Those arguing #MeToo is losing steam are sorely mistaken. That’s the belief of best-selling author Linda Hirshman. Her latest book, Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment, details the 50-year history of legal and cultural moments that precede #MeToo. It also serves as a reminder that the movement did not mysteriously happen overnight and makes sense of how this pivotal moment in American culture came to be.
Hirshman spent her childhood in Cleveland, Ohio. Already reading by age four, it was women biographies that drew her to the local library. Favorites were stories on Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross), Julia Ward Howe (author of the Civil War anthem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and co-founder of the American Woman Suffrage Association), and Lucy Stone (a prominent orator, abolitionist, and suffragist). Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women also made an impact.
Years later Hirshman became a lawyer. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University and a Juris Doctorate from University of Chicago Law School, she received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I wanted to do something where I could earn a substantial, reliable income,” Hirshman said. “Self-reliance has always been central to me.”
SCOTUS, Teaching, Writing
Hirshman appeared in three Supreme Court cases (one win, one loss and one draw). This includes the landmark case Garcia v. SAMTA, which defined the line between the federal government and the states. Next she went into academia. Hirshman taught at Brandeis University, Chicago Kent College of Law, and was a visiting professor at Northwestern Law School where she received the Childres Award. Working as both a lawyer and academic laid the groundwork for her next profession as an author.
“I went from practicing to teaching law and writing is part of an academic’s job,” Hirshman explains. “And as a litigator, I wrote briefs in all the appeals courts, including SCOTUS. That’s a form of storytelling too. I always loved telling stories. I explained the entire background to Lawrence of Arabia to a group of admiring moviegoers when I was around 13 or 14. They bought me a candy bar. I was launched.”
In 2012, the first book of what Hirshman considers her trilogy was published. Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution details the stunning story of how a resourceful and dedicated minority transformed the notion of American marriage equality and forged a campaign for cultural change.
Next came the 2015’s Sisters In Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World. Sisters In Law tells the intertwined story of these two trailblazing justices. It also shows how the battles they fought in their male-dominated profession ultimately benefitted every American woman.
Born to Write This Book
Reckoning is the third book in the trilogy. The idea came to Hirshman when she and the actress Alyssa Milano were discussing the rights to Sisters In Law and the #MeToo movement. Milano famously tweeted the 2017 #MeToo hashtag that became a viral call to action (it should be noted activist Tarana Burke originally coined the phrase “Me Too” in 2006, which Hirshman discusses in Reckoning).
“I was working on my book about the abolitionist movement when Alyssa called,” Hirshman recalls. “After I finished slavering all over her for what she had done with #MeToo, I realized Reckoning was the book I was born to write. I lived it! I knew all the players.”
Indeed, Hirshman makes those players come to life. Reckoning allows readers to connect historical dots and gives them clearer understanding of how more and more women came to realize they should never have to suffer sexual abuse and harassment (and won’t put up with it).
The ousting of many abusers who once were thought untouchale gives hope that mainstream culture is permanently changing. The question now is how to keep the dominos falling? How do we ensure the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world no longer cause excruciating harm? For Hirshman, the answer is one simple word.
“VOTE,” she says. “It is the one thing women can do safely and anonymously to transform this society.”
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Top photo by Nina Subin
Second image provided by Grey Horse
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