Hollywood, the United Nations, political and financial institutions, have rightly been unable to escape the glare of #MeToo. This time, it is the Nobel Prize in Literature
, which has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War because of a sexual assault scandal.
Let's be clear, the allegations of harassment and assault relate to one man: the photographer Jean-Claude Arnault
, who has close links to the Swedish Academy that awards the annual literature prize.
He alone bears responsibility for his actions and behavior, which allegedly involve more than 20 women, including the Crown Princess of Sweden. He denies all the allegations. It is a bitter irony, then, that two other women have paid the price for Arnault's conduct.
First, Arnault's wife, Katarina Frostenson, stepped down as a member of the academy last month in the wake of the allegations and after an extraordinary intervention from Sweden's King and Prime Minister to minimize the swirling scandal. Frostenson, a poet, had survived a vote to remove her from the panel, forcing other academy members to quit.
Then, the panel's permanent secretary and most senior official, Sara Danius, was forced from her post over the Arnault scandal, despite her decision to cut ties with the photographer and commission an investigation into the academy.
While Frostenson has also faced scrutiny over her co-ownership, with Arnault, of a cultural center that received funding from the academy, no woman should be punished for the behavior of her husband or any other man to whom she has links.
There have been claims that members of the academy knew about Arnault's alleged sexual misconduct as far back as 1996 and failed to act. This is a persistent theme of other sexual harassment scandals: When allegations broke about Harvey Weinstein
, it quickly became clear that senior figures in Hollywood had known about the producer's alleged behavior for decades and yet had stayed silent.
One of the most important lessons of #MeToo is that the silence of others has enabled perpetrators to continue to harass, yet it is the perpetrators alone who are responsible for their behavior, and it is they who should face scrutiny and punishment. The power of #MeToo is that it is now easier for women -- and men -- who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to come forward. Silence is no longer as powerful as used to be.
Despite the controversy over the resignations of Frostenson and Danius, it is right that the Swedish Academy has postponed the Nobel Prize in Literature for a year. It plans to award two prizes in 2019, so technically no author will lose out.
If anything is to change in terms of society's tolerance of sexual harassment, then major things must happen to major institutions. Powerful organizations like the Swedish Academy -- as with Hollywood, Washington, Westminster and the UN before it -- had in the past found it all too easy to close ranks around their own in the face of alleged illegal and immoral behavior. That must change.
And things have already changed, showing that #MeToo was not just a trend of 2017 but an unstoppable force that has transformed society forever. So, today, a jury believes female victims of a global star like Bill Cosby
, whereas months earlier, other jurors did not convict the celebrity.
Cosby and Roman Polanski are kicked out of the Oscars academy
decades after -- in Polanski's case -- he pleaded guilty
to statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl. In Britain, a Cabinet minister is forced to resign
. Across the world, men are finally being held to account. And that should happen in Sweden now, too.
Those involved in the #MeToo movement have been concerned that the right systemic measures need to be put in place -- such as more transparent harassment rules and independent, confidential helplines for victims -- particularly in everyday offices.
But it turns out the cultural transformation, in which sexual harassment is no longer ignored or tolerated, has already taken place before our very eyes, and it will be harder to undo.