This isn’t news to you as it’s something I’ve written about before (here, here and here) but in the midst of the latest social media movement #MeToo I find myself writing about it again. This is about sexual violence and frankly is a bit of a rant, so feel free not to read on if either of those things bother you.
Harvey Weinstein wasn’t a surprise.
Woody Allen’s attitude to Harvey Weinstein wasn’t a surprise.
To a certain extent, #MeToo wasn’t a surprise. We’ve had #YesAllWomen, #RapeCultureIsWhen, #AllMenCan, #WhyIStayed and countless others I’m sure I’ve missed thanks to a decreasing amount of time spent on Twitter (Twitter is like crack to Wanda).
What has surprised me about #MeToo is my own reaction to it. I find myself…not…really…giving…a…shit.
On the one hand, yes, of course it is important. According to the BBC, since Sunday night, the hashtag has been used by men and women over 200,000 times – instant scale. Mass market. Hi, hello, we’re here, there and everywhere *waves*, look how many of us there are! So that’s one good thing, it’s hitting its objective of reminding somebody up there in the echelons of power that there are quite a substantial number of us wafting around. Just in case they weren’t aware. Which apparently they still aren’t.
Another good thing is the number of posts I’ve seen from people saying that they’ve never previously talked about their experience in public. That’s awesome. This kind of experience is spectacularly isolating. No matter how many times I talk about it, I still feel fucking lonely. I’ve still only ever met one rape survivor in person, despite the vast number of people it happens to, but then that’s the power of silence. To be fair, it’s a bit of a gamble as a conversation starter – “oh just me? Ok, sorry, as you were…”
#MeToo is important for those who needed the sanctuary of a mass movement to be able to say those words – whether it’s just saying them in their own head, or out loud or on social media. To all of you out there who have posted a #MeToo status with your experience, or who haven’t because you’re not ready, you matter. What happened to you matters and I believe you. Talk about it when you’re ready, or choose never to speak about it. That choice is yours, and yours alone.
So in the face of a movement that is giving a voice to people like me, why don’t I care?
I don’t care because I do care. I care that these hashtags are two a penny and yet never make a fucking difference. Harvey Weinsteins are two a penny, Brock Turners are two a penny, Woody Allens are two a penny, sexual predators are two a penny because they’re not some kind of minority species. Sexual predatory-ness is a state of mind that has existed for centuries as a result of our backward attitudes to sex, women’s bodies and toxic masculinity. We can #MeToo until the cows come home, but a self-confessed “pussy grabber” will still be in the White House and defence lawyers will still fall back on the old “oh are you sure you’re not here because you actually regretted having sex with this guy but were too embarrassed to tell your friends?” (genuine question).
I don’t care because I do care about what other people say. That we’re still talking about clothes and beauty as if that made any difference in the moment that we were pushed over the threshold between being a #NotMe and being a #MeToo. Rape is about power not about sex, but tweets and blogs and throwaway comments about what we wear, what we say, where we go, when we dare to take up space are still thrown around. In fact, they’re two a penny.
I don’t care because I particularly do care about the people who aren’t in the #MeToo club. You’ll know them, because they’re the ones entering the conversation talking about how there are different levels of membership in #MeToo so certain people don’t qualify, or they’re talking about how this movement is inherently man hating. Yes, I 100% agree that in these times of women trying to stand up for the oppression they’ve faced for generations, it can be difficult for the oppressed men to stand up too. For male survivors of sexual violence it is doubly difficult to stand up and speak because they face the additional layer of stigma – the “real men fight back” or the “does this mean you’re gay?“, or the “but women don’t abuse men” (spoiler alert: they do). However, ask the vast majority of #MeToo women and they’ll tell you the reason they’re in the club is because of a man. A lot of the #MeToo men will too. It doesn’t mean women don’t abuse, but there’s a common thread that men appear to abuse more.
I care about the “Stop Hating Men” people because they irk me. Unintentionally or not, they fuel the seething, pernicious, self-doubt that has been drummed into us, the very doubt that stalks us days, months, years, decades later. The doubt that is the reason we’re #MeToo-ing in the first place, that makes us think maybe our reason for #MeToo-ing wasn’t really rape/assault/abuse/that bad* (*delete as appropriate) because the person doing it didn’t fit the sexual predator stereotype. They were pretty nice on those other occasions, and remember most men aren’t like that so this man probably wasn’t really that sort of man, it was an innocent mistake/poor judgement/symptomatic of a “sex addiction”* (*delete as appropriate). In fact, it was most likely my fault.
If the people inside #MeToo think it’s a man-hating movement, that’s one thing. It’s when the people outside of it think it’s just another man-hating movement, particularly the ones who aren’t Mens Rights Activists, they’re just everyday people who have the privilege of not needing to get it. Well, I’m sorry, today I don’t have time. Because I’ve spent too much time caring about not seeming like a “Man Hater” when in reality, it was a man who handed me my membership to #MeToo so I have the right to be a bit wary of other men who might seek to reinforce that membership. I’ve spent too much time adding disclaimers to make sure people know that I know that there are millions of men who haven’t ever and would never do anything like that to another person. Just because that’s true, it doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to say our piece about that man or those men who did do that, will do that, and are probably doing it right now. Not like they’re a different species – they’re just men. All mixed in together with those who do and those who don’t, and none of them with a badge to help us spot the difference. I will reiterate again that I know it is not just men. The abusive women don’t wear badges either, but my point is that just because we’re speaking out against the men who do, doesn’t mean we’re hating on the men who don’t. Until you’ve felt that very particular rage that the actions of one person can cause such a far-reaching impact, you don’t get to turn round and accuse us of indiscriminate man-hating.
If someone (of any gender) has steeled themselves to speak on social media about their experience of #MeToo and you haven’t had that experience, sit down, shut up and listen. Listen to them and you might just find that they are not man haters. Listen to them, and worry about them rather than the men who may have had their feelings hurt by a movement that doesn’t exist just to wound their pride.
I don’t care because I Am Worn Down by all the caring.
This will undoubtedly spark a few “you should just not read this stuff“, or “you’re just looking at the negatives” or some other equally nonsensical platitudes being sent my way. Please see my original point about the scale of #MeToo, I’d have to be hiding under a rock not to hear about it. More importantly, that is not my point. #MeToo being an unavoidably big thing is not the problem, it’s great (unless you are triggered by it, I have been there and I’m sorry that you are having to go through it). It being a big thing that will fade away into the ether after a week or two with no discernible improvement to the rates of assault or the experiences of assault survivors is not. Excuse me if I don’t hold out hope that retweeting a hashtag will give women’s charities more funding, or improve the likelihood of rape convictions or give me more confidence to walk around in the dark; and please excuse me further for feeling worn down by how much that bothers me.
I don’t care about #MeToo because I’m part of #MeToo, part of #YesAllWomen, part of the ‘1 in 3’ or ‘1 in 4’ or ‘1 in 5’, whatever way you want to cut the statistics. As sorry as I might be to say it or write it, being part of #MeToo puts me in a position to tell you that #MeToo will not change a damn thing.