Is Vigilante Feminism on a Rebound in the #MeToo Era?

Feminism and dangers of vigilantism

"Vigilantism is the new black, and it’s not a good look for feminists. Sanctifying accusations of sexual misconduct as proof of guilt, effectively blacklisting alleged abusers, #MeToo activists celebrate mob rule."

Wendy Kaminer, a civil liberties lawyer, opens her essay by examining if the #MeToo movement is driving feminism toward what she sees as potentially a revived era of undesired vigilantism over women's hard-won freedoms and equality. Kaminer has written widely on this topic in her essays and books, and in this essay she summarizes historic evidence and arguments that buttress her perspective that if women move down the "victimized" route with legal protectionism, they will challenge the sustaining of the sturdy roots of equality that have been won through tough-fought campaigns. 

In the concluding paragraph of her thoughtful essay (below), Kaminer cautions against regressive actions in the wake of these challenging times of #MeToo revelations. There can be no doubt that women experience personal trauma due to sexual harassment and abuse and that many women's careers have been jeopardized by men's use of power in demanding sexual favors in exchange for their advancement. Such assaults should not continue. This is a reason I am grateful for Kaminer's plea that we bear in mind women's roller-coaster experiences through history in attempting to secure equality and freedom as we seek solutions to this current crisis. She also warns us to stay acutely aware of missteps we could make that could hurt women, among whom as those who've been victimized already. Finding remedies for sexual abuse and harassment involves discussions about gender in an extremely polarized society, which seems a potentially worrisome sign that misjudgments could end up driving solutions.

"Restoring double standards of sexual behaviour and underlying sex/gender stereotypes will not free or safeguard women, much less imbue feminism and the #MeToo movement with renewed regard for fairness and individual liberty. Nor would a regression to double standards advance equality. It requires what Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Cady Stanton envisioned centuries ago: the recognition that all of us – men, women and transgendered people alike – are ‘human creatures’, burdened by the same existential anxieties and entitled to the same rights and liberties. The challenge for contemporary feminism and the #MeToo movement is the challenge of equality – if that’s still what feminists want."

I encourage you to read her essay and scroll though some of the online comments.