A new video blog launched by Portland author Nancy Rommelmann and national freelance columnist Leah McSweeney has sparked protest for its defense of some prominent men who have been accused of sexual assault.
In the first episode, the two women talk about what they consider to be "toxic femininity" from "fame-eaters" Asia Argento and Rose McGowan, who are both actresses and two of the people who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.
In a subsequent episode, the women discuss what they say is the unfair treatment of the comedian Louis C.K.—who in 2017 was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.
"We had this whole clot of dudes being ensnared when MeToo came up, some very reasonably, some not," Rommelmann says in the video, "but if what we were 'supposedly outraged' about was that [Louis C.K.] was wanking off in front of women that didn't want him to do that—well we have to presume that he's stopped doing that […] So why are we still outraged? It's our hypersensitivity level."
Rommelmann, who has written for WW, is married to Din Johnson, the owner of Ristretto Roasters, a Portland coffee company. Her video blog has raised concern among current and former Ristretto employees—30 of whom have signed an open letter condemning the views expressed on the YouTube channel.
"The views shared are misguided, dangerous, and hurtful, and do not represent the values of the Ristretto employees signing off on this letter," the letter reads, "Invalidating assault survivors throws into question the safety of Ristretto Roasters as a workplace and has the potential to create a demoralizing and hostile environment for employees and customers alike. This cannot be tolerated."
Ristretto, which has four Portland locations, lists Rommelmann as "manager" of the business in state filings, but Rommelman says she hasn't been on the payroll or held a title "in years."
In response to employees' concerns yesterday morning, Johnson wrote in an email, "Nancy is neither an owner nor employee of Ristretto."
He continues, "Unless it's directly work-related; Ristretto remains politically neutral […] Trying to involve us in a fight we are not in is unfair to our employees, and to the business."
Camila Coddou, the letter's initiator, who was operations manager at Ristretto for five years before leaving the company in October, says Johnson's response is "a scare tactic," and that claims about Rommelmann's lack of involvement with the company are untrue.
She says Rommelmann was extremely involved in Ristretto's management.
"She has been a huge part of daily operations for so long," Coddou says. "Most of my interactions were with Nancy. To see your boss deny the experiences of sexual assault survivors in a public forum is pretty disheartening."
Rommelmann tells WW that the outrage is misplaced.
"Gosh, it's so not [Johnson's] or the employees' fight to fight," she writes in an email. "If people want to come after me, they are welcome to!"
She adds that her goal with the blog is to discuss "difficult subjects that it's easy to get shot down over."
"I have written about many people who use victimhood," she says. "Victimhood is very powerful; it elicits sympathy."
She continues: "It is absolutely not the case that I think the #MeToo movement is for attention seekers. Leah and I have stated in every episode that sexual assault and violence against women (and men) is real and a horror and people must be held accountable. It is also the case, as in any movement, there will be bad actors."