‘Reckoning’ Follows a 50-Year Road to #MeTooBreaking News
tags: books, sexual harassment, womens history, Me Too
Linda Hirshman, who thanks the actor and activist Alyssa Milano for encouraging her to write “Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment,” isn’t just a chronicler of the movement; she’s an ardent participant in it.
Back in the 1990s, she was one of the few feminists calling for Bill Clinton to resign because of his scandal with Monica Lewinsky. In addition to the obvious imbalance of age and money and power between the president and the intern, Hirshman also said there was an imbalance of “rationality,” with Clinton as deliberate and cunning, and Lewinsky as utterly “delusional.” The history recounted in “Reckoning” is buoyed along by a sense of righteous inevitability. Hirshman takes #MeToo as a sign that American women are finally catching up to what she has known all along — that sex is political, pornography degrading and consent in a patriarchal workplace a farce.
In the 1970s, the fact of sexual mistreatment at work was nothing new, but only when activists gave it a name — “sexual harassment” — could a movement properly begin. Hirshman, whose books include a history of gay rights and a manifesto against stay-at-home motherhood, is a brisk storyteller, covering five decades of history with impressive economy and ease. She traces a line from the first sexual harassment lawsuits through the testimony of Anita Hill to the impeachment of Clinton and the arraignment of Harvey Weinstein.
Writing about Clarence Thomas and his fellow justice Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the downfall of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News, Hirshman doesn’t seem too surprised by the sexual scandals of conservatives, swiftly dispatching a cluster of them with a razor blade of a parenthetical: “(Gingrich, adultery; Livingston, adultery; Hastert, pedophilia).”
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