December 17, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Fake News, #MeToo, Table for Five, Larry Greenfield and Ruth Ziegler

Truth, ‘Fake News’ and American Politics

Regarding the Journal’s cover story “Can Truth Survive?” (Feb. 9): Reporter Shmuel Rosner probably doesn’t believe it can. His story is devoted mostly to a critique of a Rand Corp. study called “Truth Decay.” I confess I have not read the study and therefore am unable to comment on it.

Rosner recounts many of President Donald Trump’s falsehoods, the intentional conflation of opinion with fact, the tedium of cable news and even the cost of the decay of truth. It wasn’t until the end of his story that he disclosed his opinion: that truth decay “stems not just from the evil doers but also from the do-gooders who drown us in so much information that we no longer know what’s true and what’s not.”

Is he kidding? Because if he is serious, he believes that we do not have the ability to understand, to judge, to evaluate, to choose, to be capable of rational thought, or simply that we are just too lazy and don’t care. For our collective sake, I hope he is dead wrong.

Louis Lipofsky via email

Shmuel Rosner laments the decay of truth and writes, “Trump is a result of this trend as much as its instigator.” But Rosner doesn’t state the obvious: Republicans voted this compulsive liar into office and Republicans have long had an enormous problem with truth.

Why do so many Republicans believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he was born in Kenya, that global warming is a hoax, that there is widespread voter fraud, that the Russia investigation is a hoax? Because too many of them self-censor and listen only to conservative media like Fox News and conservative talk radio, so they are easily duped.

And why do they self-censor? Because they have bought into the argument that the mainstream media are biased. Yes, the mainstream media have a liberal bias. But it doesn’t invent outright lies like the ones listed above.

Trump doesn’t care about the truth because he knows his supporters don’t care about the truth. That’s why he calls everything “fake news” and gets away with it.

Michael Asher via email


Hysteria, Obscurity and the #MeToo Movement

Having just read Danielle Berrin’s column on male hysteria (“Male Hysteria,” Feb. 9), I’m now even more convinced of the female hysteria of the #MeToo movement, a movement that will quickly be hoisted by its own petard.

She claims that a few of these powerful and predatory men have actually been charged with a crime. I haven’t heard of any of these powerful men being charged with a crime, notwithstanding the fact that being charged with a crime is not the same as being found guilty of a crime.

Berrin complained that far too many female artists live and continue to live in obscurity. This might be true, but there are undoubtedly far too many talented male artists who also continue to live in obscurity.

Giuseppe Mirelli, Los Angeles


Table for Five Is Weekly Food for Thought

In your “Table for Five” section for Parashat Mishpatim (Feb. 9), Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice, argues for “the ethical imperative to protect and secure the needs of the stranger,” and “make the marginalized — rather than the elite  — our priority.”

I am a Conservative convert to Judaism, having embraced Judaism more than 50 years ago. I am a dues-paying member at an Orthodox synagogue near my home, where I go daily to minyan. I am also a member of four other non-Orthodox synagogues, where I regularly go and lead services in Hebrew, and am a cantor at one during the High Holy Days. While I can fully participate in those other synagogues, I am not permitted to get an aliyah to the Torah or be counted for a minyan at the Orthodox one. If I were to go to Israel, I could not be married there or be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Non-Orthodox convert women also know that their children will not be counted as Jews in parts of the Jewish world. Yet Jews born of a Jewish mother are considered fully Jewish even if they repudiate their Judaism, castigate it and couldn’t care less about being counted for a minyan or getting an aliyah.

Our people were made to feel like invisible outsiders when we were slaves in Egypt. Why should those of us who turned our lives around to incorporate Judaism into it now be made to feel like we are invisible outsiders in some Jewish circles? I call on Rabbi Yanklowitz and his fellow Orthodox of conscience and morality to work to change what I feel is an unjust standard, so that those of us who have transformed our lives to embrace the Jewish people and God’s Torah are not made to feel like marginalized strangers within the Jewish world.

Peter Robinson, Woodland Hills

I was delighted at Rabbi Mordecai Finley’s teaching on the Torah portion in your Tu B’Shevat issue (“Table for Five: B’Shalach,” Jan. 26). He admonished the Israelis for their sarcasm. Indeed, rightfully so; such humor can be a sign of contempt.

Irony or sarcasm is indeed biting. Hurt people hurt people. The conclusion of Rabbi Finley’s commentary made the greatest impression: Because you have been done wrong does not give you license to do someone else wrong.

Thanks to your wonderful newspaper and your knowledgeable contributors and staff.

Daniel Kirwan via email


Remembering Ruth Ziegler, a True Community Supporter

We join the Jewish community in mourning the loss of Ruth Ziegler, a dear friend, supporter and member of Jews for Judaism’s board of governors (“Philanthropist Ruth Ziegler, 98,” Feb. 9).

For two decades, Ziegler supported our innovative educational services. After being honored at our 2005 gala, she funded a major endowment to ensure that Jews for Judaism’s life-saving counseling services would be available in perpetuity.

When I asked Ziegler what motivated her to make such a generous gift, she responded, “At the gala, I heard a mother share her pain after losing her daughter to another religion, and how you rescued her. I want to make sure no one else experiences that pain.”

Ziegler believed in saving a Jewish life and saving the world. Jews for Judaism is honored to play a role in perpetuating her legacy.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, founder and executive director of Jews for Judaism, International


Polish Law Demonstrates Dangers of Altering History

When any government, including Poland, attempts to whitewash its history, it usually ends up with paint stains on its hands (editorial cartoon, Feb. 9). Although we can’t compare the two, Americans should not be so quick to condemn others for their behavior without first checking our history. This month it will be 76 years since Franklin D. Roosevelt issued his executive order to intern Japanese-Americans after the U.S. entered World War II. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court avoided answering whether these people’s constitutional rights were violated.

Barry Bereskin via email


Write, Larry Greenfield, Keep on Writing

I love reading Larry Greenfield’s work. If I was not married happily, I would want to marry his brain! Keep his writing coming!

Allyson Rowen Taylor, Valley Glen


Letter to the Editor Overlooks Certain Facts

In last week’s letter from Reuben Gordon, he completely misunderstood the media coverage regarding President Donald Trump’s comment that there were good people on both sides of the Charlottesville, Va., march. Gordon states that it was in regard to the Confederate monument debate and that there were good people in support of keeping Confederate statues. The people he is referring to were Neo-Nazis; there are no good people on that side and I guess Gordon did not hear or did not want to hear their continual shouts of “Jews will not replace us.”

Edward A. Sussman, Fountain Valley

Reuben Gordon’s letter supporting President Donald Trump just because Trump supports Israel is a sad example of tunnel vision. Trump is an aggressive, ignoramus racist who is in the process of inflicting severe harm on Americans (Jews included), … so to excuse his arrogant, narcissistic self because of his support of Israel is foolish and perhaps even dangerous.

Rick Edelstein via email


He Asked and He Received a Small Change in Journal

When I ran into my friend David Suissa a couple of months ago while strolling down Pico Boulevard, I congratulated him on his new position at the Jewish Journal and the upgraded look of the paper. I then told him that Rhina, my elderly parents’ non-Jewish caregiver, noticed that the time Shabbat ends was no longer listed. As their caregiver, she needs to know when Shabbat concludes, and she wants to consult the Jewish Journal for that information. Suissa promised to correct it. Sure enough, in the next week’s edition, the time of Havdalah was once again listed! So thank you, David, for magnificently upgrading the paper, and on behalf of Jews and non-Jews who care when Shabbat ends, thanks for the weekly notice! Keep on publishing a great newspaper. Kol ha-kavod!

Mark Goldenberg, Beverly Hills


CORRECTIONS

The Feb. 9 edition of Moving and Shaking misreported the venue for the L.A. Jewish Home’s Celebration of Life: Reflections 2018 gala. The event took place at the Beverly Wilshire hotel.

In a Feb. 2 Calendar item, visiting scholar Andrew Porwancher was misidentified.

Obama and #IranianWomenToo

The big news last week was the Iranian drone that entered Israeli air space and triggered a potential war between Iran and Israel. Israel shot down the drone and attacked Syria. Missiles were launched. An Israeli jet was shot down. Israel retaliated. A phone call from Putin to Bibi prevented an escalation. You can read all about it in our cover story by Shmuel Rosner.

But it’s not Iranian missiles or drones I want to talk about — those get enough media attention. What I want to talk about is Iranian women.

While the Iranian terror regime has been wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East, Iranian women have quietly suffered their own form of terror.

This oppression is not new. Two years ago, while the Persian mullahs were wooing the West for its nuclear deal, I wrote about Atena Farghadani, a 28-year-old Iranian artist who was sentenced to 12 years in an Iranian prison because she “insulted” members of Parliament with her art.

Last year, according to Human Rights Watch,  Narges Mohammadi, a prominent human rights defender, began serving a sentence of 10 years in prison on charges including “membership in the banned campaign of Step by Step to Stop the Death Penalty.”

While the Iranian terror regime has been wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East, Iranian women have quietly suffered their own form of terror.

And just last week, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, were sentenced to prison for being Zoroastrians, members of a pre-Islamic ancient religion. Vafadari was given a 27-year prison sentence and will receive 124 lashes. Neyssari was given 16 years.

These are hardly random events.

Remember the woman who was all over social media recently because she decided to take off her hijab during the demonstrations? Her name is Narges Hosseini, and she’s now sitting in jail, facing charges punishable by up to 10 years, including “encouraging immorality or prostitution.”

In case you haven’t heard, it is a criminal offense in Iran for women not to cover their hair and bodies in public.

Hosseini is valiantly trying to fight back, but it’s not easy when you’re up against an entrenched patriarchy that treats women like second-class objects.

For now, all Hosseini can do from her jail cell is refuse to say she’s sorry. That’s all she’s got left to maintain her dignity — a refusal to kowtow to her oppressors.

We fool ourselves when we see these cool images of  “women of the revolution” and think it makes a difference. The images we saw last month of Hosseini and others were just that — images that came and went. After the cameras leave, it is the jail cells that matter. In Iran, that is where “women of revolution” end up.

And if you believe the latest Human Rights Watch report from 2017, there is little likelihood of change.

All of this makes a mockery of the hopes and dreams of many supporters of the Iran nuclear deal that the $150 billion in sanctions relief and the welcoming of Iran into the family of nations would somehow “moderate” an evil and theocratic regime. It didn’t. It made it worse.

As a famous man once said: “You can judge a nation, and how successful it will be, based on how it treats its women and its girls.” That man was President Barack Obama in 2014, a year before he concluded a deal that empowered one of the worse oppressors of women.

When Obama made that statement, I’m sure he meant “successful” in a Western, democratic kind of way. But the definition of success varies by region and ideology. For the Persian regime, for whom success means dominating the region and cementing its theocratic power, oppressing women fits right in with its mission.

#MeToo also applies to women of the Third World who are jailed and stoned to death under brutal regimes. Let’s see a march devoted mostly to those women. And let’s see Obama lead that march.

So, if Obama is looking for a new cause to take advantage of his charisma and global notoriety, I can’t think of a better one than fighting for the oppressed women of the world, starting with Iran.

I know that in Donald Trump’s America, “women’s marches” are now all the rage. And I know that when I challenge my friends who march to stand up for the rights of Iranian women in jail who can’t march for themselves, they always tell me: “Yes, yes, we’re also marching for them!”

But here’s the problem — that’s not what comes across. As Time magazine reported, “The 2017 rally in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of similar marches created solidarity for those denouncing Trump’s views on abortion, immigration, LGBT rights and more.” And this year, the #MeToo movement gave the 2018 marches a new and justified injection of outrage.

But #MeToo also applies to women of the Third World who are jailed and stoned to death under brutal regimes. Let’s see a march devoted mostly to those women. And let’s see Obama lead that march.

Male Hysteria

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

At a recent Shabbat dinner, my host launched into a diatribe over a “two-page story” in The New York Times which allegedly argues that Picasso’s art should be ripped from museum walls due to his treatment of women.

“That’s censorship!” my host declaimed.

He mixed in other metaphors to describe his feelings about the #MeToo movement, equating it to “burning down forests and cities.”

I’m not sure how a few men losing their jobs is the same thing as a forest fire, but I got the subtext of his symbolism: He’s panicked.

We’re only a few months into probably the most significant public reckoning over sexual misconduct in history and already we’ve heard alarms bells ring over a female-driven “sex panic.” More and more we hear people cautioning that the #MeToo movement has gone too far, even though few of the predatory and powerful men who have been outed and ousted from their positions of public honor have actually been charged with a crime.

Nevertheless, all these angry, vengeful women are steering society into very dangerous waters: I mean, censor Picasso?

“That’s what the worst communist and fascist regimes in history did to the art of their day,” my host said. “Is that what you want?”

When a newspaper article about one of the prevalent social issues of the decade provokes comparisons to Stalinist communism, I’d say such a reaction is a sign of male panic.

After dinner, I tried to look up the article in question, but couldn’t find it. “Picasso + New York Times” yielded a story about the portraitist Chuck Close, whose show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington was recently postponed due to sexual harassment allegations. That piece explored the question of what to do about the artwork of artists who have behaved badly — including Caravaggio, who was accused of murder.

But the article my friend was referring to —  “Shock of the Nude” by Holland Cotter — wasn’t an article about Picasso at all (which explains why I couldn’t find it) but an art review of the career retrospective of artist Carolee Schneemann.

In it, there are about five lines relevant to Picasso (his name is mentioned only once) in which Cotter muses:

“Which modern misogynist will be yanked from museums next? Gauguin? Picasso? I say, sure, why not? Let’s set them aside for awhile, give them a rest, make room for what we never see, which means art by almost any woman you can name.”

The rest of the article is devoted solely to Schneemann’s work, but let’s discuss that first paragraph: “Set them aside for awhile” is hardly a declaration of censorship. Rather, Cotter is suggesting we take a break from the artists we’ve worshipped for forever in order to make room for artists we’ve been unable or unwilling to see.

Without having read the article, I suggested as much at dinner but my host couldn’t hear it. His hysteria over the changing tide caused by the #MeToo movement blinds him to the truths being revealed.

The only reason there isn’t a female Picasso is because she was ignored, spurned, ridiculed, marginalized, not given the opportunities of her peers and relegated to the dust bin of (art) history. As Amanda Hess wrote in a different article for the Times, “[Male artists’] offenses have affected the paths of other artists, determining which rise to prominence and which are harassed or shamed out of work.”

While it is true some outstanding female artists managed to break through in that man’s world — including Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt, Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas and, indeed, Carolee Schneemann — far too many more lived, and continue to live, in obscurity.

It is mostly the art of men that adorns the walls of the world’s great museums — from the Louvre to the Prado to the Uffizi — even as the bodies of women are splashed onto their canvases and offered for the viewer’s pleasure.

These realizations don’t have to be threatening. No one is saying, “Burn Picasso’s paintings.” They’re saying, let’s use this unique moment to take a break from our patriarchal myopia to see and celebrate something new.

And I say, sure, why not?

Louis C.K. Accused of Sexual Misconduct

FILE PHOTO: Cast member Louis C.K. attends the "American Hustle" movie premiere in New York December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

Comedian and actor Louis C.K. has been accused by multiple women of engaging in sexual misconduct, mainly involving him pleasuring himself in front of these women.

Five women spoke to the New York Times about Louis C.K.’s alleged misconduct. Comedians Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov recalled how they were visiting Louis C.K. in his hotel room in Aspen, CO in 2002 during the U.S. Arts Comedy Festival. They said that the famed comedian had asked if he could expose his genitalia. Goodman and Wolov initially thought he was kidding, but he ended up completely disrobing himself and proceeded to pleasure himself in front of them. When Louis C.K. was finished, he allegedly asked, “Which one is Dana and which one is Julia?”

“We were paralyzed,” Goodman told the Times.

Goodman and Wolov began spreading their story to others at the festival, only to approached by Louis C.K.’s manager, Dave Becky, who asked them not to tell anyone about what had happened. Becky told the Times that he didn’t threaten anyone.

“I don’t recall the exact specifics of the conversation, but know I never threatened anyone,” Becky told the Times in an email.

Another woman, Abby Schachner, claimed that in a 2003 phone call she could hear Louis C.K. masturbating on their call as he panted about his various sexual fantasies. Schachner said she “felt very ashamed” and that while Louis C.K. apologized to her years later, the incident deterred her from pursuing a career in comedy.

Rebecca Corry, an actress and comedian, is claiming that in 2005, Louis C.K. appeared as a guest star on a television pilot she was working on. Louis C.K. asked “if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me.” Corry angrily rejected Louis C.K.’s request, highlighting the fact that he already had a pregnant wife and a daughter. Louis C.K. responding by admitting “he had issues.”

Corry said that Louis C.K. apologized to her years later, but he apologized “for shoving her in a bathroom,” which Corry said never happened. Louis C.K. simply told her that he “used to misread people.”

Another woman, who remained anonymous, told the Times that Louis C.K., who she was working with on “The Chris Rock Show,” had asked her several times if he could pleasure himself in front of her, and she eventually acquiesced and watched Louis C.K. do so at his desk.

“The big piece of why I said yes was because of the culture,” the woman told the Times. “He abused his power.”

In light of the accusations, HBO announced in a statement that it was severing ties with Louis C.K.

“Louis C.K. will no longer be participating in the Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites for Autism Programs, which will be presented live on HBO on November 18,” said HBO. “In addition, HBO is removing Louis C.K.’s past projects from its On Demand services.” C.K.’s other HBO projects include the short-lived 2006 comedy series Lucky Louie, along with comedy specials One Night Stand, Shameless and Oh My God.”

The premiere of Louis C.K.’s upcoming movie “I Love You Daddy” has been canceled as well. The comedian declined to comment to the Times on the allegations.

What We Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo

Actor Adam Sandler said it was a "friendly gesture" that was "blown out of proportion" when the actor recently touched actress Claire Foy's knee on a talk show. Photo via a screenshot.

Since news broke in October of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rampant sexual violence and assault, women have come out in force to tell their stories of being on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior.

As the Weinstein effect has taken down journalist Mark Halperin, former Amazon executive Roy Price, Oscar-nominated writer-director James Toback, and public intellectual Leon Wieseltier, social media has become the site of confessionals.

Nearly 2 million posts have appeared with the hashtag #MeToo in response to a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano asking those who had been “harassed or assaulted” to speak out.

The five-letter hashtag collapsed everything — from rape to crude humor to being stared at on a train — into a single, powerful catch-all category. Any stripe of sexual misdeed was recognized as part of a mass culture of violence by men against women.

Then an Australian journalist named Benjamin Law launched another campaign, #HowIWillChange, with men confessing their deeds and promising to change their ways.

“Facebook’s algorithm are not the way to combat the plague of abuse.” – Sivan Rahav Meir

Law wrote in a series of tweets that men need to recognize they “don’t need to be a perpetrator to be a bad guy.” Questioning allegations, Law wrote, is the equivalent of being a quiet bystander while watching an offense take place.

Men’s #HowIWillChange vows included promising to not interrupt a woman speaking or ask at a job interview how many female executives are with the company, and to shut down catcalls.

Perceived improprieties are now immediately taken up by Twitter. Recently, appearing on a British talk show, actor Adam Sandler touched English actress Claire Foy’s knee.

In the social media whirl that followed, some called Sandler’s act inappropriate and asked whether he would have touched the knee of a man in the same setting. (He had, in a recent interview with Dustin Hoffman). Sandler’s spokesperson said it was a “friendly gesture” that was “blown out of proportion.” A representative for Foy said the actress took no offense.

Sivan Rahav Meir, an Israeli journalist and popular Torah lecturer, characterized the social media approach to addressing sexual assault as dangerously unhealthy.

“Facebook’s algorithms are not the way to combat the plague of abuse sweeping through society, and they may possibly be harmful,” she wrote on her blog.

Rahav Meir cautioned that the indiscriminate outpouring of personal anecdotes may unintentionally normalize sexual assault, giving the mistaken impression that all women have been or will at some point be abused.

“The nonstop flood of heartbreaking stories with the accompanying violence is exaggerated and too intimate,” continued Rahav Meir. “There is a total mishmash of posts between the serious cases of abuse and those of mild harassment as if they are all equally offensive. However, the story of a woman who once had an unpleasant or unwelcome comment directed at her is not in any way connected to a woman who is the victim of a violent assault who requires professional therapy.”

While online indictments of nameless alleged perpetrators may raise awareness, they hold no guilty parties to account and contribute to a “sensationalis[t] and gossipy” exercise, she wrote.

Instead, Rahav Meir encouraged women to work the legal system to crush sexual violence.

Trading sober assessment, exacting definitions and legal action for frenzied narrative and confused terminology can have disturbing consequences. It’s a trend that has been playing out on America’s college campuses.

Shortly before the media were consumed with Weinstein and company, the country’s institutions of higher learning released campus security reports containing three years’ worth of data, as universities that participate in federal financial aid programs are required to do annually under a policy known as the Clery Act.

The reports lack clarity. “Consent,” a word that sits at the core of the conversation about sexual violence, especially on campuses, has no uniform definition in Clery Act reporting. An offense classified as “dating violence” must have occurred while the victim and alleged offender were in a relationship, yet there are no clear parameters for what constitutes a “relationship” — and college students often aren’t engaged in relationships in any traditional sense. “Stalking” is defined as causing “substantial emotional distress” on at least two occasions, but the report offers no specific measure of what that looks like.

Federal reporting that most people don’t look at may not have direct impact on this national conversation but may signal the rabbit hole we have headed down: victims left to navigate a confusing landscape, alleged offenders robbed of their legal right to know what they have been accused of and adjudicators who are unqualified to handle the psychological or legal elements of sexual offenses.

Campuses again offer a useful corollary when considering the numbers. The hundreds of thousands of posts in recent weeks suggest that every woman is the victim of a sexual offense and every man an offender.

As Law, the journalist, wrote, he had to “acknowledge that if all women I know has [sic] been sexually harassed, abused or assaulted, then I know perpetrators. Or am one.”

On campus, an oft-cited claim is that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during her time in a U.S. college. The statistic originated in a widely disputed 10-year-old survey, but its results have been replicated in surveys by individual universities and in a larger report published by The Washington Post.

Critics cite overly broad definitions and concerns with the reports’ methodologies when disputing the horrifying statistic.

A similar argument already has begun to take hold over #MeToo.

Washington Post writer Lisa Bonos asked those who might be shocked at the number of posts to “consider this: There are far more stories of #MeToos than the number of posts on Facebook.”

Women may be holding back because they don’t think their stories rise to the level of #MeToo, or they may not be ready to share them on such a public forum, Bonos posited. But many more stories are out there, she assured her readers.

Meanwhile, an anonymous writer at the free speech-promoting site Quillette offered a hypothetical breakdown in which he attempted to demonstrate that the internet “can cause an awareness campaign to go viral with millions of posts even if it is raising awareness of something that affects only a small percentage of the population.” In his experiment, 812,500 #MeToo posts were quickly generated if 5 percent of Milano’s 3.25 million Twitter followers participated, and then each of those followers in turn had five friends who posted.

“Of course, this analysis does not prove that abuse is rare; it only shows that the success of #MeToo does not prove the contrary,” according to the author, a software engineer.

Each day, women continue to reveal painful stories of personal and professional lives derailed by influential men who systematically violated them. We easily can be transfixed in disgust and communal shame. But for the national conversation to move forward and force away the lies and grime that have hid sexual assault, it cannot stay boxed into hashtags and tweets.


Rachel Frommer is a reporter with the Washington Free Beacon.

Me Too Versus Not Me

I’ve never been much for crowds. I remember once at a music festival pushing through a mass of people waiting to see Thom Yorke. As my friend and I tried to get closer to the stage, I felt my chest tighten as bodies closed around mine. After a brief but awkward explanation of my discomfort, we moved back out of the crowd, away from the center and toward the edge.

Some people like the energy of being part of something larger than them — being surrounded by bodies and voices into which they can disappear, becoming one of many. But I prefer the margins, where I can be both inside and outside of something.

The crowding that happens on social media is no exception.

In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, countless people have taken to social media with the hashtag #MeToo. In fact, my entire Facebook newsfeed has been dominated by the hashtag and by women’s stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted.

Some of the confessions have moved me to tears. Some have shocked me, and I recognize the bravery behind such admissions. But as a crowd of confessors began to converge, I also saw posts lamenting that some women who could say #MeToo are choosing not to — the implication being that refraining from doing so makes one an accomplice to all sorts of nefarious behaviors.

Well, I chose not to.

It felt intuitively wrong for me. Not for others, but for me. It goes back to being part of crowds and mass movements. In the midst of a crowd, I discover that I can’t see everything. My vantage point has changed. I become caught up in something that has the potential to turn back on itself and become counterproductive if not nurtured in the right way.

In fact, when I first saw the hashtag, I thought to myself: If I were going to create a hashtag, it would be #NotMe. Not me, I would say to potential abusers and harassers. Not me, I would say to everyone.

It’s not because I haven’t experienced what many of the #MeToo movement have experienced. I have. But I think I must have been saying all along, instead, on some level: Not me. I will not be your victim. I am no one’s victim.

I remember, nearly 20 years ago, standing near the wall of a nightclub, watching my friends dance. Even then, I preferred the safety of the perimeter to the chaos and energy of the center. A man walked by and slapped my rear end and made a crude comment that he thought I would appreciate. He hit me hard. And I was enraged. I turned around and pushed him with all of my strength without thinking about it. He was inebriated, and so he fell easily.

He was terrified. And I felt powerful. I was vindicated.

I share this not to criticize those who have shared their stories of victimhood or to suggest that they should have fought back, but to raise the question of what happens next.

What happens after #MeToo?

What happens after scores of women make themselves vulnerable as they prove how normal it is to be harassed or assaulted? What effect does highlighting the apparent pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault have if it becomes a movement that demands that every woman identify herself as a victim?

My fear is that we will begin to see ourselves as powerless. That we will begin to see ourselves as victims first, and women second. And that in doing so, we will turn on those women who resist the #MeToo crowd, who opt for a response of a different nature.

As for me, I’m not sure I owe anyone a confession of victimhood right now.

In most cases, fighting back physically is not an option, but we can all fight back in a way that feels right to us. For many, #MeToo is the beginning of fighting back. Words create worlds, and stories string those worlds together into a meaningful chain.

But not everyone needs to be part of every movement.

We need people willing to stay on the margins as much as we need people who are willing to be the crowd that moves things along, makes things happen and makes them happen better. Crowds can carry with them the possibility of change, but let’s not forget that one voice, from the margins, can also be powerful.


Monica Osborne is a writer and scholar of Jewish literature and culture. Her book, “The Midrashic Impulse and the Contemporary Literary Response to Trauma,” will be published later this year.

Jewish women share #MeToo stories

(Reuters)

Twitter has been trending with the #MeToo hashtag in response to Harvey Weinstein being expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The hashtag began with actress Alyssa Milano tweeting on Sunday that if all women who experienced sexual assault, shared the hashtag, “we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Numerous women began issuing #MeToo tweets to share their stories of sexual harassment or assault, including many prominent Jewish women.

Here were some examples:

Danielle Berrin, a senior writer for the Journal, has written several times about inappropriate conduct she experienced while on-the-job: in 2008, when Berrin interviewed Hollywood director Brett Ratner, and in 2016, when she interviewed Israeli journalist Ari Shavit.

Weinstein has faced an outpouring of sexual harassment and rape allegations that stretch as far as the United Kingdom. His alleged behavior has been an “open secret” in Hollywood for years, and yet his behavior was generally kept under wraps, until The New York Times and The New Yorker broke the story.