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Vatican, Costa Rica, France: #MeToo And The Sound Of Broken Silence

Pope Francis in Vatican City on Feb. 6
Pope Francis in Vatican City on Feb. 6
Benjamin Witte


The #MeToo movement was, above all, a collective "breaking of the silence" that shifted the longstanding balance of power on the question of sexual misconduct, particularly in the professional world.

Many have noted that what became a collective raising of (mostly female) voices may have required the accusations of a few Hollywood movie stars to launch the movement that, even just this week, continues to reverberate everywhere from the Vatican to France to Costa Rica.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis added his to the chorus of voices speaking out against sexual misconduct by acknowledging, for the first time, the sexual abuse (by members of the clergy) of women who are in many ways the epitome of silent servitude: Catholic nuns.

"It is true ... there have been priests and even bishops who have done this," Francis told an on-board reporter while flying from Abu Dhabi to Rome.

The remarks follow publication of a recent article in Women Church World, a Vatican magazine, alleging that Catholic clerics have sexually abused and even impregnated nuns, who in some cases were forced to have abortions. The abuse was hidden, again, by a wall of silence: Nuns kept quiet, reportedly, out of fear that they or their orders would face retaliation from the ruling male clergy.

That fear of exposure also took center stage Tuesday in Paris, where six women connected with France's Green political party EELV gathered in a courtroom to detail years of accusations against former EELV party leader Denis Baupin.

Back then there was less #MeToo.

Among those providing testimony was a former spokeswoman for the party, Sandrine Rousseau, who testified that in 2011, Baupin pinned her against a wall and touched her breasts. As French daily Le Mondereported, the other accusers shared similar stories of feeling too isolated and intimidated, in the past, to go public.

"Back then there was less #MeToo," said Rousseau, remembering the backlash faced by French writer Tristane Banon when she accused prominent politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her.

In Central America, in the meantime, a woman is speaking out against a particularly esteemed political figure: Nobel laureate and former Costa Rican leader Oscar Arias, who twice held the presidency (1986-1990, 2006-2010).

Activist and doctor Alexandra Arce von Herold told prosecutors on Monday that in December of 2014, Arias sexually assaulted her in his home, where she had gone to deliver some documents: "He grabbed me from behind and touched my breasts," the Costa Rican daily La Nación quoted the accuser as saying. "I told him no, and reminded him that he was married. That was my no. It was the only thing I could think to say." Arias, through a statement submitted by his lawyer, denies any wrongdoing, the New York Times reported yesterday.

Sexual violence did not begin or end with the accusations first launched 16 months ago against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Centuries of forced silence are not over yet either. Still, the #MeToo movement has already changed the world in ways that no Hollywood movie ever has.

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Look At This Crap! The "Enshittification" Theory Of Why The Internet Is Broken

The term was coined by journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the fatal drift of major Internet platforms: if they were ever useful and user-friendly, they will inevitably end up being odious.

A photo of hands holding onto a smartphone

A person holding their smartphone

Gilles Lambert/ZUMA
Manuel Ligero


The universe tends toward chaos. Ultimately, everything degenerates. These immutable laws are even more true of the Internet.

In the case of media platforms, everything you once thought was a good service will, sooner or later, disgust you. This trend has been given a name: enshittification. The term was coined by Canadian blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the inevitable drift of technological giants toward... well.

The explanation is in line with the most basic tenets of Marxism. All digital companies have investors (essentially the bourgeoisie, people who don't perform any work and take the lion's share of the profits), and these investors want to see the percentage of their gains grow year after year. This pushes companies to make decisions that affect the service they provide to their customers. Although they don't do it unwillingly, quite the opposite.

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Annoying customers is just another part of the business plan. Look at Netflix, for example. The streaming giant has long been riddling how to monetize shared Netflix accounts. Option 1: adding a premium option to its regular price. Next, it asked for verification through text messages. After that, it considered raising the total subscription price. It also mulled adding advertising to the mix, and so on. These endless maneuvers irritated its audience, even as the company has been unable to decide which way it wants to go. So, slowly but surely, we see it drifting toward enshittification.

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