The endless, relentless eruptions of sexual abuse and harassment scandals can sometimes seem like a particularly grim form of Zeno’s dichotomy paradox.
Back in the fifth century B.C., the Greek philosopher described how a runner on the path to a particular destination must first traverse half the distance, and then half the remaining difference, and then half the remaining distance, and so on — to infinity. By that logic, the runner can take steps toward a goal but will never actually reach it.
Similarly, each time a powerful man is held accountable for sexual misconduct, it seems like progress. And yet, when the allegations reveal a similar pattern of institutional actions that allowed the abuse to go on for years, and they provoke the same reactions of denial and victim-blaming, it can appear as if society is no closer to a future in which women can go about their ordinary lives without being harassed, assaulted and coerced into silence.