Demanding a solution revolution
Call me a cynic but one of the first things I thought about the #MeToo movement was, ‘Wow, the backlash is gonna hurt.’ And sure enough, it came.
The first wave was clunky, pathetic and predictable. Within hours of the Harvey Weinstein scandal breaking, Ann Coulter, writing in Breitbart, described the survivors as ‘ugly girls taking their revenge on pretty girls’. It’s such a playground response that she might as well wrap it up by pulling their pony tails and stealing their lunch money. Anyway, there are hardly any ‘unattractive’ women in Hollywood.
That’s part of the problem. Valuing women on their looks is part of the problem.
Next we were told that women wearing glamorous black clothing to the Golden Globes are ‘vain’. If they want to demand fair and equal treatment, they must do so while wearing a sackcloth. But in front of hundreds of cameras, hooked up to the global media machine that makes or breaks careers, is it really a crime to want to look nice?
Judging women on what they wear is part of the problem.
On top of this, the #MeToo-ers are accused of stupidity: they’re focused on the wrong issue here. They’ve picked the wrong target. What about the real bad eggs? Column inches after column inches of whataboutery. It’s the equivalent of calling the Cat Protection charity and shouting, ‘WHAT ABOUT THE DOGS, YOU BASTARDS?’
Telling women what to do is part of the problem.
We’re also greedy. Women put millions of dollars into the ‘Times Up’ fund – created in response to #MeToo – to help other women but it’s apparently not enough. Sat next to me on BBC Radio 4’s Today Show, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine complained that ‘quite a lot of [those who had donated] get paid quite a lot more than that…’ Women earn less than men across the board but unless we surrender all of it, or most of it, it’s not enough.
Telling women who fight for a cause that they need to do more is part of the problem.
Demanding women ask nicely – in the right way and in the right outfit – for their basic human right to not be harassed or assaulted is a symptom of the problem we’re trying to solve. The fact is that every woman who shares their own #MeToo stories, wears black, chips in, speaks up – including those who fight back by quietly and determinedly getting on with their lives – is a part of the solution.
None of these women are the problem. The men who rape, assault, abuse, harass and discriminate are the problem.
Feminists like me see #MeToo as part of a larger movement we call feminism. Our history stretches back to those ‘ugly’, ‘vain’, ‘stupid’, ‘greedy’ suffragettes (and remember that term was originally intended as an insult too) and way beyond.
When you see #MeToo within the wider sweep of feminism you quickly realize that whatever they’re calling us, we’ve heard it a thousand times before. If real change is to happen, and I believe it can, we must remember that weathering the backlash is just as important as fighting back.
This article will appear in the March issue of New Internationalist magazine.