The rise of the #MeToo movement empowered women to speak up and call out perpetrators of sexual harassment by name. Unfortunately, the movement encourages many to cast all men as predators and all women as victims. With the net cast too far, the #MeToo backlash doubted a woman’s ability to consider complexity—to distinguish different types of behavior, for instance, between complimenting a woman’s appearance and real sexual harassment. As Time magazine pointed out, “We’re still at the bomb-throwing point of this revolution, a reactive stage at which nuance can go into hiding.” This is a disservice to intelligent, thoughtful, and independent women who most deserve our support.
Fortunately, as the #MeToo movement matures, the conversations around sexual harassment are beginning to move from outrage at particular men—Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Steve Wynn—to questions about the ways to reform workplaces, industries, and society as a whole. Despite their progress over the past century, ordinary women still face economic gender discrimination and intimidation as men continue to cast a shadow on women.
But women are becoming more vocal about their place in society, particularly in government. #MeToo inspired an historic wave of women running for Congress and governor this year. A 28-year old female first-time candidate just unseated fourth-ranking House Democrat Joseph Crowley in the primary. People have made it clear—they want to send women to Congress, where men still outnumber women 5 to 1. Most of the female candidates are appealing to voters with overt references to women’s rights, #MeToo, and the election of President Trump.
On the homefront, the Richard Harris Personal Injury Law Firm celebrates gender equality. Two-thirds of our combined professional and support staff are women, including our COO. We are particularly proud to recognize our six women lawyers. It’s been a long uphill road for ladies in the law. In 1869, Arabella Mansfield became the first female lawyer in the United States. In 1953, the year I was born, women comprised only 4% of law students. By 1977, the year I started law school, 30% of my classmates were women. 2016 was the first year women made up the majority of law school attendees, and now 51% of law students are women. Currently, there are three women on the United States Supreme Court, 1/3 of that body.
Women are not the minority, but there is a shared bond. It is a bond of shared experience—experiences that only women go through and struggles that only women face. Substantial barriers remain for women to achieve full economic and social equality. No doubt #MeToo was a tipping point and has emboldened women to capture its energy to create the message, launch the campaigns, and win the elections to change our country for the better. Until then, the movement continues.