She Said and Had It Coming

I paired these two books together for day 5 of my 12 favourite days of books for a couple reasons – one, I had too many books to choose from (good year) and two, they feel to a degree like they compliment each other.  They are written by some amazing journalists who broke two incredibly important stories – one that ignited the #MeToo movement and one that shined a light on Canadian Police departments and their poor treatment of sexual assault cases.  Both lead to actual change and both books were fantastic reads.

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harrassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movementis written by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey – the journalists at The New York Timeswho broke the Harvey Weinstein story*.  They spent months and months tirelessly researching this story, speaking to an incredible array of sources.  Some of those sources many of us recognize and others who felt even more powerless in the face of his actions and the impact those actions had on their lives, who they are and their careers whether that was stardom promised or a thriving career on the other side of the camera.  Plus people who worked with Weinstein for many years and in many ways, seemed to look the other way.  The personal sacrifices Kantor and Twohey made, the support they got at many levels at The New York Timesin the face of threatening action by Weinstein’s camp and what was very clear, their journalistic integrity throughout it all and especially dealing with women whose stories were not easy to tell.

I don’t often learn what’s behind investigative journalism for no good reason other than I haven’t ventured into it in the past but She Saidwas such a fascinating read. The chance to see almost behind the curtains, what they both did, the shady things they encountered going up against a man who had been seemingly protected for decades.  I read the story when it came out as it was everywhere and heartbreakingly watched as woman all over my social media channels posted #metoo as the movement gained speed.

She Saidwas about the real story but at times, it was like reading a thrilling mystery novel at times.  I could not put it down!  It also delved into what Christine Blasey Ford faced in making the incredibly difficult decision to raise her hand to do what was right.  And to close out the book, they brought together so many of their sources to look at the movement as a whole, months after it ignited and their feelings about sharing their stories.  I don’t want to give away too much – I was interested in the book because the movement is so important and I also love pop culture but it beat any expectations I had of it when I picked it.

Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo?By Robyn Doolittle looks at the movement in a different way.  Robyn Doolittle is a Canadian journalist who released a series in The Globe and Mailcalled Unfounded– Doolittle spent months and months digging into Canadian Police Departments at all levels and their treatment of sexual assault cases and uncovered a shocking trend of cases being marked as Unfounded before investigations ever started.  It was a shocking series, hard to read as a woman but maybe not that surprising.

In Had It Coming, Doolittle explores where the #metoo movement has taken us, where it seems to be going and attitudes around sexual assault, harassment and consent stand today.  She researched perspectives from woman on the ground, both young feminists and early feminists who led the way but in some ways don’t seem to understand some of the actions and beliefs of the younger generation.  She spoke to legal experts, a disgraced judge who was removed from the bench for asking a young rape victim a horrific question in his courtroom who has done the work to understand where he went he wrong (Doolittle, Chapter 11: Judging the Judge, 190).  The role social media has played in the movement as a whole and where it’s gotten us today.  I don’t think she left any angle uncovered as she looked at the movement

This book was fascinating in a different way – I read the Unfounded Series** and this is less a deep dive into her research and more of a continuation of that work.  She reflects on her own personal feelings and how those feelings have evolved as she has grown, had more life experiences and the many people she met through her work.  It held up a mirror to the Canadian justice system and I was floored to learn that we have some of the most progressive sexual assault laws in the world in Canada but they aren’t really understood all that well at the investigative level. (Doolittle, Chapter 3: The Laws Aren’t the Problem, 27)  It was such an interesting and thought-provoking read. Who hasn’t had a discussion in the past couple years with girlfriends or family members or dodged a conversation in the professional realm that wouldn’t benefit anyone?  I can think of many times a new story would break and my friends and I would chat about it over drinks.  And not everyone I know posted #metoo but everyone I know has a story. No matter who you are or what your experience is and has been, you have an opinion on this movement.  I loved that Doolittle dug into that from so many different angles while also sharing her feelings on it.

Both books were obviously among my favourites this year and I think I’ll look out for more stories about great investigative journalism and the themes that these journalists wrote about.  Additionally, they gave me some faith in this really strange media era that there are still great ones out there searching for the truth, no matter the sacrifices or the consequences they face in their work.  I am in awe of their good work.

Important reads and I’d love some recos on other ones I should look at!

K

*https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/harvey-weinstein-harassment-allegations.html

** https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/unfounded-sexual-assault-canada-main/article33891309/

 

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