It has been six months since a New York Times investigation revealed decades' worth of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein. During these six months, the #MeToo movement emerged, encouraging people to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable and seeking systemic change to combat sexual harassment. However, a new survey from the Pew Research Center found that not everyone thinks the #MeToo movement has had a positive impact. A majority of surveyed Republicans think #MeToo makes things harder for men attempting to navigate the workplace.
Pew's survey, titled "Sexual Harassment at Work in the Era of #MeToo," found that roughly half the people interviewed believe that that the #MeToo movement poses new challenges for men. Republicans were more likely to have this view than Democrats, with 68 percent of Republican men and 59 percent of Republican women believing that the current social climate has made it more difficult for men to navigate workplace interactions with women. Two-thirds of respondents older than 65 also shared this view, while only 42 percent of Democrats agreed.
This is not the first time this idea has surfaced in the wake of the allegations against Weinstein. Back in January, Shameless actor William H. Macy suggested that it's "hard to be a man these days." But Macy also argued men need to keep talking about and fighting sexual harassment, even if they feel like they are "under attack." Macy was subsequently criticized on social media for appearing to center the #MeToo movement around men.
Back in December, the Associated Press published what became a highly contentious article about men wondering if hugging women in the workplace was still acceptable. The article received a great deal of backlash, largely because it appeared to trivialize the experiences of sexual assault survivors. Moreover, the data that has surfaced in the past six months paints a different picture of workplace sexual harassment than the one Republicans reported to Pew.
In a study commissioned by Stop Street Harassment earlier this year, 38 percent of women reported that they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. A 2016 study from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, meanwhile, found that between 25 and 85 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace — a staggering figure. The EEOC report also found that 75 percent of harassment victims who reported the harassment to their workplace subsequently faced some form of retaliation, and only 30 percent of people who experience workplace harassment file a formal report to begin with.
Since the #MeToo movement was relaunched in October, numerous men in a variety of industries have lost their jobs due to sexual violence allegations made against them. Prominent men from across the political spectrum — from Al Franken to Bill O'Reilly — have lost their jobs, sometimes provoking controversy.
But as USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker wrote earlier this year, this data indicates that the way men navigate the workplace does indeed need to change. In his column, Krattenmaker urged men to reassess their reactions to the #MeToo movement:
Has it suddenly become more complicated for men to go after women for sex, and escape consequences when the chase goes awry? It certainly has. As it should. Now’s the time for heterosexual men to adjust to the overdue new reality that’s setting in and stop treating women like sex is the main reason they’ve been put on this earth.
As the studies cited above indicate, workplace harassment is still a highly prevalent problem. The #MeToo movement has shifted the focus of conversations about sexual violence to the survivors of this violence, and has also made it clear that an elimination of sexual harassment requires changes in behavior.