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The #MeToo Story You Haven’t Read

Must-read doesn’t begin to cover it


By Sheree Strange

One year ago, in October 2018, Dr Christine Blasey-Ford, shaky but determined, testified in Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings. One year before that, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the New York Times. And one year before that—again, in October—Donald Trump’s infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” tape went viral.

Each of these events occurred a year apart, almost to the day. Each fuelled the fire of the #MeToo movement, which has since swept the world and rewritten the way we view power, harassment, and women’s rights in the workplace. As that anniversary ticks around again, now is the time to ask: What’s changed? And that is the very question that Kantor and Twohey seek to answer in their book, She Said.

This is the “untold story” of what it takes to bring accusations against powerful men to light. Kantor and Twohey don’t simply paint a portrait of Weinstein as a monster (though they have plenty of evidence to do just that). They know you know that story. You’ve read the details over and over: The bathrobes, the hotel rooms, the massages, the potted plants. Instead, they examine the social mechanisms—the company policies and the power-brokers, and the “boys’ club”—that enabled an alleged abuser to thrive, unrestrained and without consequences, for decades.

Weinstein’s attempts to stop the story going public are truly astonishing. Kantor and Twohey reveal that he went far above and beyond the well-documented cash settlements attached to menacing non-disclosure agreements. He hired a security firm to manipulate and mislead journalists, gather intelligence, and even used agents with false identities to pose as victims—he promised a $300k bonus if they prevented the story from breaking. Weinstein waged a war on journalists, and conscripted an army in that effort. Kantor and Twohey, in turn, assembled their own legion of women to fight back.

 

Weinstein’s attempts to stop the story going public are truly astonishing.

They recount not only the arduous process of exposing Weinstein as a serial predator, but also the aftermath of their scoop. Did #MeToo go “too far”? Did they unknowingly trigger a witch-hunt? The pair are surprisingly even-handed in their account of the fallout, making room for the possibility that they didn’t always get it right.

Then, they turn to Dr Blasey-Ford’s story, zooming in on every last detail of her life-changing decision to testify: from the moment she heard of Kavanagh’s nomination, down to the make and model of the car that transported her to the hearing on Capitol Hill.

Even though these stories focus on the ways that powerful men have abused women, She Said is not really about the men at all. Instead, at its heart, it is about the bravery of women, and the power of the collective voice. Kantor and Twohey never fall into the trap of treating these stories as celebrity gossip; in fact, they give equal attention to the assistants, the off-camera Miramax employees, and, later, the women of other less-visible institutions who have spoken out about their own victimisation. The book concludes with a joint interview, these women gathered to answer the question: What happened? What is it like to walk through the fire? What is life like on the other side?

You know the old book-review cliche “I couldn’t put it down”? I literally burned my dinner because I thought I could squeeze in a few more pages as the pot simmered. I thought I knew this story, but Kantor and Twohey have written a behind-the-scenes account, the story behind the story, every bit as gripping and compelling as a commercial domestic thriller. She Said is a must-read story of power, determination, and reckoning, for all women living in a time of tumultuous change.

 

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BY Sheree Strange

Sheree is our book reviewer and also blogs at Keeping Up With The Penguins Online

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