Has #MeToo turned into an attack strategy by false accusers?

#MeToo

News Analysis |

In the latest development, nine women, including a dancer, have accused legendary Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo of sexual harassment. The allegations have been leveled against Domingo after 30 years. According to details, Domingo has rejected the allegations and maintained his innocence. The latest allegations against a celebrity again raise question about the scope and purpose of the #MeToo movement.

Domingo, the 78-year-old who is dubbed “the king of opera” and now faces a growing #MeToo storm, is one of the worlds most celebrated and prolific opera singers. Domingo defended himself after the women, one of whom was identified, accused him of using his position as one of opera’s most celebrated singers to pressure them into sexual relationships.

Domingo has made more than 100 albums and picked up 14 Grammy awards. Earlier this year, he celebrated his 4,000th performance in a career that stretches back 60 years.

People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone

Eight singers and a dancer told the Associated Press that they were sexually harassed in incidents going back to the 1980s. One said Domingo had put his hand down her skirt while three said he had forcibly kissed them.

Some said they felt their careers had been damaged by rejecting his advances. “The allegations from these unnamed individuals dating back as many as 30 years are deeply troubling, and as presented, inaccurate,” Domingo said in a statement sent to reporters via his publicist.

“Still, it is painful to hear that I may have upset anyone or made them feel uncomfortable — no matter how long ago and despite my best intentions,” he added. The LA Opera, where Domingo has been director-general since 2003, said in a statement that it would “engage outside counsel to investigate the concerning allegations”. “Placido Domingo has been a dynamic creative force in the life of LA Opera and the artistic culture of Los Angeles for more than three decades.”

“Nevertheless, we are committed to doing everything we can to foster a professional and collaborative environment where all our employees and artists feel equally comfortable, valued and respected,” it added.

Read more: Google paid $135million to two former executives accused of sexual harassment

Spanish-born Domingo was one of the most recognized opera stars of the 20th century, starring in the Three Opera singers alongside Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras.

In recent years, the long-time married singer has transformed himself into a baritone and still performs to packed audiences at age 78. “I believed that all of my interactions and relationships were always welcomed and consensual. People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone,” Domingo said.

“However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are — and should be — measured against today are very different than they were in the past,” he added.

Reactions

Following the allegations, the Philadelphia Orchestra Association withdrew its invitation for Domingo to appear in its opening night concert on September 18. “We are committed to providing a safe, supportive, respectful and appropriate environment,” the orchestra said in a statement.

The San Francisco Opera also cancelled one of his concerts, on October 6. New York’s Metropolitan Opera said it would await the outcome of the LA Opera’s investigation before making any final decisions about Domingo’s “ultimate future.”

Meesha Shafi, a Pakistani singer, used the tag #MeToo and accused her colleague and renowned singer and actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment.

However, the head of the Salzburg Festival in Austria said Domingo would perform there as planned this month. “I would find it objectively wrong and irresponsible on a human level to come to definitive judgments at this time, and to base any decisions on them,” said Helga Rabl-Stadler.

#MeToo: Under Criticism again?

#MeeToo is a social movement against the sexual harassment and sexual assault. It gained popularity in 2017 when many actresses and celebrities spoke up and exposed some big names who were allegedly involved in the worst sort of sexual harassment. Many women in Pakistan also came forward against their harassers and shared their bitter experiences. Media and journalists treated them with dignity and listened to them.

But soon it became unclear how it can be determined what harassment is? This has led to an extensive and un-ending debate. Who will determine it? How will it be determined? Can sending a friend request on Facebook be harassment? How to deal with the allegations leveled against a man by a woman? What will be the criteria to determine the validity/reliability of the allegations? Should we suppose all women are telling the truth? Should media trial be allowed?

Read more: Allegations of sexual harassment against Chairman; NAB demands probe

Women are allegedly misusing the #MeToo tag to target their male counterparts for personal or professional enmities.  An analyst wrote an interesting piece titled Don’t Believe Me Just Because I’m a Woman. “I promise you that women sometimes lie. They sometimes misremember. They are sometimes mistaken,” she argued.

In August 2017, Ms. Ayesha Gulalai, Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and a woman leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), accused Imran Khan of sexual harassment. “Imran Khan sent some indecent texts to me back in 2013”, she said. She remained in the party for almost 4 years, became MPA and held several meetings with Imran Khan but ultimately decided to speak out and leave the party. Pakistani liberals and anti-PTI anchors, without asking for any evidence, started bashing the PTI Chairman, and spoke out against patriarchal social settings and gender insensitivity in public spaces in the country. Several articles were written and Imran Khan was pressured to address the allegations against him to prove himself innocent.

On 19th April 2018, Meesha Shafi, a Pakistani singer, used the tag #MeToo and accused her colleague and renowned singer and actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment. She posted a tweet, accusing Ali of harassment. Once again Pakistani liberals and ‘defenders of women rights’ stood up against Ali for allegedly harassing his colleague. Ali kept on refuting the allegations but nobody trusted him. The matter has been brought before the court by Ali.

Read more: Misuse of #MeToo: In defense of Dr. Taimur Rehman

Experts maintain that media and analysts must be careful before taking any firm position on such sensitive matters.


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