Key Takeaways

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Me Too Takeaways

Sexual harassment and assault dominated the news cycle in 2017—and shows no signs of fading out quietly. The issue’s newfound prominence is the result of a perfect storm of high-profile celebrities behaving badly combined with tectonic generational shifts in the workforce.

  • The political left and right disagree on the roots of the issue. On the left, sexual harassment is often seen as symptomatic of deeper injustices—such as a male-favoring patriarchy built on systemic maldistribution of power. This explains why the left’s favorite talking points on harassment often start with policies having nothing to do with harassment per se. The right tends to regard harassment as one part of a much larger but very different social problem—namely, cultural decline in general and the decadence of Hollywood in particular. In their telling, Hollywood’s casting-couch aura is guilty of creating a destructive definition of masculinity that attracts alpha males everywhere.
  • #MeToo is hardly a slam dunk for the Democratic Party. On the one hand, Democratic leaders can confidently claim they’ve been siding with oppressed women on this issue for decades. Also, the issue seems to be mobilizing young Democratic women to become politically active: Since the 2016 election, Emily’s List reports being contacted by 20,000 women interested in running for political office—half under age 45. On the other hand, in an off-year election that forecasters say offers Democrats a good chance of historic gains, it may be self-defeating for Democratic leaders to focus so energetically on their base. Indeed, it may distract them from articulating strong positions on core issues like the economy and governance.
  • The courts may get tougher on what constitutes sexual harassment. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, sexual harassment must be both “severe and pervasive” for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to seek action against employers. More recent Supreme Court decisions have made seeking redress difficult even for victims who do meet this standard. But in the wake of #MeToo, interpretation of the law will likely shift to reflect a clearer and less permeable line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. How? The EEOC could require employers to better inform workers of what constitutes harassment. Courts could also invalidate workplace nondisclosure agreements and forced-arbitration clauses when they concern harassing behavior.