It’s been a deluge since last fall when reports surfaced about Harvey Weinstein’s history of alleged sexual harassment and assault. Many well-known names followed. The ripple effect from these stories – the #MeToo movement - is likely to shift how other businesses and industries handle making workplaces safe from sexual harassment.
“I think it has had an impact,” Carol Lindquist, assistant professor of practice at Texas Tech says. “People are thinking about the question, the issues. Long-term it’s hard to say. It probably will have some of an impact.”
Lindquist teaches gender and women’s studies classes in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. She views the #MeToo movement through the lens of prior instances where sexual harassment claims gained a national spotlight.
“It’s lead by women and it’s democratized,” she says. “It’s lead by many women. It’s not one person, like Anita Hill, taking the point and then taking all the flack. It’s not one scandal, like the president and an intern. It’s multiples—and that’ really kind of exciting.”
The current #MeToo movement is far different from the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas or the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinski stories. Social media platforms forge and meld public opinion from far and wide.
But Lindquist doesn’t see the recent revelations about actors, producers and politicians from scores of women as being THE moment when everything changes. And during any social shifts, there will be surges and backlashes.
“No, I don’t think it’s THE moment. I remember THE moment, multiple times,” she says. “ It adds to the conversation. I think this is just another addition to the social conversation. I don’t want to be cynical about it. It is important, but do I think its ‘The defining moment,’ when everything is going to be changed afterward? No. Not even slightly.”
The difficult part, Lindquist says, is to clearly define what is inappropriate and each industry needs to establish its own rules. For example, it’s acceptable in football for one player to pat a teammate on the butt. But in other workplace settings, it’s not OK.
“So it’s not an open and shut, black and white kind of duality, like with most human things,” Lindquist says. “It’s a spectrum and that’s where fairness lies.”
Leaders in business and industry need to better define workplace sexual harassment policies and order as many seminars as are needed to educate their employees.
Over her teaching years, Lindquist has seen a groundswell of awareness among her young students. She used to get one male student in her women’s studies class. Now, she sometimes has as many as half in her class who are male, and these millennials are highly interested in the issues.
But in any social shift, there will be people on both sides. “There’s going to be a bell-curve of conservative holdouts on one side and really radical liberals on the other side and then people who are kind of muddling through, making the best of things working things out in the middle. It’s a shift,” she explains.
And often, there are differences in definitions about which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.
“It’s getting those definition on the same wavelength—on the same footing—that is the work that we all have to do,” she says.
In time, Lindquist believes, the dynamic that now allows men to feel entitled to wield their sexual prowess on woman will diminish.
“Newer generations, younger generations of men grow up with women, more women than had been in places of power, or positions of power. As that continues, it will inevitably change,” she says. “Women will expect to go into those positions and men will be used to having them there. They’ll be used to sharing the stage.”