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Does the #MeToo Movement Need the Power of Celebrity to Survive?

Over the past six months, the media and entertainment industries have been thrown into tumult by the series of allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent #MeToo movement.

At first, it was just a hashtag, but now, it is a full-fledged social justice campaign with concrete policy goals.

For the entertainment industry, part of the success of #MeToo can clearly be linked to the “celebrity factor,” that is, people are more likely to care about the movement when it relates to people they know, or think they know.

It makes sense: the drama of watching the movement impact more and more celebrities, victims and abusers alike, was shocking and not unlike watching an investigative drama movie unfold.

But going forward, the #MeToo movement seems to be approaching a wall. So far in the financial industry, there have been no high-profile men to step down as a result of #metoo allegations, despite wide scrutiny that there is a large gender pay gap among high-level executives and rumors of sexual harassment.

The question is: how can the #MeToo movement succeed in an environment unlike the entertainment and media industries, one that doesn’t have celebrities to wear Time’s Up pins?

The problems of sexual assault and harassment are systemic, not a phenomenon specific to one environment. These toxic behaviors are happening in every other industry, and in fact, could be much more pervasive in finance, advertising, tech, literary communities, or other traditionally masculine spaces.

“The thing is, #MeToo is making a difference when it involves prominent figures—people with clout or money enough to be considered newsworthy. It is not going to reach the predators who aren’t headline-worthy on their own,” Shauna Osborn argues.

About a month ago, the story broke that Sherman Alexie, beloved Native author of Young Adult literature and short stories, had been accused of sexual misconduct by over 10 women. It doesn’t come as much of a shock that Alexie, who is a pseudo-celebrity, thanks to his important work drawing attention to Native communities across the U.S., would be one of the first to be “taken down” by the movement.

There have been a few other Young Adult authors to be accused of sexual misconduct, including Jay Asher (13 Reasons Why), and James Dashner (Maze Runner).

Children’s literature seems like the natural next place for the #MeToo movement to reach, particularly because of how close it is to Hollywood; the works of these writers have recently been turned into Netflix series and a successful film trilogy.

Despite the advances #MeToo has made in children’s literature, there’s still a gap in women (and men) to come forward with abuse allegations in literary fiction, in addition to the publishing industry. In publishing, people in high-powered positions are able to radically influence the literary scene.

Despite women making up roughly 80% of the publishing industry, 51% of managers are men, and many women have anonymously come forward with harrowing accounts of sexual violence in the workplace.

“I was pushed against walls, cornered in hallways, and groped under my clothes at author dinners. In an effort to minimize the damage to our professional environment I brushed it off. When a coworker encouraged me to come forward, I felt I would be the one they fired.

I’ve worked in Hollywood, and I never experienced the level of assault and harassment that I experienced here,” a woman who works in marketing at a major publishing house reports.

Additionally, many women in publishing reported that there was no place to file a complaint even if they wanted to.

Much of the work that goes into developing a successful career goes far beyond activities in the office, including networking events, book fairs, and meetings with authors, where it’s extremely difficult to keep an eye on the behavior of men in positions of power.

In order for #MeToo to gain traction in more industries, policy changes might be the first step. When the consequences for this kind of behavior are clearly established, the ripples might make their way towards breaking down harmful male entitlement and rape culture in the workplace.

Narrative can be another valuable tool for humanizing victims and calling attention to problems in an industry, which also doesn’t need the “celebrity factor” to succeed.

The more people who come forward, even if their voices aren’t as loud, the closer we as a society are to dismantling male power structures and widespread abuse in the workplace.

By: Emily Odion

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