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Using Gender as a Ploy in Sexual Harassment Cases

By Lilith Turman


“The pendulum is swinging so far in the overly sensitive direction that men can’t really be men, and women can’t really be women. (...) Women may rue the day that all of this started when no one asks them out on a date, and no one holds the door open for them, and no one tells them that they look nice” (Taken from comments made by Donna Rotunno during an interview with Vanity Fair).

On March 11, Harvey Weinstein, a man accused of sexual misconduct by more than 22 women was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Though many considered his conviction, and subsequent sentence, was a step forward for the #MeToo movement, the whole case was riddled with corruption and gender politics. It’s evident that Weinstein’s case involved issues beyond sexual misconduct. 

At the head of these issues is none other than Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno.


It’s been suggested that Weinstein was specifically looking for a woman to run his defense.

A woman defending a man accused of sexual assault crimes looks a lot better to the press and, more importantly, to the jury. With a woman defending a man accused of such crimes, spectators may assume, “He must be innocent—right?“ That’s because it is often assumed that a woman wouldn’t support a man who has done such crimes against women. Whether he intended it or not, a woman supporting Weinstein in court automatically gave him an air of innocence. 

That’s why it was no surprise to Rotunno when she got the call. That’s what Rotunno does. She’s made a name for herself defending men accused of sex crimes.


Before the massive amounts of allegations against Weinstein started pouring in, Rotunno was already positioning herself on the opposite end of the #MeToo movement. 

As a critic of the movement, she called it dangerous. She protested that the movement was coming at too high of a cost, that the world was rushing to destroy men’s reputations. Jane Maning, former New York City sex crimes prosecturor and rape survior advocate, went as far as to say “Her [Rotunno] willingness to claim that #MeToo has gone too far is attached to a steady stream of big paychecks, but is not supported by the facts.” In light of Rotunno’s client history, it’s hard to deny Maning’s words. 


Rotunno began her time with Weinstien with a bang. 

Shortly after she had agreed to lead his defense team, she published a Newsweek op-ed titled “How the Media is Keeping Harvey Weinstien From the Fair Trial He Deserves,” where she continues to attack the #MeToo movement. 

Within her op-ed, she claims that Weinstien is innocent from the crimes he is accused of and these “so-called ‘activists’ have already determined him guilty.” She believed that his trial would not be ruled fairly because of the media frenzy surrounding him. 

Rotunno has attempted to rally like-minded skeptics of #MeToo to discredit the media and the movement entirely. For one, she routinely uses extremely violent and slandering language when speaking of the movement in the media. By saying things like “force fed,” “tainted the jury pool,” and “sharpening their knives,” about members of the movement, she makes the advocates of the movement sound like the criminals. 

But who’s really the criminal here?


Rotunno’s aggression doesn’t just follow her into her writing. It also gets carried into the courtroom. 

Rotunno sees her gender as a valuable weapon in court and uses it on the sexual assault survivors she cross examines. This is evidenced when Rotunno states, 

He may be an excellent lawyer, but if he goes at that woman with the same venom that I do, he looks like a bully. If I do it, nobody even bats an eyelash. And it’s been very effective. 

Does this mean she isn’t concerned with the truth? Rotunno appears to admit she’ll do whatever it takes to win a case, even if that means using her gender as a ploy in court rather than defending the truth. Rotunno has shown that she is willing to be harsh and “bully” women because she knows it will help her in court and that she can get away with it. 

This isn’t justice. 


Rotunno and other women who actively and violently reject the #MeToo movement are dangerous to sexual assault survivors and women everywhere. They reject solidarity between women. 

Rotunno has routinely been seen to use her position as a lawyer to hurt women instead of supporting and representing them. Instead of seeking the truth in court, Rotunno rather seems to seek the truth she wants to believe. 

Rotunno believes that the #MeToo movement and feminists have gone too far and uses this as a defense for her actions in and out of the courtroom. 

Well, Rotunno, we think you’ve gone too far.  


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