One full year after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the tide has turned and the world’s tolerant and complicit attitude towards sexual misconduct is changing dramatically.
The irreversible launch of this period of dramatic and positive change has been marked by the hundreds of women’s marches that took place throughout the world last weekend. The marches, particularly those in Toronto, about 38 other Canadian cities, and in hundreds of cities in the United States and Europe, have attracted a lot of media attention.
This emergence of such large protest movements as #MeToo is a very significant development that will eventually have an impact on all aspects of life. Both women and men will feel the effects of the consequent and gradual enhancement of the human rights, the emotional health, the personal development and the career successes of women.
It is ironic that such a positive outlook could be the eventual outcome of the crude, boastful remarks attributed to the then candidate Trump in a tape that was widely circulated to the public shortly before the presidential elections took place in November 2016.
It is equally noteworthy that the scandal created by Trump’s distasteful “grab them by the pussy” remarks did not prevent him from winning the election. But it certainly pushed the issue of sexual abuse of women by men in positions of authority and influence to the front of the public’s consciousness.
The consequent public shaming of prominent personalities, many of whom were denounced as serial sexual predators via the media and the courts, has now assumed epidemic proportions in Canada and the United States.
In Canada, the list has become embarrassingly long since the infamous accusations against the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi made by some eight women in 2014. In 2016, the RCMP set aside the sum of $100 million to settle the claims arising from a class action lawsuit brought against it by former and current female members of staff. Female members of both provincial and federal parliaments have spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment in recent years. And the decades-long litany of accusations of abuse of Indigenous women by police officers has tarnished the image of the whole country.
Not to be outdone, the United States is now swept away by a torrent of sexual abuse scandals that have probably sold almost as many billions of dollars of media attention as the words and deeds of the volatile President himself. An additional cash pot of funds has already been spent over recent years for hush money and out-of-court settlements.
Heading that list of “alleged abusers” of women is no less an ethical icon than the “macho”, self-centred President, the one who boasts of his “huge” successes in hotel franchise and other real estate deals.
His companions in the dock of the accused include some of the very best: Harvey Weinstein in the film industry; Dr. Larry Nassar in the field of Gymnastics; Volleyball Coach Rick Butler; Actor Kevin Spacey; Comedian, Actor and Filmmaker Louis C.K.; Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan; Democratic Senator Al Franken; Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore (Alabama); Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly both of Fox News: and the all-time star of family sitcom, Bill Cosby.
On the other side of the people’s court and of the legal process of judge and jury, cohorts of women are demanding that sexual misconduct be deterred, investigated and punished. These are individual women and groups of women of all ages, racial origins, and cultural backgrounds. They are supported by political parties, civil liberty organizations and hordes of people, including men, who stand up for principle.
One full year into the Trump presidency, the women’s protest marches against the centuries-old practice of sexual harassment and sexual assault of women by persons (mainly men) of influence and authority are now centre-stage in both Canada and the United States.
There is a greater awareness that, in the so-called battle of the sexes, sexual harassment and sexual assault by men are about more than physical violence. They are forceful expressions of power and control and are therefore also about psychological oppression.
The whole society will progress faster and more equitably as the oppression of women is reined in.
However, a word of caution is in order for women who belong to the Black community and to other communities which do not have the advantage of white privilege.
Do not take it for granted you will benefit equitably from the current protest movement.