Something is in the air. Something electric and powerful and raw, born of frustration and anger and that special purpose that comes from feeling powerless for so long that you just get sick of it and finally do something. Sexual misconduct in the United States — harassment, assault, and everything in between, right down to the little comments that serve to demean and dehumanize women — are having a moment of reckoning. And not just for visible men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. No, this reckoning is happening everywhere.
A popular bar in Louisville, Kentucky has been effectively closed down after the owner was accused of sexual assault. Following allegations of rape, the staff quit in solidarity with the alleged victim.
On Nov. 13, using the #MeToo hashtag, Westley Moore made a public Facebook post alleging that Haymarket Whiskey Bar owner Matthew Landan had raped her. In the comments, she said that it happened in 2013. As a result of her post, several others came forward with accusations of sexual assault again Landan—and the entire bar staff has quit, refusing to work for an accused rapist.
Landan had initially posted to Facebook the following statement when he just had one accuser:
Last night, out of the blue, an individual posted a meme of me and made serious, false, malicious and defamatory allegations. Following that was an avalanche of responses that seemed to take this person’s allegations for the unquestioned truth and the story has taken off from there. I do not know this person and I do not know why she is making these horrendous and outrageous claims about me, but they are not true. I will have an additional statement soon.
Which is the all-too-familiar tack taken by people accused of sexual assault: This person is crazy. (And, for what it’s worth, false rape accusations only make up anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of all rape allegations.) It reads like gaslighting—a tactic often used by abusers. But more accusers have come forward, and Landan’s post—along with his Facebook—have since disappeared.
Haymarket manager Eric Snider told Eater, “I will comfortably say that every employee refused to open the bar and quit. But we all would like the focus to be on the victims and the crime. Not us. We aren’t important here.”
People in the comments section of Moore’s post have also been discussing how else to make sure Landan is no longer allowed to be a part of the Louisville bar and restaurant scene, and several musicians and DJs have reportedly announced that they will no longer do business with Landan. There is even a public protest planned for the evening of Friday, Nov. 17. The official event title is “Protest of Matthew Landan and Rape Culture.”
The Landan protest event name gives us an idea of what this is about, above and beyond the disturbing allegations against Landan himself: It’s about victims of sexual misconduct hitting a wall, being sick of not being believed. It’s about all the ways in which the U.S. normalizes sexual violence and gender discrimination. It’s about so much more than Landan, and yet, Landan is everything that people have been rallying against for weeks.
This is a small but powerful example of how the conversation around sexual assault in the United States has started to change in recent weeks. It’s a culture that thrives on not being talked about. Which is why Weinstein and Spacey and Louis C.K. and all the others were able to thrive for so long, despite their dark secrets. But, again, this isn’t just about the hugely powerful—those at the top. This is also about the everyday bosses, the people who aren’t going to grab headlines across the U.S., the people who can sink into anonymity far too easily.