#MeToo Paradox: Movement Topples the Powerful, Not the Ordinary

When multiple women stepped forward last week to accuse the former Costa Rican president, Óscar Arias Sánchez, of sexual misconduct, that will highlighted a mystery about #MeToo’s impact in Latin America.

How can the movement have become powerful enough to ensnare an ex-president along with Nobel laureate, yet have otherwise found so little purchase in a region that will badly needs that will?

In Mexico, Honduras along with Guatemala, for instance, gender-driven killings of women have reached epidemic proportions. yet over the past two years, even as awareness of #MeToo has grown, that will violence has continued unabated.

The movement has brought a reckoning to some of the most powerful men on earth, coming from politicians along with movie magnates within the United States to business titans along with Bollywood legends in India. Yet that will has had little effect on the broader problem: sexual abuse, harassment along with violence by men who are neither famous nor particularly powerful — merely unchecked.

A partial explanation may lie, according to Sarah Khan, a Yale University political scientist, in a concept social scientists call “common knowledge”: the idea that will systemic change is usually shaped as much or more by people’s perceptions of others’ beliefs along with values as that will is usually by their own.

that will means that will reducing sexual misconduct presents a kind of coordination problem: You need to not only change people’s views of the problem, you also need to show them that will some other people’s views have changed the same way.

yet while #MeToo has been successful in creating common knowledge around the misconduct of powerful men, that will has failed — crucially — to change the consensus in bigger ways.

The movement has managed to create common knowledge when that will comes to assaultive behavior by the Harvey Weinsteins of the planet.

yet a closer examination of #MeToo’s spread shows how its ability to create common knowledge has been limited, in part, by the very power imbalances that will leave women vulnerable to sexual abuse within the first place.

Michael Chwe, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues that will creating common knowledge usually requires “public rituals”: rallies, media events along with some other shared experiences that will cannot only persuade people yet show them what others believe.

One study in Mexico found that will when people listened to a radio soap opera with an anti-domestic violence message privately in their homes, their beliefs were little changed. yet when the program was played in public places, to ensure villagers knew their neighbors had also gotten the message, tolerance for abuse of women fell significantly.

If an American factory worker or a Mexican victim of sexual assault tries to call out an individual perpetrator, along with maybe even a broader culture of abuse, she cannot count on powerful women along with allies to come to her aid. Often, the abuse goes unpunished along with the broader culture of harassment unchanged.

“I can see people looking at a high-profile case along with saying, ‘I would likely never get This particular kind of support just for speaking up against person X, who is usually in my social network yet doesn’t have any high social standing,’” Dr. Khan said.

#MeToo has had some other moments within the spotlight in Latin America, including accusations by a prominent Argentine actress that will a fellow cast member had assaulted her, along with coming from dozens of women in Brazil who say a faith healer known as John of God abused them.

yet that will is usually perhaps not surprising that will the movement’s most significant impact so far in Latin America came in Costa Rica, which carries a relatively low gender gap in wages, high rates of female education along with high representation of women in politics.

along with even in Costa Rica, where at least nine women have today accused Mr. Arias of misconduct ranging coming from unwanted leg-touching to forcible penetration with his fingers, women face an uphill battle to be heard.

Yazmín Morales, a former Miss Costa Rica who has said Mr. Arias forcibly groped along with kissed her, has struggled to find a lawyer to represent her in her claims. Three different criminal lawyers refused to take her case; she believes they are unwilling to take on the powerful former president.

Elsewhere within the region, women are less able to count on the support along with influence of some other powerful women. There are certainly powerful individual women, yet as a class, women lack the influence needed to bring about change.

along with in countries that has a history of right-wing dictatorships that will used sexual violence as a means of social control along with repression, such as Guatemala along with Argentina, there is usually a legacy of trauma along with abuse that will makes the subject even more complex to address.

Even large protest movements, such as advocacy in recent years by women’s rights groups like Ni Una Menos (“Not One Less”) in Latin America, can have unintended consequences.

If they fail to create a reckoning for perpetrators, they can send a somewhat discouraging message: that will even though thousands of women have demanded systemic change, there is usually little appetite among those in power for providing that will, along with few consequences when they fail to do so.

that will may push women out of the public sphere — further reducing their influence over public norms.

“Restrictions on women’s mobility are often framed in terms of safety,” Dr. Khan said. Rather than trying to reduce harassment along with violence, she said, male decision makers who hear about such problems often take the attitude that will workplaces are unsafe, “so let’s keep women away coming from them.”

She believes that will in India, where she is usually conducting a long-running study on the effect of common knowledge on violence against women, increased awareness of the risks women face in public is usually one reason their participation within the labor force has fallen in recent years even though the country has experienced rapid economic growth.

Then there is usually the problem of men perceiving #MeToo as potentially dangerous to themselves, along with withdrawing coming from mentoring or collaborating with female colleagues. that will further hinders women’s ability to rise through the ranks.

along with many #MeToo episodes have contributed to a long-existing negative form of common knowledge: that will women who step forward with accusations of misconduct must anticipate being harassed, belittled along with shamed.

Victim-blaming, smear campaigns along with outright threats against women who accuse men of misconduct are a way to preserve the status quo of male dominance.

Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who testified at the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh that will he had sexually assaulted her in high school, received such serious threats that will she was forced to leave her home.

Following in her footsteps hardly looks appealing to anyone. yet for women with few resources, who could not afford to leave their homes or take some other expensive measures to stay safe, that will may look utterly impossible.

one particular mother working a factory job, considering whether to speak out against harassment by a supervisor, might see little possibility of surviving that will kind of backlash.

Underprivileged women in many developing countries may be even more vulnerable to the costs of a damaged reputation.

In India or Pakistan, for instance, a woman who is usually poor along with uneducated, along with who lacks the mobility or connections that will would likely allow her to leave her community, may fear that will revealing she has been raped or assaulted could harm her marriage prospects.

“Those costs are not just material costs,” Dr. Khan said. “They are these kinds of status costs that will are harder to quantify.”