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#MeToo: Tipping point, or outrage du jour?

Kathleen Parker on

WASHINGTON -- Depending upon one's distance from all things Twitter, recent revelations of sexual harassment in Hollywood are either the tipping point we've been waiting for -- or just another shark attack until the next one.

If you're former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, whose book, "Be Fierce," was released just as Harvey Weinstein was falling from grace, we're in the midst of a Malcolm Gladwell sequel.

And Carlson, who also is a former Miss America, is the female version of David, who ultimately brought down Goliath -- Fox News creator and CEO Roger Ailes -- with a sexual harassment lawsuit that resulted in a $20 million settlement. She also opened the floodgates with her witness and testament, prompting strangers to stop her on the street. In the past few days, thousands of other women have taken to social media to post their own experiences of sexual harassment using the hashtag #MeToo.

"Every woman has a story," says Carlson.

If you're a skeptical sort, on the other hand, you may lean toward the shark-attack line of thinking. This, too, shall pass softly into history, in other words, because inevitably something else will come along to demand our attention. Given the plethora of horrors, from the Las Vegas slaughter to the California fires, how does one sustain the necessary intensity to effect the sort of systemic cultural change that Carlson and others hope for?

The skeptics would have a valid point were it not for at least one statistically significant factor and one whale of a difference from all previous uprisings.

If true, as Carlson says, that every woman has a story, then, statistically, sexual harassment in the workplace is a plague, a disaster and a psychological assault weapon. Given that women constitute half the world's population -- and that successful women mean successful families and societies -- then any word or action that undermines their ability to conduct life without fear of sex-based exploitation or retribution should be considered an epidemic of opioid proportions.

Coincidentally, Trump, whose presidential campaign recently was subpoenaed for records related to multiple sexual harassment allegations, is slated next week to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

The big-fish difference, meanwhile, is the president. The man who famously boasted of grabbing women by their nethers sparked the Women's March last January with his many crude, misogynistic comments. Trump's lawyers have requested that they be allowed to postpone responding to the subpoena until his presidency ends, but feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing some of the accusers, doesn't appear to harbor patience in her armory of legal tactics. To be continued.

When I interviewed Carlson recently, I confessed that I had always been a "guy-girl," raised by my father in a male-centric environment and, as a professional skeptic, had often assumed that most "victims" of sexual harassment were either not tough enough, lacked a sense of humor or were stupid about guy-tude.

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