Millennium Post

More power to #MeToo

More power to #MeToo
The #MeToo campaign has not been done and dusted with. It has, in fact, taken a heavy toll on those who had thought themselves to be invincible. Now, it has become a global force and shaken up some of the world's most prestigious institutions. Hollywood, the United Nations, political and financial institutions, have rightly been unable to escape the glare of #MeToo. This time, it is the Nobel Prize in Literature, which has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War because of a sexual assault scandal. The allegations of harassment and assault relate to one man: the photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who has close links to the Swedish Academy that awards the annual literature prize. He alone bears responsibility for his actions and behaviour, which allegedly involve more than 20 women, including the Crown Princess of Sweden. Some irony that other women have paid the price for Arnault's conduct. First, his wife, Katarina Frostenson, stepped down as a member of the academy last month in the wake of the allegations and after an intervention from Sweden's King and Prime Minister to minimise the swirling scandal. Frostenson, a poet, had survived a vote to remove her from the panel, forcing other academy members to quit. There have been claims that members of the academy knew about Arnault's alleged sexual misconduct as far back as 1996 but failed to act. This is a persistent theme of other sexual harassment scandals: When allegations broke about Harvey Weinstein, it quickly became clear that senior figures in Hollywood had known about the producer's alleged behaviour for decades and, yet, had chosen to remain silent. One of the most important lessons of #MeToo is that the silence of others has enabled perpetrators to continue to harass; yet, it is the perpetrators alone who are responsible for their behaviour and it is they who should face scrutiny and punishment. The power of #MeToo has been in that it is now easier for women and men who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to come forward. Despite the controversy over the resignations of those involved, it is right that the Swedish Academy has postponed the Nobel Prize in Literature for a year. It plans to award two prizes in 2019, so, technically, no author will lose out. If anything is to change in terms of society's tolerance towards sexual harassment, then major things must happen to major institutions. Powerful organisations, like the Swedish Academy, just as Hollywood, Washington, Westminster, and the UN, had earlier in the past found it all too easy to close ranks around their own in the face of alleged illegal and immoral behaviour. That must change. And, things have already changed for good.
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