The Twisted Library — January 10, 2019 at 2:05 pm

An Anthology of Evil Men: A Step Forward or Backward for #MeToo?

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Esme Oliver’s memoir An Anthology of Evil Men is a no holds barred tell-all that vacillates between the challenges faced by a woman in love, and the challenges faced by a woman in the workplace. As Oliver grapples with what to do with her life, from her first job on Capitol Hill, to law school, to a high-powered law firm specializing in health care, the problems she faces in her personal life begin to bleed into her professional one.

Bad habits formed as a naive post graduate follow Oliver throughout her life, manifesting into overworking, under-eating, and self-medicating with alcohol and cigarettes. She throws herself into her work in the pursuit of purpose, of affecting change, and simultaneously throws herself into a pseudo-relationship with a man named Alex who won’t commit to her. After a few months of stringing her along, he moves to New York to become an investment banker, encouraging her to visit anytime. When she takes him up on the offer, it’s nothing short of a disaster, and if his treatment of her before was bad, this was abominable. She goes back to DC, prepares for law school, and begrudgingly moves on.

In law school she meets a man named Paul, who has a girlfriend. Oliver quickly ingratiates herself into his life, and he leaves his girlfriend for her. Paul is self-involved, controlling, and a source of extreme pain and turmoil over the course of the next few years. After taking the bar, Oliver secures a well-paying job at a law firm in Boston where she specializes in health care. Paul takes a job in Providence, Rhode Island for significantly less money, cementing the divide between them economically, as well as geographically.  Despite her gut feeling that they shouldn’t work together, she gets Paul an interview at her law firm. He gets the job, their relationship disintegrates, and she falls apart.

Reeling from her breakup with Paul, Oliver leaves the East Coast and moves to Nashville to start over.  While there is no tumultuous relationship here that derails her mental stability, Oliver is repeatedly sexually harassed by a partner at the firm, someone she’d come to view as a mentor. Although there was tangible evidence to his inappropriate behavior, Oliver refuses to report it, and leaves Nashville all together.

Back in DC, Oliver tries to piece her life back together. She gets a demanding job on the staff of a well-known senator from Idaho, whose chief of staff is one of the most domineering and misogynistic men on the Hill. Her new boyfriend, a successful tech lobbyist, begs her to leave politics and work in the private sector. In the senator’s office, she has to manage low-level lawyers, court lobbyists and other staffers at happy hours and other social events, and is regularly propositioned for sex by her boss, who simultaneously threatens to fire her on a regular basis.

Eventually she quits, moves to New York, and takes up with a man named Silas, who suffers from clinical depression. Once again, she becomes wrapped up in his world, adopting his hobbies and conforming to his idea of the perfect woman.

In each relationship, the common denominator that keeps her hanging on leads back to sex. Even as an adult, Oliver’s romantic relationships are rooted in the physical side of things, where she forms deep attachments to men who are just plain bad for her.

While Oliver’s story is important, and the sexual harassment she has been subject to is egregious, the choices she makes in her personal life make it difficult to sympathize with her as a narrator. In the era of #MeToo, women coming forward to tell their stories deserve all the airtime we can give them.

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