CLOSE

The allegations of sexual harassment against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, and the lack of outrage, seem shocking. Sadly, incidents like these aren't limited to Hollywood. Ordinary women bravely share their experiences of harassment at work. USA TODAY

LINKEDIN 19 COMMENTMORE

America is in the middle of "reckoning" on sexual harassment we have been told for months now. 

The issue loomed over this month's Golden Globe Awards, prompting CNN's Brian Stelter to write a post under the headline "First a reckoning for harassers, now a reckoning for awards shows.

"Hollywood was on-message — saying this reckoning must be about action, not just talk," Stelter said. 

Lauren Green, who accused Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, of sexual harassment, told CNN's Anderson Cooper last month that "what is going on right now, it's more than a moment, I think it's a reckoning."

The phrase has been used publications ranging from The New York Times and The Washington Post to BuzzFeed and Jezebel.  A Chicago Tribune columnist called 2017 "the year of the reckoning" and Slate even put together "The Best of the Reckoning." USA TODAY's editorial board wrote of "The sexual harassment reckoning." 

"In interviews with The New York Times, most women agreed that a reckoning for the sexual misdeeds of men in the workplace was a long time coming," wrote Times reporter Nellie Bowles in a Dec. 5 article titled, "A Reckoning on Sexual Misconduct? Absolutely. But How Harsh, Women Ask."

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

So what is this reckoning everyone is talking is about? 

Merriam-Webster offers three definitions of reckoning. 

  1. The act of counting or estimating an account, a bill, computations or calculating a ship's position. 
  2. A settling of accounts • a day of reckoning. 
  3. A summing up 

It is the second definition that best applies here, particularly "a day of reckoning," which Merriam-Webster defines as a "time when the consequences of a course of mistakes or misdeeds are felt." 

A day of reckoning can also connote THE day of reckoning, as in Judgment Day, aka Doomsday, aka Armageddon, aka the Big One. The final settling of accounts when God's wrath is unleashed upon the wicked and the righteous are rewarded. 

In other words, it's a time of retribution of biblical proportions.

CLOSE

Almost half of America’s working women say they have been harassed at their jobs, a new poll has found. Time

More:

While the verb, reckon, is "a word of Germanic origin that dates back to Old English," that meant to sum up, the original meaning of reckoning as a noun was "the action or an act of accounting to God after death for (one's) conduct in life, and also to the occasion of doing this — i.e., the Last Judgment," said Katherine Martin, head of U.S. Dictionaries at Oxford University Press.

The use of reckoning in this sense dates back to the 14th century, although the first use of the phrase day of reckoning is not found until 1547, Martin said.  

"But I wonder how many times people use it today and actually think of the Day of Judgment," said Tim Machan, a professor of English at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in Medieval literature. "For the most part, it's used metaphorically. It's used to suggest something momentous." 

The word was already being used in a secular sense by the end of 14th century. 

According to Martin, "The way that reckoning is being used to refer to contemporary discussions about sexual harassment," fits best with the sixth meaning of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary, "defined as ‘the settlement of accounts or differences between parties’ or ‘the settling of scores or grievances.’ This combines the two main strands of the word’s meaning, which have to do with accounting for actions, on the one hand, and with the numerical calculation, as of financial accounts, on the other." 

OK, what about other reckonings?

History is full of moments that were considered reckonings. The term has been applied to everything from the Protestant Reformation to the reconciliation process following the end of South African Apartheid. The Civil War has been viewed as the United States' reckoning with slavery, although many would argue we are still in the middle of the country's reckoning with its legacy of slavery. 

The Catholic Church faced its own reckoning in the past decades over its long history of covering up sexual abuse. Thousands of accusations eventually led to thousands of priests being defrocked or sanctioned, more than $1 billion in settlements and forced several dioceses to file for bankruptcy protection. 

More: Across the nation, priest sexual abuse cases haunt Catholic parishes

Although Machan found the term is actually used rather sparingly — similar terms like crusade and jihad appear more frequently — the term has often appeared in popular culture from Shakespeare into the present.

In the 1993 film Tombstone, an ailing Doc Holliday, colorfully played by Val Kilmer, commented on the bloody war his friend Wyatt Earp was waging on a gang of outlaws who killed one of his brothers. 

"Make no mistake, it's not revenge he's after. It's a reckoning," the insightful Holliday drawls, implying that his friend's fight runs deeper than mere vengeance.  

Similarly, the #MeToo movement and its corollaries have unleashed a war of retribution upon a host of powerful men who have gotten away with misconduct for far too long.

Framing it as a reckoning makes this moment something more than a backlash. It implies that the score is being settled, and that it will be settled no matter who or what is taken down in the process. 

A reckoning implies, "maybe almost optimistically, something that is coming to a decision," Machan said. "The way you cannot turn back the Day of Judgment, you cannot turn back this day of reckoning."

Indeed, much of the rhetoric around the sexual harassment reckoning implies this moment will resolve the issue, as is implicit in the #TimesUp message from the Golden Globes. 

"I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon," Oprah Winfrey said in her rousing Golden Globes speech. "And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'Me too' again."

  • NY AG says Harvey Weinstein Co. covered up abuses
    NY AG says Harvey Weinstein Co. covered up abuses
  • Lawsuit puts sale of Harvey Weinstein company on hold
    Lawsuit puts sale of Harvey Weinstein company on hold
  • N.Y files lawsuit saying Harvey Weinstein threatened to kill employees
    N.Y files lawsuit saying Harvey Weinstein threatened to kill employees
  • Uma Thurman: Weinstein 'tried to expose himself'
    Uma Thurman: Weinstein 'tried to expose himself'
  • Rose McGowan's harsh words for Weinstein's 'complicity machine'
    Rose McGowan's harsh words for Weinstein's 'complicity machine'
  • Kitsch: removing Weinstein name from new show 'a no-brainer'
    Kitsch: removing Weinstein name from new show 'a no-brainer'
  • Weinstein accusers Tomei, Arquette name ‘silence breakers’ at SAG Awards
    Weinstein accusers Tomei, Arquette name ‘silence breakers’ at SAG Awards
  • Harvey Weinstein sued for Paz de la Huerta scheme
    Harvey Weinstein sued for Paz de la Huerta scheme
  • Did Harvey Weinstein blacklist this Oscar-winning actress?
    Did Harvey Weinstein blacklist this Oscar-winning actress?
  • Weinstein responds to Salma Hayek’s sexual misconduct allegations
    Weinstein responds to Salma Hayek’s sexual misconduct allegations
  • NYPD Building Rape Case Against Harvey Weinstein
    NYPD Building Rape Case Against Harvey Weinstein
  • The meteoric rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein
    The meteoric rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein
  • First Weinstein Co film released since scandal earns $742
    First Weinstein Co film released since scandal earns $742
  • Allred accompanies Weinstein accuser, seeks victims fund
    Allred accompanies Weinstein accuser, seeks victims fund
  • Ashley Judd on support over Weinstein: 'I feel loved'
    Ashley Judd on support over Weinstein: 'I feel loved'
  • Another woman accuses Harvey Weinstein of rape
    Another woman accuses Harvey Weinstein of rape
  • 4th woman Accuses Weinstein of assault
    4th woman Accuses Weinstein of assault
  • The Weinstein Co. under investigation as it continues to struggle
    The Weinstein Co. under investigation as it continues to struggle
  • Zendaya on Weinstein allegations: 'It's disgusting'
    Zendaya on Weinstein allegations: 'It's disgusting'
  • Clooney hopes 'something good' will come from Weinstein allegations
    Clooney hopes 'something good' will come from Weinstein allegations
  • Former actress accuses Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault
    Former actress accuses Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault
  • Lawyer says actress accusing Weinstein is scared
    Lawyer says actress accusing Weinstein is scared
  • Ex actress alleges Harvey Weinstein harassed her
    Ex actress alleges Harvey Weinstein harassed her
  • Harvey Weinstein's fall from Hollywood grace is far from over
    Harvey Weinstein's fall from Hollywood grace is far from over
  • Daniel Radcliffe talks Weinstein and sexual harassment
    Daniel Radcliffe talks Weinstein and sexual harassment
  • #MeToo: Women elevate Weinstein conversation
    #MeToo: Women elevate Weinstein conversation
  • Gabrielle Union hopes Weinstein scandal becomes day of reckoning for sexual predators
    Gabrielle Union hopes Weinstein scandal becomes day of reckoning for sexual predators
  • Actress Lena Headey shares Weinstein incident
    Actress Lena Headey shares Weinstein incident
  • Academy board members on Weinstein expulsion: 'Right choice'
    Academy board members on Weinstein expulsion: 'Right choice'
  • Gretchen Carlson: How to end the cycle of sexual harassment
    Gretchen Carlson: How to end the cycle of sexual harassment
  • The Academy revokes Harvey Weinstein's membership
    The Academy revokes Harvey Weinstein's membership
  • Weinstein Co. in talks to sell company to friend of President Trump
    Weinstein Co. in talks to sell company to friend of President Trump
  • #MeToo: They acted like sexual harassment was ‘normal’
    #MeToo: They acted like sexual harassment was ‘normal’
  • Michael Che, Colin Jost, Samantha Bee take down Weinstein in Best of Late Night
    Michael Che, Colin Jost, Samantha Bee take down Weinstein in Best of Late Night
  • People magazine analysis on Weinstein
    People magazine analysis on Weinstein
  • Women boycott Twitter after Rose McGowan silenced
    Women boycott Twitter after Rose McGowan silenced
  • Biden takes aim at Weinstein
    Biden takes aim at Weinstein
  • Mulligan and Farrell respond to Weinstein scandal
    Mulligan and Farrell respond to Weinstein scandal
  • Rita Moreno recounts sexual harrassment by studio exec
    Rita Moreno recounts sexual harrassment by studio exec
  • Weinstein scandal has celebs buzzing about harassment
    Weinstein scandal has celebs buzzing about harassment
  • Ben Affleck in hot water after tweeting about Weinstein
    Ben Affleck in hot water after tweeting about Weinstein
  • Seth MacFarlane explains his Harvey Weinstein Oscars joke
    Seth MacFarlane explains his Harvey Weinstein Oscars joke
  • Bening, Lovato, Robbie, Bell, more, talk Weinstein
    Bening, Lovato, Robbie, Bell, more, talk Weinstein
  • Weinstein latest from Hollywood Reporter
    Weinstein latest from Hollywood Reporter
  • Sexism in the workplace is real. Here's how to stop it.
    Sexism in the workplace is real. Here's how to stop it.
  • Lindsay Lohan defends and feels 'very bad' for Harvey Weinstein
    Lindsay Lohan defends and feels 'very bad' for Harvey Weinstein
  • More women are accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct
    More women are accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct
  • Hemsworth on Weinstein allegations: 'It's horrible, it's awful'
    Hemsworth on Weinstein allegations: 'It's horrible, it's awful'
  • Allred invites Weinstein to meet with accusers as another alleged victim speaks out
    Allred invites Weinstein to meet with accusers as another alleged victim speaks out
  • Harvey Weinstein's wife Georgina Chapman is leaving him
    Harvey Weinstein's wife Georgina Chapman is leaving him
  • Hillary Clinton spoke out against longtime donor Harvey Weinstein
    Hillary Clinton spoke out against longtime donor Harvey Weinstein
  • 'New Yorker' article alleges Harvey Weinstein raped three women
    'New Yorker' article alleges Harvey Weinstein raped three women
  • Outrage, finger-pointing as Weinstein scandal grips Hollywood
    Outrage, finger-pointing as Weinstein scandal grips Hollywood
  • The Weinstein Co. is trying to distance itself from Harvey
    The Weinstein Co. is trying to distance itself from Harvey
  • Donna Karan sorry after defending Harvey Weinstein
    Donna Karan sorry after defending Harvey Weinstein
  • Jenkins on Weinstein allegations: 'You can't treat people like that. It's horrible'
    Jenkins on Weinstein allegations: 'You can't treat people like that. It's horrible'
  • O'Donnell calls on women to speak out over abuse
    O'Donnell calls on women to speak out over abuse
  • Tessa Thompson on Weinstein: Why aren't men speaking out?
    Tessa Thompson on Weinstein: Why aren't men speaking out?
  • Jeff Bridges on Harvey Weinstein: 'his behavior was terrible.'
    Jeff Bridges on Harvey Weinstein: 'his behavior was terrible.'
  • Harvey Weinstein fired from his own company
    Harvey Weinstein fired from his own company
  • Mark Ruffalo on Weinstein: ‘What Harvey did is wrong’
    Mark Ruffalo on Weinstein: ‘What Harvey did is wrong’
  • Meryl Streep slams Weinstein's 'inexcusable' behavior
    Meryl Streep slams Weinstein's 'inexcusable' behavior
  • Weinstein fired after sexual harassment scandal
    Weinstein fired after sexual harassment scandal
  • Rosen: 'These allegations probably weren't that surprising'
    Rosen: 'These allegations probably weren't that surprising'
  • Attorney finds herself on a different side in Weinstein case
    Attorney finds herself on a different side in Weinstein case
  • Weinstein threatens lawsuit after sex harassment story
    Weinstein threatens lawsuit after sex harassment story
  • 'NYT': Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual harassment
    'NYT': Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual harassment

 

LINKEDIN 19 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2mFRebV