News from the #MeToo Front

hashtag MeToo, #MeToo, Twitter, sexual harassmentEvery now and then, new #MeToo stories bubble up to the top of our media consciousness. Because they appear on a onesy-twosy basis, it requires attention to connect them and make sense of what’s going on. What I see, across media, industries, and countries is that women still have a long way to go.

Bias in Scientific Studies

In Published Work, Men Sing Their Praises More” by Sumathy Reddi in The Wall Street Journal “ tells us that

“…studies in prestigious journals with a male first or last author (or both) were 12% more likely to use sweeping, positive terms—’unique,’ ‘robust,’ ‘prominent’—than those where women were credited, which they believe contributed to the male studies getting about 10% more citations. Citations are often used in hiring and promotion decisions.”

The takeaway: Women scientists don’t brag as much as men do and put science ahead of self-aggrandizement. But they suffer for their discretion because men get more job offers based on their arrogance and boastfulness.

Or, maybe the men just market themselves better. After all, it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it. But are they really better? Some of the researchers also examined whether the “broader language” was actually substantive. Could the men deliver? The answer: “They found that it was mostly a case of overselling.” What a surprise.

Male Perspective on Female Experience

Bombshell movie, #MeToo, Fox NewsBombshell is a movie about a group of women that decides to take on Roger Ailes, the repulsive head of Fox News, and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network. It stars three A-List actresses at the top of their game.

The Takeaway: The movie gets only a 67% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, with the explanation that,

Bombshell benefits from a terrific cast and a worthy subject, but its impact is muffled by a frustrating inability to go deeper than the sensationalistic surface.”

The fact that the movie is directed by a man, Jay Roach, and written by a man, Charles Randolph, might just have had something to do with that inability. How, exactly, is a man supposed to go deeper into how women reacted to being sexually harassed? Who at the studio decided that putting men in charge of a movie about women was a good idea?

Maybe we can all go out to see Bombshell and make it a surprise hit, adding to the growing list of successful movies that star women.

Raising Women’s Salaries in Basketball

How U.S, Women’s Basketball Won a Raise” by Rachel Bachman and Ben Cohen in The Wall Street Journal describes how women players can now commit to a year-long national team training camp. This allows them to avoid having to play overseass to boost their salaries. The women’s maximum U.S. salary is $117,500. On the other hand, they can earn $1 million plus by playing in Russian, China, and Turkey.

The takeaway: Women who have children can’t easily jet off to foreign countries that pay better than here in America. Now they have an option, created by the women themselves, to get paid better before representing the United States in the Tokyo Olympics.

The Minister’s Shop Girl Insult

Mart Helme, Estonia’s Interior Minister, yesterday survived a confidence vote that was taken after he insulted the Prime Minister of Finland. Seems he mocked Finland’s new 34-year-old PM, Sanna Marin, in an interview during which he said that he doubted Marin and her government were capable of running the country. Paraphrasing Lenin’s maxim that a cook should be able to run a country, Mr. Helme said:

“Now we see that a shop girl has become a prime minister and some other street activists and uneducated people have also become members of the government.”

Mart Helme, Sanna Marin

Mart Helme and Sanna Marin

The takeaway: Clearly, he saw the trend of ordinary people—especially a young woman—as an insult to his status, power. and masculinity. Also, he felt free to insult an elected official openly.

Now, “shop girl” is not bad as male insults for women go—we have all heard much worse—but it still demeans and diminishes Finland’s most powerful elected official. Mr. Helme apologized but kept his job. Estonia’s President, and Mr. Helme’s boss, also apologized to Ms. Marin. President Kersti Kaljulaid is a woman. I’m sure President Kaljulaid spoke to Mr. Helme before his apology and I would have bought tickets for that.

Butt Slapper Arrested

You have probably seen the footage by now, either on TV or social media. A young woman, Alex Bozarjian, is reporting live on a road race in Georgia and standing with her back to the runners. Abruptly, the expression on her face changes from professional and confident to shocked. That’s because a man running up behind her decided it would be just fine to smack and grab her on the butt as he went past.

Alex Bozarjian, Thomas Callaway, butt slapThe takeaway: An adult man, total stranger, sees a young woman and decides that slapping and grabbing her on the buttocks would be a bit of fun. The fact that the woman was working, was in the middle of doing her job, meant nothing to him. Neither did the fact that he demolished her composure and interrupted her while she was on camera.

The offender, Thomas Callaway, turned himself in and was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery. Mr Callaway apologized, claiming that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” and that his slap was an “awful mistake.”

Men sometimes think that a woman wants to have her butt slapped or pinched. News flash: Women don’t like being slapped or pinched any more than men do. It’s not sexy, complimentary, or fun. It hurts. And men have no right to touch a woman’s body without her permission.

Harvey Whinestein Seeks Sympathy

Serial abuser Harvey Weinstein whines that he’s really a victim in the abuse and rape scandal that toppled him from his Hollywood pinnacle. In complaining that “my work has been forgotten,” he also said that he should be remembered for doing more professionally for women than anyone in history.

The takeaway: Mr. Weinstein wants us to, “Pay no attention to those awful things I did to so many women for too many years,” just remember the good stuff.” Un-huh. Meanwhile, he goes to trial for rape on January 6 in Manhattan. That won’t do much to rehabilitate his image.

Connecting the #MeToo Dots

Connecting the dots, white male violence, misogynyThe picture that emerges when I connect these assorted #MeToo dots remains difficult. Men still feel free to insult, underpay, and assault women un-apologetically. They also have no problem taking charge of women’s stories and bragging about their own underwhelming achievements.

Only now their actions have moved from back rooms out into the open. In the light of #MeToo publicity, they are learning, albeit slowly, to be more careful about what they say and do. I think it will take longer for them to realize that men aren’t the best, or only, interpreters of women’s’ experiences.

What Women Want for Christmas

I venture to say that all most women want for Christmas is to be treated with respect: equal pay, no slaps or pats, no gratuitous insults. We want to be considered for our qualifications and accomplishments. We don’t want to be pushed behind male overstatement and put up with men telling our stories and defining our experience.

Is that too much to ask?

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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