‘Five Women’ by Chana Joffe-Walt​​

Melissa Mesku

“Survival of the fittest: I can manage the bullying and the sexual harassment; she couldn’t.”

Did you feel kind of proud of that?

“Yes, I did. Like I can take it.”

The current #MeToo era has been considered a reckoning of sorts: a reckoning for men, a reckoning for women, a reckoning in the culture at large. Two things about reckoning—it’s hard, and it’s a mess. It requires us to dredge up our very personal and specific histories—our dirty laundry, as my mom might say—and bring it out into the light. It requires us to revisit our attitudes and measure them against a new yardstick. It requires us to seek out our individual blurred lines and rework them into solid social boundaries. We are recalibrating ourselves and society, and it is hard. With last week’s episode of This American Life, Chana Joffe-Walt has produced an incredible piece of journalism, one of the finest to come out of this current #MeToo, post-Weinstein moment. For me, it has provided a set of stories that are helping me recalibrate, while laying bare what the process of reckoning looked like for others. Artfully woven together, five women share stories about their encounters with the former executive editor of AlterNet (who was placed on “indefinite leave” after a BuzzFeed News story about sexual harassment allegations against him). To tell their stories, these women bring up relevant events from their lives beforehand. Their very personal and specific histories—with old boyfriends, lecherous bosses, parents, school counselors—serve to explain how they dealt with this personal and specific situation. The outcome isn’t always clear or clean. But as a tapestry of truth-in-the-making, you can learn a lot as it hangs on the line to dry.

This American Life