Hours before the cornerstone Sydney writers’ festival panel about the #MeToo movement on Saturday night, the Pulitzer-prize winning author Junot Diaz – with events still booked in Sydney and in Melbourne – was on a plane out of Australia.
The day before, another festival guest, writer Zinzi Clemmons, had spoken from the audience during the Q&A of one of Diaz’s panels, questioning the timing of his recent New York Times essay and asking the writer to reckon with his own alleged history of harm.
She then shared her story on Twitter, claiming he had “cornered and forcibly kissed her” when she was 26.
Clemmons was joined on Twitter by other women – including another festival speaker Carmon Maria Machado – who made their own accusations of his alleged misconduct. Diaz withdrew from his remaining appearances, and told the New York Times (without referring to the allegations specifically): “I take responsibility for my past.”
For anyone who thought the #MeToo movement had lost momentum, the last few days proved otherwise.
On Friday, for instance, the Nobel prize for literature was cancelled amid a sexual assault scandal. The day before that, a Washington Post investigation told of 27 more women who had allegations of sexual harassment against talk show host Charlie Rose.
Spicer has spent the past six months connecting the strongest of the stories with news outlets around the country – but her efforts, she revealed, haven’t always been welcome.
“. . . recently, in the last two months, I’ve seen mainstream – what we would call ‘old media’ – organisations starting to pull away from some of these stories … Not only is it costly, not only is it difficult because of defamation, but ‘it’s getting a little bit too close to our executives’. And that is a true story.”
The panel’s penultimate moment was a welcome surprise: notable Australian feminist and writer Eva Cox stood at a microphone with a question for the panellists.
“It’s not ‘How do we stop that man from doing that to us?’, but ‘How do we stop men feeling like they’re entitled to?’,” she said.
As the applause died down in the audience, a lone voice could be heard from the front: a man who had been barred from the microphone during the Q&A was standing in front of the stage and screaming aggressively at the strong, accomplished women who sat in front of him.
“HOW MANY INNOCENT MEN WILL GET TAKEN DOWN?” he yelled, as he was escorted out. “GEOFFREY RUSH IS AN AUSTRALIAN ICON!”
The four panellists had spent the last 60 minutes illustrating why this movement wasn’t going away. It took just one man, in one second, to succinctly prove their point.