The #MeToo movement has already named, shamed and ejected from high places a goodly number of men — including a U.S. senator from Minnesota — and does not appear to have run its course. Its potency has been variously attributed to millennial-generation spunk, Hillary Clinton’s defeat, Donald Trump’s braggadocio and partisan manipulation.
This week, this newspaper’s most recent Minnesota Poll contributed to that analysis with a finding that bears wide notice. Nearly two-thirds of the Minnesota women polled said “me too” — they themselves have been on the receiving end of sexual harassment. Only 11 percent of the men polled said the same.
That’s an enormous experiential difference. What for one gender is (mostly) someone else’s problem is for a majority of the other a painful personal memory. Reports of the misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and the rest conjure in those women a sense of vulnerability and violation that most men have not and will not know. Dismissive male reactions to such news only add to female anger.
Is it any wonder that a gender gap is prevalent — and lately widening — in other polls? The same Jan. 8-10 Minnesota Poll, for example, found a 17-percentage-point difference in male and female assessments of Trump’s performance as president. Recent national polls show Trump’s support declining precipitously during 2017 among a group he carried in the 2016 election, middle-aged, non-college-educated white women. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat this week called a widening male-female divide “the essential cultural action of the Trump era.”
This weekend’s anniversary of Trump’s inauguration is also the anniversary of huge female-led anti-Trump marches throughout this country and in cities around the globe. The question a year ago was whether the marches could morph into a sustained movement. That question now has a clear answer.
The Minnesota Poll’s findings suggest that the movement’s recent focus on sexual harassment and abuse is relevant to a large and personally motivated female constituency. That should give it staying power.