Change is never easy, this we know for sure. Especially when the thing people are trying to change is deeply embedded in hundreds of years of social hierarchy on pretty much every level. When millions of women across the world joined the #MeToo movement to finally, finally call out years of sexual harassment on every level of their daily lives, the movement was met with significant resistance. Because changing the way we define sexual harassment was clearly frightening for some. Sadly, months later, people appear to remain in denial. A new survey looked at how many Americans think #MeToo claims are false; and the answer is probably going to make your blood boil.
An online survey of 6,251 Americans was conducted by the PEW Research Center to delve into public perception of the #MeToo movement. According to the results of the survey, only about 20 percent of Americans think that focusing on sexual harassment will offer women better opportunities at work, while 51 percent of respondents thought that this new development would pose challenges for men at work. So if the results of this survey are to be believed, asking men to avoid sexually harassing women could prove "challenging." Isn't that kind of the whole point behind the movement? To usher in a new era where women don't have to be worried about getting sexually harassed, and men just don't do it any longer?
There's an even more disturbing belief about the #MeToo movement that this PEW Research survey has sussed out; despite the fact that more than 12 million women across the globe participated in just the initial 24 hours of #MeToo (when any woman who had been sexually harassed was asked to simply put #MeToo as their social media status), apparently a significant percentage of the population thinks these claims are false. When respondents were asked if women making false claims of sexual harassment were a problem, 31 percent felt this was a "major" problem, while 45 percent more believed it was a "minor" problem. There was no gender divide on this issue between men and women; it seems both were equally concerned about it.
Of course, it doesn't help the #MeToo movement when people in positions of power speak out so vehemently against it, as Chanel and Fendi designer Karl Lagerfeld did in a recent interview with Numero magazine. Lagerfeld reportedly said he was "fed up" with the "toxic" movement, and went even further in the interview to say:
A girl complained he tried to pull her pants down and he is instantly excommunicated from a profession that up until then had venerated him. Its unbelievable. If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!
Romper reached out to a rep for Lagerfeld but did not immediately get a response.
The #MeToo movement was started as a way to unify women who had been sexually harassed and abused, a way to connect online and beyond to give a sense of the sheer scope of the epidemic of sexual harassment. Sure, it was initially motivated by powerful women in the entertainment industry, but it has moved far beyond Hollywood. In fact, a survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment found that 80 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. Focusing on the concept that women might be making false claims is, in effect, negating the very real struggle the majority of women have had to deal with for generations. The social promise of silence in the fact of sexual harassment, the deals so many of us have made with ourselves to shrug it off, laugh it off, ignore it, when we should have been shouting enough! from the rooftops.
Sure, it's probably more comfortable for people who are accustomed to the old system of silence to pretend it's all fiction. Or some is fiction.
But change is coming, whether these people want to believe it or not. So I suppose we can take comfort in that.