The Agony & the Ecstasy of #MeToo: The Hidden Costs of Reliance on Carceral Politics
29 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2019 Last revised: 17 Jan 2020
Date Written: July 27, 2019
Many have considered the conversation sparked by #metoo as a necessary and overdue interrogation of not only the spectre of common sexual harms in American society, but also the inadequacy of traditional mechanisms of accountability. Against this backdrop, smaller-scale flashpoints have erupted over perceived inadequacy of punishment, such as the successful campaign to recall California judge Aaron Persky from the bench over what many saw as leniency in the widely- publicized case of People v. Brock Turner. This paper analyzes the complex relationship between #metoo and the carceral state. In arguably the most punitive nation on the planet — particularly when considering the breadth and scope of public post-conviction registries — I argue that seeking to address broad and systemic failures of accountability by advocating for more severe punishment paradoxically undermines the larger goals of #metoo to the extent that those goals are concerned with effectively challenging systems that perpetuate sexual harms. An approach that harmonizes efforts to prevent sexual harms and bring those who cause harm to account without endorsement of carceral politics is explored.
Keywords: sexual violence, criminal justice, sex offender registries, punishment, public policy
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