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The Year Of #MeToo

NOEL KING, HOST:

It started as a hashtag - #MeToo. It has turned into a movement of women saying no more to sexual harassment and assault. In October, the film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, and that sparked a moment of reckoning. It took down powerful men in entertainment, politics and media, including here at NPR. Megan Garber has been following the Me Too movement. She's a writer for The Atlantic, and I asked her - why this year?

MEGAN GARBER: I think a lot of that had to do with Donald Trump and the "Access Hollywood" tape. There was a real sense, I think, among a lot of American women - among a lot of American people, really - that he had basically claimed to sexually assault women on tape. He had been recorded, you know, bragging about this. And yet, he was elected president of the United States.

And I think a lot of people just felt a really strong sense of not just indignation about that but a sense of regression, that, you know, all the progress that feminism had made, that we had made as a society was not actually progress at all. There was still misogyny rampant. And so I think that the anger of that really helped fuel this movement.

KING: Donald Trump, of course, was elected president, but many powerful men have lost their jobs in the wake of allegations. And I wonder, what's really interesting is that even after they have been fired or resigned, it seems like organizations and companies are having a really hard time with messaging. What do you think is the problem here?

GARBER: I think we just don't have good systems in place to deal with all of these sort of situations. I think we're finding out now how few companies actually have HR departments to begin with, HR departments that are functional. And we just, I think, don't have good norms set up to deal with this. We're not used to talking about these issues in public. And that's one of the reasons I think this movement is so productive is that it's forcing us to have the conversations.

KING: I had this conversation with my brother the other day that I will never forget where he essentially said to me, he's like, you know, I think of myself as a good guy, and what I don't understand is how I should be an ally. Have you had conversations with men in your life about what the, quote, unquote, "good guys" should be doing?

GARBER: Very much so. And I'm so glad that that's part of where this conversation is going because it's so important. You know, this is a systemic problem. This is not just about individual instances of harassment. It's not just about, you know, men and women operating together in the workplace and beyond. It's really about who we are as a culture and a society. And if we are going to make progress, if we're going to make the world more equitable and just, we're going to need everyone having the conversation. And I'm so glad that men are starting to step up.

KING: I have read several worrying hot takes about the coming backlash. You can't have a movement, you can't have a reckoning without also having a backlash. Do you think there are things for women to worry about - women and their allies to worry about?

GARBER: Certainly, I do. But I also think just the magnitude of it in such a short amount of time really does suggest that this is a systemic movement itself. And I think because of that, yes, there will be backlash. And I think, in general, there's always backlash when it comes to social upheaval and social progress. And that's generally how these movements have gone. You know, but I think we're at the point now where even if, I mean, a lot of people talk about the nightmare scenario where one of the allegations proves not to be true.

KING: Yeah.

GARBER: But I think even in that situation, it sort of transcended the individual stories at this point in the best way.

KING: Megan Garber is a writer for The Atlantic. She's been covering the Me Too movement. Megan, thank you so much.

GARBER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.