Leading By Example: #MeToo Movement Pioneers Must Hold Themselves Accountable

by The Cowl Editor on September 27, 2018


An infographic of sexual assault statistics.
Photo courtesy of McNicholas & McNicholas.

Joshua Chlebowski ’21

Opinion Staff

The conflict between #MeToo leaders Asia Argento and Rose McGowan continued to escalate this past week, when Argento’s lawyer threatened to file a libel suit over remarks McGowan made regarding sexual assault allegations against Argento.

Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of this situation is the apparent belief of Argento that she, as a leader of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault, is above speculation and reproach.

Acting in such a way jeopardizes such a powerful and important movement. When leaders refuse to subject themselves to the standards they fight for, it does not go unnoticed. In fact, it casts doubt on whether they actually believe what they argue for, or whether they are only willing to fight for justice until it encroaches on their reputation.

Those in positions with the power to steer social movements must recognize that the movement will eventually surpass individual leadership, carried forward on the shoulders of believers and participants.

While the position of a leader is paramount to getting social movements off the ground, they must conduct themselves in a manner that will uphold the values of the changes they are proposing. “Lead by example” is the principle often taught to children in an effort to guide them to become effective role models. It is a shame that this lesson is increasingly forgotten when it comes to political and social reformist leaders.

When it comes to a movement such as #MeToo, its force comes from exposing the rampant sexual misconduct in many aspects of social and professional life. Therefore, it is just as important,  if not more, for the leaders to recognize their ultimate responsibility to living out an illustrative lifestyle.

For Argento to not only attempt to hide her past but to also threaten those reminding her of the double standard, she seems to be making a mockery of the very value that is central to the #MeToo movement: accountability.

The #MeToo movement has been responsible for exposing the heinous actions of Les Moonves, Kevin Spacey, and Harvey Weinstein. Each of these individuals thought they were above any possible repercussions, and their fall from grace has been swift and decisive.

As Argento finds herself following in the footsteps of such individuals by denying and attempting to minimize the scale of her actions, she is losing the support of a movement she helped get off the ground.

The ways in which the claims against Argento are handled will define the boundaries of the #MeToo movement in the coming years. If allegations against Argento suddenly disappear, or if she is not held accountable and refuses to recognize her involvement in these allegations, the #MeToo movement will hit a barrier point.

Argento, if not held to the same standards and not faced with the same backlash of aforementioned perpetrators of sexual assault, will set a dangerous precedent of #MeToo, in that those who head such an important movement get a “free pass,” and can hide behind their contributions as a deflection from their actions.

It is only if allegations against Argento are taken as seriously as other situations that the #MeToo movement will prove just how powerful it is.

Nobody should consider themselves above the law, and Argento’s reckoning will solidify one of the goals of the #MeToo movement: that those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions, no matter how agreeable their personality may seem.

Every crusade has its critical moment, and for the #MeToo movement, this may be it. #MeToo was formed to hold everyone accused of sexual misconduct accountable; it is currently tasked to hold one of its own to these same standards. Whether or not an individual led a revolutionary movement should not determine which standards they are held accountable to.

If one is going to advocate for widespread responsibility, they must make sure that they hold themselves to the same standard. Acts of hypocrisy are the quickest way to undermine all of the good that has been hard-won.