#MeToo is Wrong -- It Should Be #MeNever
By Marisa DeFranco
Special to Digital First Media
I definitely did the whole #MeToo thing all wrong. While I was living the hard road of the #MeNever life, uber wealthy and famous women kept quiet for decades and enabled the predators. Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, women in Congress, and many more. Now they gather spotlights their “bravery.” They are no heroes.
It was 1991. The dark ages of misogyny and sexism. I was a young co-ed. At a Catholic university. Where people are supposed to have morals. My honors thesis advisor, an Italian man, was the type of “cool” professor who had the class over to his house for a movie. That’s fine, strength in numbers. But then he suggested we meet at his house to review my thesis proposal.
At first, I thought it was fine because he said his girlfriend would join us. Then, the day or so before our meeting, I went to his office to confirm the plan. As I was leaving, I said, “OK, I’ll see you and Chiara (not her real name) then.” That’s when he dropped the news that she wouldn’t be there, she was going out of town. “Alert! Danger!” went through my mind, but outwardly I remained calm and simply said, “Oh,” and departed.
Next, I went directly to the program director, another Italian man, so sage and erudite with his PhD and mature beard to match. His response? A mixture of disinterest and irritation. First he grilled me, insisting I was misinterpreting the situation. He tried to convince me the professor was harmless. I said it wasn’t my job to figure out the professor’s motive, my only job and his job was to keep me safe. What was there to figure out? A professor was inviting a young woman student to his house, alone. QED.
When he saw I wasn’t going to settle for the paesan treatment -- hey, oh, c’mon, we’re all friends here -- he became aggravated. Finally, after a back and forth in which he tried to make me feel that I was jumping to conclusions, he said he would reassign me to another advisor. This event resulted in lost opportunities and roads never traveled. I paid the price, but I was not going to take any chances with danger. That’s #MeNever.
A bully of a boss
Then it was 1997. Still the dark ages. At 26 and fresh out of law school with hefty student loans, the pattern repeated. I stood up for myself and lost a job. The president of the company barged into my office, rushed up right next to me, literally got in my face, too close, and started yelling at me because my door was closed.
After he was done, I waited a bit, in disbelief. I was the only woman with an office. All the men closed their doors. “What the hell?” I sat there thinking. I marched down to his office and said, “I will not be treated like that, and I expect an apology by the end of the day.” I was young, but I wasn’t naive. I knew my actions would have consequences. I couldn’t afford to lose that job, but I also could not afford to subject myself to future abuse. That’s #MeNever.
They took two weeks or so to fire me. I filed a claim. Co-workers wouldn’t testify for me, though I had listened to their complaints of sexual harassment by the same man. I lost. No surprise. #MeNever.
The #MeToo “movement” is in many ways a charade. The Jane-Come-Latelies are enablers. If they had done the heavy lifting like I did, so much of this pain would have been prevented.
Some women who were assaulted by Harvey Weinstein went to him again in private places. Why? There is only one glaringly obvious reason. Career advancement. Let me be very clear -- if he assaulted her again, she didn’t deserve it. Rape and sexual assault are always the perpetrator’s fault.
But, is she responsible for her choice? Yes, she is. I don’t say that in a mean way. I say it because it is vitally important to tell the truth to prevent violence against more girls and women.
Women: Protect yourselves
Of course, I want men to STOP. Stop the violence now. But until they do, we have to be honest with girls. You must protect yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.
Some women in Hollywood did just that. Kate Beckinsale rejected Weinstein and she believes it hurt her career.
And that is the lie of this whole narrative. Empowerment! Come forward! File legal action! It doesn’t work that way in the real world. In the real world, you may lose everything and there will be no large settlement. There will be no media. There will be no closure.
So, the better way is to avoid it all together. It will hurt your career. Those who tell you otherwise are, frankly, lying to you. The only thing you ever have in this world is your own integrity. Take the hard road. #MeNever.
Your success will take a ridiculously longer amount of time. It is unfair. But you will have the calm that comes with knowing that no man touched you without your permission. It is the kind of freedom money can’t buy.
That does not mean that women who were assaulted can’t achieve freedom. Their freedom comes when they name the predator. She lets him know that she will not be his victim. That she will not allow him to prey on other women.
For the Hollywood phonies who have culpability dripping from their Oscars, #MeToo should be renamed #MeOnly. Most of these women take the best acting roles for themselves -- first, last and always -- regardless of the slimy men handing them out. They are the last people women should look to for advice.
I have represented survivors of violence. #MeToo will not create lasting change because it is founded on a bed of predator-enabling. #MeNever is the bedrock upon which true and lasting change will come.