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What to do with #metooed men: How the revolution can become a permanent evolution


Mark Halperin will soon be back with a new book on Trump’s reelection, which peddles the fallacy that he and 75 "top” Democratic strategists he interviewed offer unique insights that they don’t already dole out for free on national TV.

Halperin lost his job after a dozen women accused him of widespread workplace harassment, including pressing his erect penis against them. He’s a Grade-A sleazeball whose weak and misogyny-laced “insights” infected news coverage for years, buoyed by the willingness of important people to welcome him into their confidence.

The pathetic defense of some of the participants in his new project, like Anita Dunn — who once served as President Obama’s communications director and now works at a firm that represents Time’s Up — is that they’re focused on beating Trump. That echoes the bad messaging coming out of Joe Biden’s campaign, which Dunn advises: Women should settle.

The book is clearly a bid for relevancy by people who thought #metoo was a public relations problem that would pass. But it’s sparked the question again of what should happen to men who’ve lost their positions of power as a result of the nearly two-year-old movement.

That is how long it’s been since the New Yorker and the New York Times ended Harvey Weinstein’s career, leaving a graveyard of disgraced men in his wake. At the time, there was an early backlash of handwringing from President Trump on down wondering “where will it end?” for the likes of Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, who fled to the Hamptons in exile where they continued to enjoy the spoils of their lucrative careers.

Now the question is often framed around redemption, as in “what does redemption look like” for Louis C.K., one of the few men to verify the claims against him and offer an actual apology. Or Al Franken, who seemed to have a sincere understanding of his transgressions and vowed to participate in an ethics investigation that never came.

Admittedly, that lack of process for reconciling these major wrongs has left many of these men in a kind of limbo, without a clear pathway forward. But redemption is too grand a goal, placing an imprecise responsibility on the public to offer moral absolution.

Instead, we should want the revolution #metoo birthed to morph into a permanent evolution, a state of constant growth, to unlearn the thinking of the past and fight for structural reform. To lunge for former glory like Halperin, who once dismissively quipped “I’m happy to be judged by perfect people,” is just evidence of more of the same, static sense of entitlement.

Any attempt by accused men to re-engage publicly should require a real commitment to change. Apologies are personal and only victims can really offer forgiveness (or not), but re-entry should represent serious reflection and a plan to put things right.

Aziz Ansari’s most recent Netflix special deals with his own controversy — however questionable for it to have been lumped in with #metoo to begin with — right out of the gate: “Ultimately I just felt terrible that this person felt this way and after a year or so I just hope it was a step forward. It moved things forward for me and made me think about a lot and I hope I’ve become a better person…if this not just made me, but other people be more thoughtful, then that’s a good thing.”

Ansari arguably has a lot to feel bitter about, having been unfairly maligned in a careless exposé. He deals with it with humility and gratitude, thanking his audience for showing up, rather than expecting them to.

It’s not the two-minute video Joe Biden released affecting concern, which he’s since betrayed repeatedly by making jokes about #metoo on the campaign trail. Or the New York Times sneaking Glenn Thrush back onto the national beat without explanation.

If men want to succeed in the society #metoo is remaking, they need to prioritize and commit to real learning. Women aren’t going back, and neither can they.

Grenell is a Democratic political consultant.