's not so harmful.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Right? With the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, you absolutely have a very fraught racial dynamic. I mean, Clarence Thomas, employs very racially charged language to say what was happening to him was a high-tech lynching. And if you look at the kind of history of lynching as it pertains to sexual violence, right, a third of lynchings occur based on allegations of black men raping white women, there is this really fraught  history. So then you have this black woman in the middle of this who works for him, who's also fairly at that point in her career, more conservative leaning, and in terms of, we think about her as a jurist in that way, working for Clarence Thomas. And that language is very polarizing. It's very invective. And so at the time, even in the ‘90s, you have this group of black women, critical legal studies scholars, who become kind of in defense of Anita Hill, and start theorizing certain work around how race, gender and the law show up in order to account for how African American women specifically, so you're thinking about Lani Guinier, you thinking about Kimberlé Crenshaw, and so there are a number of women who become really forces in the critical Legal Studies field as a result of this case, too. And I think moving forward, what you see on some level is social media has made it impossible to turn away from a lot of these narratives. There's the sheer availability and accessibility of these narratives. And who's saying this, and some of these big profile people who've been accused in these moments. And at the same time, you have someone like an R. Kelly, who's been accused multiple times for 20 years, and there's no kind of systemic collective response from eradicating him. Or people who still work with Woody Allen, despite allegation after allegation that come out on continual narratives from his family. Even people who've put on things that say, #MeToo, and #TimesUp, have worked with Woody Allen, post this coming forward. So although I see a shift, and I see people making certain moves towards believing women, believing trans people, believing men who are coming forward about allegations of sexual violence, I still think we have a culture that suggests that some of these people’s behavior is just what we're willing to exempt. And we don't actually think that these actions warrant consequences.

 

Brenna Miller 

So even more than just saying that these are not okay activities. In some cases, there's even a backlash against them that this is just how you hit on people, or what are we supposed to do? So what is that role in #MeToo, but also in the past?

 

Martha Chamallas 

So backlash occurs, even before change has occurred. So it's probably better to call it a preemptive strike. And that's what we're seeing. So this perennially, a kind of intervention or an initiative or we can say, a movement, and then simultaneously, there's a backlash. And what has always been, but as I think, even more vivid and visible now, is that there's a pushback from both the right and the left. So the Katherine Deneuve statement in Le Monde, basically she says that the #MeToo movement has gone off the rails. There ought to be a right to pester. That this kind of importuning for sex is fine. And she goes so far as to say that, that there, really people shouldn't be very upset if a man brushes his sex against a woman on the subway. Ninety-nine prominent women in France signed on to the statement. I thought that that was like a great mix of backlash from the right and from the left. You know, partly, it was from the left in that this idea of “this is censorship, it's going to somehow impair women's agency to talk about this. It is just Victorianism dressed up.” But from the right, it was the same kind of  vilification of women who do speak up, as “this is really not that important.” This is something that you can brush off, and that we'd be much better off if you just stay quiet.

 

Treva Lindsey 

And what's so fascinating about that, that you bring up that you see these pushes from these seemingly oppositional political positions is that both of them still rely upon the vilification of women and still rely upon these kind of patriarchal ideas about womanhood. On one hand, this idea that if we're sex positive, then we shouldn't mind being pestered. That doesn't cultivate a sense of consent, healthy or enthusiastic consent, or women's autonomy in a way to want to say no.  It only permits women to say yes, in that context, or to continually have to say no over and over and over again as a mark of agency, which still is vested in patriarchy in very dangerous way. And on the right, of course, that vilification comes, “oh, so we're just going to cancel our holiday parties and not have these things because now we can't even talk to women, because that's essentially what #MeToo was pushing us towards.” And it's like, how interesting that the removal of pestering and demanding that women engage you in sexual conversations is, you say, now, I don't know what to say to women. How telling is that about our culture, and where we are that we haven't even cultivated a cultural space? And I'm saying we collectively, not just people perpetrating this, but have cultivated a culture in which the way that we want to engage women, the way we want to engage girls, the way we want to engage people with sexual interest is outside of the realm of enthusiastic consent. That's outside of the realm of saying, “What is, what do you like? What do I like? Can we have a conversation about this?” And that tells us a lot about how engaged we are and all are invested in certain ideas about how women should respond in sexual dynamics.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

There's a couple of things we haven't talked about yet. One is the role of Fox News and all of this. And that of, I think, the precipitating movement was the women of Fox News led by Gretchen Carlson came out against the sexual harassment at Fox, Fox News. So I think there was something culturally that happened when conservative leaning women not left, like somehow if, if it happened to a conservative woman and they do think it's bad, then it can't just be these left leaning feminists talking about sexual harassment. So Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America, who made part of her career, critiquing feminists, you know, came forward about sexual harassment at Fox News. And so subsequently, Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly have both been let go, sort of, but with millions of dollars in taxes. I think that that also changed the left and rightness of it in ways that are tricky and interesting. And I think we might also think about the Republican Party's response to harassment and assault allegations among their ranks compared to the Democratic Party's response. So I'm thinking, for example, obviously, about senator Al Franken’s resignation, along with people who have not resigned or who have not been called upon to resign. And all of a sudden thinking about the Mike, the so called Mike Pence rule, which goes back to what Treva was just talking about in terms of some men say, “Well, gosh, I don't even know how to be around women now.” And the Mike Pence rule that I think is built on the Billy Graham rule that you don't go out to a party if there's mixed company and drinking and you don't go out to dinner with women, I think is what it is, unless your wife is there.

 

Martha Chamallas 

The one thing that enrages me about some of the responses to #MeToo, and how they have their historical analogs, when there was yet another scandal about sexual harassment in the military way back when because we've had these sort of perennial scandals. There was a call to re-segregate basic training. Women shouldn't be in the military. Segregation, and staying away from women has typically been the response to any kind of airing of conflict. And I do think that we're still at this historical point where we don't get as much explicit discussion of “we really shouldn't have women in these jobs at all.” Access is something that we're supposed to have. But when it comes to saying that women and others who haven't held the power, I have a right to equal working conditions, we're still negotiating. So we're still at the level you're in the door. Now, what do you find when you get in the door? And that's sort of been a very, very long discussion.

 

Treva Lindsey 

And also this presumption in these same gender spaces that if you take people out, as though there's not same gender sexual harassment, I mean, one of the really important moments in the Hollywood aspect of the #MeToo movement was obviously the Kevin Spacey harassing of men. And Terry Crews also coming forward about an incident of sexual harassment, and the backlash he's faced and the repercussions to his career in certain way. And by that, I mean, Terry Crew's career for coming forward as a man talking about sexual harassment from other men and sexual misconduct from other men. So this idea, even in creating that, even if that was the idea that we're so invested in patriarchy, that men and women need to be completely segregated. What does that then do to what we know, the seemingly kind of silent percentage, but a recognizable percentage of men who experience sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by other men? And a lot of this goes back to the critique of patriarchy, which is why I think it's interesting that Gretchen Carlson gets the kind of support that she does, given the work of feminists that create the language for talking about sexual harassment and sexual violence and it having these legal repercussions and these kind of cultural repercussions. But then on the other side of that, that there's still an investment in a kind and a form of patriarchy, that allows for the culture to perpetuate itself whereby women still have to think to themselves, “Should I come forward? Will I be believed,” right?

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Kimberly, you sounded like you had something you wanted to add.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

Oh no. I am just totally agreeing.

 

Martha Chamallas 

Enthusiastic consent.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

Yes.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yes.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

See, it's not that hard to get.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Why would you not want enthusiastic consent? When I'm talking to my students about this and I get to talk about them, I get to teach Intro to Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies. And I spend a considerable amount of time on consent across the different lessons, because it's so important. And the fact that I asked them when they come in how many of you learned about consent, and it started to increase across my teaching this class over the last decade. But still, it never reaches half in my class of students who've ever been taught this. And I'm teaching mostly first and second year students. And at the point that we know that students are beginning to think about themselves and their bodies as sexually autonomous individuals is much before college, right. It happens well, before college, that understanding consent, before you are actually engaging in sexual activities. It's so important. And we know that's not happening, let alone enthusiastic consent and feeling empowered to be able to say no, yes, I like this, I don't like this, is where we stop. And because campus sexual violence is such a pervasive issue, as well as high school and kind of dating violence and sexual harassment in those spaces, the fact that students don't have that language, either to talk about themselves as perpetrators, as victims, as people who've been both in these contexts. And so I think we have to do a better job educationally in building this in much earlier with consent even from two- and three-year-olds, when you say give someone a hug, and like go give them a hug, that a child has the right to say no, that they have a right to their bodies in a certain way, enthusiastic consent begins very early.

 

Martha Chamallas 

And I think it's interesting that the first college to have a policy to adopt affirmative consent was Antioch College in the late '80s. And we know their policy of affirmative consent, which looks very similar to the number of university policies that have been adopted in the wake of the latest campus rape response, was ahead of its time. And was pretty much made fun of, you know, not only on Saturday Night Live, but it was held up as sort of impossible to obtain, as ridiculous and impossible to obtain. You know, that policy came from a grassroots place in Antioch. And then it was revived for college students who said, you know, why should it be that I have to say no, in clear terms, and then I'm not believed? And would I have initiated it if the other person hadn't? You know, to me that could be easily operationalized in the law, and yet is not found in very many criminal statutes, is found now precariously in the law of Title Nine governing sex discrimination and education, and still hasn't found its way sort of in the basic fabric of the law. So I think affirmative consent is critical. I'm glad you brought it up. Because so many of the incidents, really, we have to look and say, are these non-consensual incidents? And then we have to ask ourselves, what do we mean by consent?

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

So what does this history suggest about the feature of the #MeToo movement, given the changes in the past, all these decades, of movements building that we've had? What do you think will happen with the #MeToo movement?

 

Brenna Miller 

And should we, I think, consider it different than what's come before?

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Yes, is it fundamentally different from what's come before?

 

Martha Chamallas 

So I wouldn't say fundamentally different, but I’ll note some hopeful differences. Maybe it comes from social media, maybe it comes from the fact that this is not just a US movement. Now it's a global movement. But one feature of it, the “No”s, don't stay silent anymore, has, I think, begun to affect the processes for determining whether or not a violation has taken place. So what has in part kept sexual harassment and sexual assault under wraps are pretty arcane, contractual devices like non-disclosure agreements. So millions of these stories are kind of kept from being aired by these devices, and the #MeToo movement still hasn't had the biggest impact. But Congress is considering legislation now to outlaw non-disclosure agreements with respect to the sexual harassment suits. There's a movement against arbitration. I don't think this is going to change the world, you know, fundamentally, but I think it might change a little bit of the balance of power.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

Two related things that I feel hopeful about, in terms of this movement, one is the real attention being paid to intersectional feminism. And I feel like even though there's been many stumbles and some failures, and hiccups along the way, that I think that this is a concept that at last everyone has bought into, you know, white women, African American women, women of color, all sorts of women from different racial, ethnic and classes and agree that for true change to occur, it has to be inter sexual. It has to be for everyone by everyone, that our movement leadership has to change, to reflect us, that our movement goals have to change to reflect this. And related, I feel a real sense of hope around the shared commitment to women and power, women empowering corporate jobs, women in power and politics. I think I feel very hopeful about 2018 elections, and groundswell of women running for all sorts of positions, local, state, national, in 2018. And I think that that's a movement that will keep growing. So I think those related shifts bode really well for lasting positive change.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yeah, I think it's very encouraging to see, as Kimberly just mentioned, the intersectional dynamics of this that immediately there was a corrective to this idea that, you know, honor the work of a African American woman who started the work of #MeToo 10 years ago. That there was immediately people surrounding that, and that you saw in this moment that they weren't just elevating wealthy women who had this, who also are impacted by this, which is important. Which doesn't in any way diminish what these women are experiencing, but also turned our attention to incarcerated women being vulnerable, undocumented women being vulnerable, vulnerable women who are in detention centers currently, that are being held that are vulnerable to this kind of sexual violence, police sexual misconduct against people. So I think it's very important that it's not only the intersection of all but that you see this movement accounting for the most vulnerable. And that builds a kind of radical solidarity that I think makes this a little bit different from what we've seen before, but also builds on some of the foundational tenants of this that we see, that is foundational about eradicating misogyny, or advocating sexism, working against the patriarchy. And the other part is that we're getting more honest and frank conversations, even when they're difficult, about what consent is what affirmative consent is, what sexual coercion is, things that don't feel quite right, but aren't necessarily sexual violence. But we need to talk about because there's still unhealthy sexual practices and engagements that happen among people, of how we want our healthy, pleasurable, enthusiastic sex lives to be occurring in ways that affirm every partner who's involved in that act. And that this movement is finding ways to create language that is fully gender inclusive as well. I'm encouraged by gender nonbinary folks and trans folks being part of this movement and being some of the leaders and voices talking about the vulnerabilities in particular for people who are gender nonbinary and trans, because they actually are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence in this, too.

 

Brenna Miller 

Are there specific things that people can do, either individuals or institutions, that will help to ensure that these conversations have a meaningful and tangible outcome?

 

Martha Chamallas 

One thing that I think, as an academic, I always think, what kinds of conversations have we not had in the classroom or in our seminars, or at least we want to have again? And one conversation I want to have  again is the connection between sexual misconduct and sexual equality. And I think sometimes we miss that connection. And in many respects, as we hear these stories, they are not just a story of a man who had a sexual desire and went after somebody else. Instead, we see that this kind of conduct is used to undermine women's competence to underscore racial inequality in the workplace, to keep wages down for certain groups, and to keep them up for other groups. And so what I would like to do is scale up the #MeToo discussion to make it more structural. Because I think unless we add that piece, and it doesn't just become a dynamic, and particularly a dynamic that involves only sexual conduct, we're not going to get to that fundamental part where you say this is fundamentally different.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yeah, I absolutely appreciate that. I think the structural is that next frontier, how we dismantle structures that produce conditions in which this can perpetuate that you continuously see this, that we are talking about this in, in connection to the larger kind of history of misogyny, the larger history of sexism, the larger history of gender and inequality, we have to be concrete about that. And I think in our classrooms is one great place to be doing that. But I think also just encouraging people to have open and honest conversations about what this looks like. I mean, I think we can get to the structure sometimes through these, through these moments, when we say there's something that is fundamentally different. You know, it goes back to these consciousness raising groups that are happening in the earlier part of the women's liberation movement of the kind of mid-20th and late-20th century, that there's an importance to talking with each other about what this means. How we create language, and then how we create movement around that, and how we create a societal shift, I think and a structural shift comes from first identifying what are the ethics of engagement. How do we engage if we believe that women are fully equal? What does that change about the way that we structure certain things, structure certain institutions? What has to change in order for that to be fully actualized? And I think the advocacy aspect of that, and politicians have to make that a key part of their platforms. I'm looking for that in these midterm elections. Who's putting that as a part of their core principles, their core ethics, their core values, in this moment to say this is important? We need to create a culture of affirmative consent and that has far reaches beyond just saying yes and no, and doing this in a sexualized context, but about, do we really value all persons as equal persons, as equally autonomous, full, fully-realized and actualize agents.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

I think in addition to thinking about social activism and political activism, not just how we talked about consent and the race culture, and #MeToo, in our classrooms, I think we also as academics, as professors, as teachers, need to also support our students on campus and making changes to how Sexual assault is adjudicated and reported on our various campuses. I know, for example, at my campus, for many, many years every time a woman reported a sexual assault that you get an email alert that lists five ways to not be raped. Basically, you know, don't walk alone, this typical victim blaming. This went on for years and years until finally through student activism, with some faculty help they changed it. So I think things like that can happen, are happening, should be happening at every campus in and beyond the classroom. And secondly, I think it's important for us to realize that everything we do is a choice, not just who we vote for and who we support. If we have any extra dollars, you know, if we give money to candidates, but also our choices, and where we stop what we buy, and especially what we watch on TV on our phones, what movies we see also sends the message. So if we, for example, stop watching shows that use rape as a plot advancement device, and demand more women directors, more shows with diverse cast and diverse leadership. I think that those choices, in addition to our electoral choices also make changes. So I would encourage us to also consider the choices we make with our viewing eyes and with our consumer dollars, as well as with our election choices.

 

Brenna Miller 

We'll wrap it up on that note, thank you to our three guests, Doctors Kimberly Hamlin, Treva Lindsey, and Martha Chamallas.

 

Kimberly Hamlin 

Thank you for having us.

 

Martha Chamallas 

Thanks so much.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Thank you.

 

Jessica Vinas-Nelson 

Thanks, everyone. This episode of History Talk podcast was brought to you by Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, an online publication of the public history initiative and the Goldberg Center and the history department at The Ohio State University in Columbus and Miami University of Oxford, Ohio. Our main  editors are Steven Conn and Nicholas Breyfogle. Our audio and technical advisor is Paul Kotheimer, our audio producers and hosts are Brenna Miller and Jessica Vinas-Nelson, song and band information can be found on our website. You can find our podcast and more on their website origins.osu.edu and iTunes and on Soundcloud and Stitcher. And as always you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for listening.

 

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