The #MeToo movement has raised awareness on the often-ignored phenomenon of sexual harassment and abuse, particularly in the workplace. A spotlight has been placed on the toxic culture that has prevailed in many organizations, and which has allowed for the mistreatment of women to go unchecked. While it is undeniable that this movement has also brought forward some negative consequences (e.g. so called “trials by Twitter,” and the presumption of guilt of some of the accused), there is no doubt that changes regarding the handling of sexual harassment and abuse claims has been a necessity for a long time.
Of course, #MeToo has also been highly politicized, with the American left trying to ride the cause into electoral success. Not satisfied with having failed to rile up enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton under the banner of “feminism,” their discourse has now shifted into one in which the left appears as the only one that cares about women, while portraying the right as made up of misogynists, rapists and, basically, every bad person from A Handmaid’s Tale. This isn’t exactly healthy, as it transforms political discussion into a “good versus evil” fight, with both sides arguing that the other represents the worst of the worst. This can lead to terrible consequences, as many will try to profit from this outrage-prone environment. In The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt illustrate this point as follows:
Indeed, and as it is the case with any social media-driven crusade, there have been those who have tried to exploit this situation in the hopes of obtaining some personal benefit. Award shows have become a parade of faux wokeness, as people go out of their way to present themselves as the most concerned with the issue of abuse, while whitewashing known abusers like Kobe Bryant, Lena Dunham, Roman Polanski or Woody Allen.
In the midst of this skirmish, it was no surprise that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court would be hotly contested. This due to the fact that not only does he apparently hold concerning views in regards to abortion, but also, and especially, because of accusations of a sexual abuse he allegedly committed in his youth. While some saw his confirmation as merely the effect of presuming the innocence of someone whose guilt has not been proven, others saw it as an affront to abuse survivors, many of whom are often afraid to come out and tell their stories because of the difficulty of proving them after the fact.
As it was to be expected, the tensions that resulted from this process, and the questions that many still have regarding the newly-appointed Supreme Court Justice, also resulted in a fertile ground for exploitation. Of all the parties who could have tried to ride this wave into personal gain, however, I was surprised to find that Kim Kelly, the metalhead, faux-marxist former editor of Noisey (VICE’s music rag), was among them.
While, if she was a victim (and I have no reason to dispute it), I sincerely feel sorry for Kim and wish her all the best,this type of Internet panhandling, particularly riding on the coattails of a legitimate movement of social repulsion against sexual abuse and harassment is, to say the least, disgusting. To take advantage of this environment in the hopes of making a quick buck, is an affront to other victims and survivors. After all, of all the possible beneficiaries of donations from those who want to combat sexual assault or benefit victims, I can name about a thousand organizations that would be better suited than a white New Yorker who writes for Vogue and VICE, two of the largest publications in the world.
This kind of opportunistic panhandling hit especially close to home for me, because I have represented low-income victims of rape and abuse, and have met countless victims, none of whom have ever attempted to profit from their victimhood. Also, as a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I have a very hard time comprehending how anyone could act this way while still trying to present themselves as committed to the rights of victims.
The actions of Kim Kelly demonstrate the enormous risk involved in allowing any kind of social debate being transformed into a truly Biblical tale of light against darkness. For those who lack scruples, no topic will be too sensitive or too painful to be exploited. If they can profit from it, they will.
If you want to help women and/or victims of sexual assault in the US, please consider donating to Planned Parenthood, RAINN, or your local women’s shelter. In Europe, please find a local organization here.
Header image by Prentsa Aldundia, used here under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.