#MeToo is Nothing New

Even James Joyce’s Ulysses depicts workplace sexual harassment

Dr. Casey Lawrence

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Reading Ulysses in today’s social and political climate necessarily means grappling with concepts that James Joyce could never have predicted when he first published the provocative novel in 1922. The past couple of years have been particularly revealing when it comes to the pervasiveness of workplace sexual harassment, a problem that has quietly existed for as long as there has been working women — which is to say, for as long as there have been women. Although the origins of the Me Too Movement can be found in Tarana Burke’s workshops starting in 2007, the hashtag took the world by storm when it went viral in October 2017. After the New York Times exposed decades of harassment claims against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, an overnight explosion of tweets and Facebook posts detailing experiences of assault or harassment ensued, leading to the increased visibility of workplace sexual harassment. Although many have argued that James Joyce was a man ahead of his time — forward in his thinking and occasionally prophetic in his diagnosis of Ireland’s current and future problems — he was not a time traveler. His use of a chorus of “me too” (Ulysses 15.1075, here as elsewhere cited by chapter and line number) between women accusing Leopold Bloom of sexual harassment is mere coincidence, though one which might…

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Dr. Casey Lawrence

Canadian author of three LGBT YA novels. PhD from Trinity College Dublin. Check out my lists for stories by genre/type.