#MeToo turns on Margaret Atwood for defending due process

Updates

  1. Originally published, January 16, 2:32 am.
  2. January 16, 4:13 pm:
    • The Washington Post has published an account of the meeting in which Donald Trump likely uttered the word “Shithole” or “shithouse” in reference to some countries he doesn’t think the U.S. should accept migrants from.[1]

#MeToo

Apparently Margaret Atwood spoke up after Steven Galloway, a professor at the University of British Columbia, was fired. Apparently, we don’t really know why he was fired but it apparently it had something to do with sexual harassment allegations[2]:

The university’s administration released few details on the case against Steven Galloway, the former chair of the creative writing program, saying only that he was facing “serious allegations”. After a months-long investigation he was fired, but the official findings were never released. The faculty association said in a statement that all but one of the allegations, including the most serious allegation, were not substantiated.

In her piece, Atwood pointed to the university’s lack of transparency around the allegations and noted that Galloway had been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

“The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the agreement he had signed, he couldn’t say anything to defend himself,” she wrote. “A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see.”

She likened the affair to the Salem witch trials, in that guilt was assumed of those who were accused.[3]

The difficulty here long predates #MeToo. For instance, we can righteously condemn Hillary Clinton for her tactics in her early legal career in defense of an accused rapist. She prevailed by, in essence, putting her client’s accuser on trial, a tactic that feminists have long condemned with good reason.[4] But in a system of due process, it is perfectly legitimate to put the victim, the accuser, on trial.

This becomes problematic for several reasons, including that a freed rapist may seek revenge against his accuser, and that given the stigmatization of sex in our society, women’s testimony can too easily be silenced or diminished. In these sorts of cases, a pure “due process” system weighs too heavily in favor of the defendant, perpetrating further violence against women. And this is precisely what Clinton exploited.[5]

The problem then, as it is now, is how to protect the rights of the accused while ensuring that victims have recourse. The real answer is a difficult one: It demands we abandon retribution as a goal. It demands we seek healing for all concerned. It demands we stop pitting people against each other and instead try to address causes. But to do so ultimately challenges our system of social organization itself, which legitimizes the domination of others.[6] So this will remain problematic.

Ashifa Kassam, “Margaret Atwood faces feminist backlash on social media over #MeToo,” Guardian, January 15, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/15/margaret-atwood-feminist-backlash-metoo


Shithole

Josh Dawsey, Robert Costa, and Ashley Parker, “Inside the tense, profane White House meeting on immigration,” Washington Post, January 15, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-the-tense-profane-white-house-meeting-on-immigration/2018/01/15/13e79fa4-fa1e-11e7-8f66-2df0b94bb98a_story.html


  1. [1]Josh Dawsey, Robert Costa, and Ashley Parker, “Inside the tense, profane White House meeting on immigration,” Washington Post, January 15, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/inside-the-tense-profane-white-house-meeting-on-immigration/2018/01/15/13e79fa4-fa1e-11e7-8f66-2df0b94bb98a_story.html
  2. [2]Ashifa Kassam, “Margaret Atwood faces feminist backlash on social media over #MeToo,” Guardian, January 15, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/15/margaret-atwood-feminist-backlash-metoo
  3. [3]Ashifa Kassam, “Margaret Atwood faces feminist backlash on social media over #MeToo,” Guardian, January 15, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/15/margaret-atwood-feminist-backlash-metoo
  4. [4]Amy Chozick, “Clinton Defends Her Handling of a Rape Case in 1975,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08clinton.html; Jim Geraghty, “Does Hillary Regret Her Actions in That 1975 Rape Case?,” National Review, June 16, 2014, http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/380468/does-hillary-regret-her-actions-1975-rape-case-jim-geraghty; Alana Goodman, “The Hillary Tapes,” Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2014, http://freebeacon.com/politics/the-hillary-tapes/; Josh Rogin, “Exclusive: ‘Hillary Clinton Took Me Through Hell,’ Rape Victim Says,” Daily Beast, June 20, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/20/exclusive-hillary-clinton-took-me-through-hell-rape-victim-says.html; Jonathan S. Tobin, “Will Hillary’s Rape Victim Be Heard?” Commentary, June 22, 2014, http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/06/22/will-hillarys-clinton-rape-victim-be-heard/; Jonathan S. Tobin, “Hillary’s Rape Case Answer Doesn’t Work,” Commentary, July 8, 2014, http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/07/08/hillarys-clinton-rape-case-answer-doesnt-work-war-on-women/
  5. [5]Amy Chozick, “Clinton Defends Her Handling of a Rape Case in 1975,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08clinton.html; Jim Geraghty, “Does Hillary Regret Her Actions in That 1975 Rape Case?,” National Review, June 16, 2014, http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/380468/does-hillary-regret-her-actions-1975-rape-case-jim-geraghty; Alana Goodman, “The Hillary Tapes,” Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2014, http://freebeacon.com/politics/the-hillary-tapes/; Josh Rogin, “Exclusive: ‘Hillary Clinton Took Me Through Hell,’ Rape Victim Says,” Daily Beast, June 20, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/20/exclusive-hillary-clinton-took-me-through-hell-rape-victim-says.html; Jonathan S. Tobin, “Will Hillary’s Rape Victim Be Heard?” Commentary, June 22, 2014, http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/06/22/will-hillarys-clinton-rape-victim-be-heard/; Jonathan S. Tobin, “Hillary’s Rape Case Answer Doesn’t Work,” Commentary, July 8, 2014, http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/07/08/hillarys-clinton-rape-case-answer-doesnt-work-war-on-women/
  6. [6]Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.

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