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We really need to do some soul searching about how this came to be, how it's persisted so long, and how we're going to actually solve the problem. The women's liberation movement of the 1970s stopped far short of structural change. Lacking actual power, and seeking employment opportunities above all else, women went from one form of subservience to another.
I recently asked my readers if they had experienced, or knew of, any positive results from #MeToo—results in the real world, not on the internet, and not involving famous people. There seemed to be some.
One of my readers wrote, "The 'me too' movement has had a most definite cleansing effect on me. Since then, I have now been able to work on my feelings and self judgments about 'being weak' with [a man in my life]. Have also decided I am 'not a slut or a whore' or any other nonsense. I had NO IDEA of the stored up hurt and shame and hurt I had in me all of these years."
Someone else wrote, "My manager, in a face-to-face meeting, asked me if any of his actions have ever made me feel uncomfortable in any way. They hadn't, and I appreciated his proactive approach, though I doubt that I would have felt comfortable sharing with him that they had, in the event that they had. It's a challenging issue to deal with regardless of how well-intentioned someone may be."
Hmm, that sounds like more of the same thing that got us here. Does someone need to tell women—even now—that nobody gives you a voice? You already have one, and you either use it, or you don't use it.
Then there's the third kind of response: concern from women about larger issues.
One reader in the UK responded for herself and her friends, "This #MeToo thing is making us all very uncomfortable. Of course, it's emotionally satisfying in many cases to see long-term sexually abusive predators like Weinstein get called out and pulled down, but one thing we've noticed (and worry about) is that: 1. Most of the pushback by Weinstein and other men has been against accusers who are women of color. 2. There's been false equivalence made between making a pass/minor groping and violent abuse or sustained harassment. 3. It's untrue that somehow everything will be okay if the film industry, Senate, or whatever is 'purified' without structural change. 4. The possibility of 'kicking 'em in the balls' (direct self-defense) has been absent. 5. The daily, sustained abuse of women at the lower end of the pay scale, especially women working in hotels or more private domestic settings, or by the state in prisons/detention centers, has been completely out of the discussion. 6. Structural solutions like universal basic income, which would give every woman more power to refuse, have been completely out of the discussion. Last, but certainly not least, we're also worried about the compete lack of any process to determine whether a claimed incident happened or not."
She concluded, "We've all seen others or actually been accused ourselves of being 'rape apologists' when we've tried to help abusive men stop abusing before this, and now are worried that if we try to have a more nuanced discussion in public about #MeToo, then we'll be accused of 'rape apology' all over again."
Tale of the Author of A Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood, author of A Handmaid's Tale, which is taken as the morality story of our day, wrote recently in the Globe and Mail about times in history when "the usual rules of evidence are bypassed." Many have pointed out that the men who have been taken out in the #MeToo trend have been "guilty because accused," and that this is not a useful legal or moral standard.
Atwood has a special place in the history of the women's movement, as one of its most articulate and inspiring authors and also as someone who has been repeatedly accused of being a bad feminist.
"Such things are always done in the name of ushering in a better world," Atwood wrote. "Sometimes they do usher one in, for a time anyway. Sometimes they are used as an excuse for new forms of oppression. As for vigilante justice—condemnation without a trial—it begins as a response to a lack of justice—either the system is corrupt, as in prerevolutionary France, or there isn't one, as in the Wild West—so people take things into their own hands.