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Six Months in, #MeToo Has Become Infantilizing and Authoritarian

It’s six months since #MeToo began trending on social media. Since then, those two little words have sparked a conversation about the sexual harassment of women that has spread across the globe and into every walk of life. Half a year on it’s time to take stock and ask what women have gained from this movement.

The accusations made against Harvey Weinstein by numerous actors and employees and reaching back over decades are by now skin-crawlingly familiar. Yet the New York Times story in which actress Ashley Judd and others first publicly detailed Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct, leading to his resignation just three days later, could have made headlines for a week and then been consigned to history. Instead, the story continued apace and the list of victims—and those accused—grew.

One week later, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Milano hadn’t realized she was employing a phrase first coined by activist Tarana Burke as a means of offering solidarity to women victims of sexual violence. More than a decade later, and with celebrity backing, #MeToo spread rapidly to become a global movement that extended far beyond social media.

Joining in with #MeToo is an attractive proposition. Women sharing their stories become part of a community (albeit one that exists more in their imagination than in reality); they gain validation for their suffering and the moral beatification afforded to innocent victims. Significantly, #MeToo doesn’t appear to be about women wallowing in victimhood; on the contrary, it seems empowering. The more high-profile men that were accused, found guilty following trial by social media, and left with livelihoods and reputations ruined, the more the #MeToo movement grew emboldened.

No doubt some men have abused the power they held over women: they should be tried in a court of law and, if found guilty, punished accordingly. But those of us seriously concerned about women’s rights need to move beyond the euphoria of belonging to a powerful movement and honestly appraise the impact of #MeToo. When we do, we find a number of reasons to be concerned.

#MeToo has become an orthodoxy intolerant of criticism or even question. Women who have suggested that it may have gone too far, that conflating rape with crude flirtation risks trivializing serious incidents and falsely demonizing innocent men, have been hounded for thought crimes. Katie Roiphe [1] prompted outrage when it was rumored she might go public with a list of “shitty media men” that had been widely circulated among writers and journalists. Roiphe recalls that “Before the piece was even finished, let alone published, people were calling me ‘pro-rape,’ ‘human scum,’ a ‘harridan,’ a ‘monster out of Stephen King’s “IT”‘ a ‘ghoul,’ a ‘bitch,’ and a ‘garbage person.'” Catherine Deneuve [2] and over 100 other prominent French women were met with a similar tsunami of name-calling and criticism following their public letter comparing #MeToo to a witch hunt. The result has been a censorious closing down of debate through a crude division between “good women” who stick to the #MeToo script and “bad women” who digress.

Criticism of the wrong kind of women respects no limits. Film producer Jill Messick [3], best known for her work on Mean Girls and Frida, committed suicide in February. Messick worked for Weinstein’s Miramax between 1997 and 2003 and was manager for Rose McGowan in the late 1990s. As #MeToo gained ground, McGowan alleged she was raped by Weinstein and that Messick knew but did not take appropriate action. Messick was reportedly already suffering from depression; it seems unlikely that finding herself caught between McGowan and Weinstein, between claim and counterclaim, can have done much good for her mental health. The speed with which Messick was written out of history makes clear that to the #MeToo activists, some people’s lives are worth more than others.

#MeToo is a moral crusade where facts are readily sacrificed for the greater good of the cause. When it comes to declaring rape, sexual assault, or harassment, what matters to activists is not objective evidence that can be proved or disproved but the subjective feelings of the accuser. #MeToo has redefined sexual misconduct as unwanted behavior. As the case against actor Aziz Ansari [4] showed, defining abuse as unwanted behavior takes us into the realm of the bad date. Leaving a restaurant too early, pouring wine without asking, even attempting a kiss might all be considered rude, but they are only violations in the mind of the most zealous #MeToo crusaders. Women in such scenarios are robbed of all agency; apparently unable to say no, they are forced to rely on men’s presumed mind-reading skills to protect them from the unwanted. Not only does this pave the way for miscarriages of justice, it makes all interactions between men and women inherently risky.

change_me

It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that since #MeToo took off, surveys have suggested that men feel uncomfortable mentoring women [5] or working alone with them at the office. As a result, women’s opportunities for promotion may have been set back. And those women are lucky to have employment at all: thanks to concerns raised under the banner of #MeToo, women who worked as Formula 1 “grid girls” [6] have lost their jobs entirely. Putting women out of work they enjoy is now a feminist act. New York waitresses were, fortunately, having none of it when a group of Hollywood actresses began petitioning for an end to the restaurant tipping culture [7]. “Shut up!” came back their clear response.

The #MeToo movement treats women like children, incapable of ever standing up for themselves or being able to make their own choices in life. In the UK there have been calls for the street harassment of women—whistling and catcalling—to be made a criminal offense. Last week, the Screen Actors Guild [8] proposed a ban on “hotel auditions.” Its advice to women was that if a “safe venue” cannot be found for auditions then they should be accompanied by a “support peer.” We need to ditch the therapeutic language and call this what it is: a chaperone. Previous generations of feminists fought against such infantilizing protections. Today’s #MeToo activists are all too happy to see men demonized and women protected.

Six months on we can see that some women have certainly gained a louder voice thanks to the #MeToo movement. Sadly, all they can do with it is proclaim their own victimhood and demand greater protection. #MeToo, with its constant reiteration of outdated tropes of predatory men and vulnerable women, represents a major incursion into our personal freedoms. We need to challenge this crusade before it does any more damage.

Joanna Williams is the author of Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars [9].

34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "Six Months in, #MeToo Has Become Infantilizing and Authoritarian"

#1 Comment By Jon On April 18, 2018 @ 11:02 pm

Here’s a satirical take.

Jon.

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#2 Comment By polistra On April 19, 2018 @ 2:52 am

It didn’t go wrong. This is feminism. All of these themes have been present, and all of these consequences have been intentional, since Amelia Bloomer in the 1840s.

Most of it was already present around the time of Jesus.

Google “Hortensia 43 BC”.

#3 Comment By tz On April 19, 2018 @ 6:03 am

It started with Roy Moore being accused of something unprovable from decades earlier.
The fire burned through Franken and the rest, but that’s what happens when you dump due process for witch hunts.

Weinstein was a creep, but the converse is that actual crimes weren’t reported, or investigated (sort of like Bill Clinton who most of #MeToo old enough at the time knew about and voted for).

#4 Comment By Steve Pickard On April 19, 2018 @ 8:22 am

These movements ebb and flow until an equalibertim settles in. Experiments are suggested and tried and best practices will slowly be accepted.so informed criticism is important as various overreacting occurs. This movement too will have unfortunate extremes at each end of the spectrum.what will be troublesome is if the next generation or so of men falls back to mistreating women. Look at all social movements and sooner or later the lessons are lost. Best of luck with this one.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 19, 2018 @ 9:42 am

Whatever America does, it overdoes, and doesn’t care about collateral damage.

#6 Comment By Jack On April 19, 2018 @ 10:05 am

“it makes all interactions between men and women inherently risky.”

Indeed. More young men are not surprisingly deciding to limit unnecessary contact with women. The MGTOW movement is gaining strength.

A few years ago, a Google search on “MGTOW” only garnered about 50,000 hits. Today, it yields over 2 million. Brave new world!

#7 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 19, 2018 @ 10:24 am

Whatever America does, it overdoes, and doesn’t care about collateral damage.

+1000 to this, Fran Macadam.

And yes, this goes for every field of life, not just politics and regardless of what your politics are.

#8 Comment By mrscracker On April 19, 2018 @ 10:38 am

Fran Macadam says:

“Whatever America does, it overdoes,…”
****************
Absolutely agree. Great comment, thank you.

#9 Comment By Winston On April 19, 2018 @ 11:10 am

Are they too dumb to realize that the ‘#’ symbol simply meant “pound” long before it became a “hashtag” and what that implies for their #MeToo?

Apparently…

#10 Comment By EarlyBird On April 19, 2018 @ 1:17 pm

There is a lot of absurdity here, for sure, and it’s unsustainable absurdity. Most women don’t want to live in the ridiculous world which the #MeToo zealots want them to live in. Most women don’t want their husbands, brothers and sons to forever have the sword of Damacles dangling above their necks, to be dropped at the whim of a feminist fanatic. While the witch hunters make a lot of news and noise, the vast population made of reasonable, normal people resist the extremes.

#MeToo has so far been an angry, first expression of rage against some vile behavior, and yes, it has also injured some innocent men. But it will simmer down and, under the great weight of Reality, become an actually useful tool for necessary changes and adjustments, or it will burn itself out.

#11 Comment By Mick On April 19, 2018 @ 1:42 pm

This is an interesting article…It was even more interesting when I read the same exact thing at other outlets in December and January.

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#12 Comment By Dan Green On April 19, 2018 @ 2:28 pm

Certainly understand the Ladies viewpoint. For those of raised with old fashion manners, it has caused us to step back and avoid contact. Being afraid of your every gesture isn’t worth it. Complimenting an attractive lady is taboo.

#13 Comment By grumpy realist On April 19, 2018 @ 2:40 pm

Jack–somehow I think a society comprised of men who refuse to interact with women isn’t going to survive until the next generation.

Better get working on those uterine replicators, guys!

#14 Comment By krnewman On April 19, 2018 @ 3:12 pm

The important thing was that at no time should women ever be protrayed as capable of being perps, above all lesbians, nor was it very interested in children as victims and it wasn’t really interested in hearing about anything perpetrated by gay men. It was only about pretty white women victims of white men. The whole thing was too narrow to last. One hopes the next time it won’t be so narrow. Common cause will have more power.

#15 Comment By I’d rather keep working On April 19, 2018 @ 4:05 pm

Satire, snark, or any adjective you care to use, I am a low-level male employee of a company which contracts my butt to another company, which I’ll call Big State Semiconductor. A few days ago, in my cube minding my work, a person walked to my space, introduced herself to me, and engaged in a few minutes of conversation. She left. I went back to work. #Metoo has made it perfectly acceptable for her to do exactly that, but a high crime for me to do exactly that.

#16 Comment By john On April 19, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

You women are very ignorant . You don’t seem to understand that all you are doing is making men despise every single one of you . No more marriage, no more living together, no more children . Your sex has signed the death warrant of the human species . Don’t believe me ? Look at MGTOW- it’s now worldwide and grows by thousands daily . Men are no longer desiring to be involved with women in any matter , work , love/romance, relationships . You know not what you’ve done and the near future is going to be very difficult for you because you are evil and men will keep away from all of you . Now you’re not going to get any help period . Ask a guy to lift something heavy for you -nope , flat tire ? Change it yourself . Plumbing leak? Fix it yourself .electrical problems? Fix it yourself. Getting attacked in public? Don’t count on men saving you . I can keep going but i think you get the idea

#17 Comment By Male Matters USA On April 19, 2018 @ 5:08 pm

I sincerely believe it all could have been so very different — so much better — between men and women. Maybe there’s still hope. See what I think sets the stage for sexual harassment:

“In-depth: How We Waded Into The Sexual Harassment Quagmire — Taking the Long, Hard Path Out: One Man’s View” [14]

Though you may view this commentary as rather shocking, it’s probably the most thorough analysis you can find of what I think has for many decades been the sexes’ most alienating and destructive behavioral difference.

I believe this difference, supported by both sexes, results not only in most of the ordinary sexual harassment we hear of, but also in much of the sexual coercion of women.

It also addresses the question no one has asked: Is there such a thing as toxic femininity, and if so, how does it play into sexual harassment?

And what about toxic feminism?

#18 Comment By Something,Something On April 19, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

As soon as any movement springs up, the left has to control it. You see this everywhere. That is why the movement has become one sided, because they shut down all dissenting voices.

#19 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 19, 2018 @ 7:01 pm

“#MeToo has so far been an angry, first expression of rage against some vile behavior, and yes, it has also injured some innocent men. But it will simmer down and, under the great weight of Reality, become an actually useful tool for necessary changes and adjustments, or it will burn itself out.”

Laughing . . .

“California dreamin’ . . .”

including the suggestion that any of this has any legitimate foundation.

#20 Comment By dw On April 19, 2018 @ 9:16 pm

At my gym, I take Pilates classes where I am the only male. There is constant low level harassment. These are conduct code violations. I keep a written record of all incidents and when I decide the necessary time, I will formally complain about the instructor and participants, using my record as the basis of evidence.

At work, I listen closely to females making comments. If learn that any document containing derogatory statements about male colleagues are accessed or stored using company compute, or other, resources, or discussed during work hours, I will make formal complaint for sexual harassment.

I am old enough that I have sufficient money saved to back up my claims with legal action. I recommend other men to take similar steps, and if they have sufficient resources, back them up with necessary legal steps.

#21 Comment By Les Govment On April 19, 2018 @ 9:20 pm

I was initially supportive of the #MeToo movement, but it now appears that the movement has been hijacked by left-wing gynocentric feminists (read that, “left-wing female supremacists”).

In Germany, the #MeToo movement has failed to support the #120db movement (the #120db movement is speaking out against the problem of sexual assaults committed by immigrants.) Slovenian Youtuber Barbara4u2c addresses the situation in Germany in a video. Click here:

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There is a problem in Europe with a rise in sexual assaults being committed by immigrants (mainly from the Middle East). The problem is largely being ignored by the left-wing “progressive” politicians in Europe (it’s now evident that Muslims are being coddled by many European governments).

Shame on the #MeToo movement for not leading the charge against immigrant rapists in Europe.

More on #MeToo vs. #120db here:

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— Les Govment [17]
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#22 Comment By Seven Nintey Two On April 19, 2018 @ 9:39 pm

Since when is ‘pound me too’ an acceptable slogan against sexual harrassment?

#23 Comment By Chuckie On April 19, 2018 @ 11:24 pm

My wife and I talk about this subject and keep on wondering when the other shoe will drop…in that, at what point will women that use sexual attraction for power or advancement be caught in their own witch hunt. As Newton’s third law says: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

#24 Comment By Geoff On April 19, 2018 @ 11:29 pm

Speaking as a guy retired from both the military and private industry; If you think #METOO-ism is going to limit the opportunities for females to excel, you’d be right. It’s not equality, it’s being forced to treat women like a pit bull…you never know if it’s going to turn on you. Far better, easier, and safer to hire/work with men, and eliminate the hassle.

#25 Comment By Richard McEvoy On April 20, 2018 @ 4:16 am

The first instruction against sexual harassment can be found in the bible, written (allegedly) by that famous misogynist, Paul of Tarsus. “Do not rebuke an older man, but appeal to him as to a father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. ” 1 Tim 5:1,2.

The Pareto rule also means that not only is the hashtag #notallmen true, but the hashtag #hardlyanymen would be equally, if not more, true. For every 1000 Harvey Weinstein’s, there are a million David Schwimmers.

Finally, part of growing up is making mistakes – on both sides. So we need to be grown up about this. A guy who acts like some puerile adolescent in his early 20s is not the same guy who is a decent family man in his 40s. Are you really sure you want to burn him and his wife and his kids and his career for the sake of your own malicious satisfaction?

#26 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 20, 2018 @ 8:35 am

Don’t people find that the #MeToo phenomenon is disproportionately a Blue America phenomenon?

#27 Comment By Jack On April 20, 2018 @ 11:08 am

“grumpy realist says:
April 19, 2018 at 2:40 pm
Jack–somehow I think a society comprised of men who refuse to interact with women isn’t going to survive until the next generation.”

Of course, that’s the whole point. The fact that our progressive egalitarian society has made contact with women fraught with risk for men is a sign of the decadence and rot at the core of Western culture. This will not end well.

#28 Comment By M. Orban On April 20, 2018 @ 3:51 pm

No one of the female persuasion cares to comment?

#29 Comment By mrscracker On April 20, 2018 @ 4:31 pm

M. Orban says:

No one of the female persuasion cares to comment?”
***********
I think two or three of us have already.
🙂

#30 Comment By kevin on the left On April 20, 2018 @ 10:54 pm

“A few years ago, a Google search on “MGTOW” only garnered about 50,000 hits. Today, it yields over 2 million. Brave new world!”

A google search for “furry” gets you 123 million hits, so you brave incels still have ways to go.

#31 Comment By Mia On April 22, 2018 @ 7:51 pm

“No doubt some men have abused the power they held over women: they should be tried in a court of law and, if found guilty, punished accordingly.”

You’re joking, right? What is so hard to understand about the fact that people with outsized power will never, no matter how guilty, get near a court of law and held accountable? If you’ve ever had anyone with enormous political power decide they don’t like you, you are pretty much persona non grata at that point. Have you actually thought deeply and personally at all what it would be like to have to go against someone like Harvey Weinstein, his fixers and his media machine, on a practical level?

I know this is hard for some people to believe, that the world doesn’t really work according to the nice, neat platitudes that people throw around all of the time. The reality is very dirty and much crueler than you would imagine. Having seen what I have over the decades, I’m not particularly worried about the so-called excesses of this moment, since this is a long overdue corrective for a very ugly reality a lot of women are just told to put up with and shut up. Putting the fear of God in some of these people is a good thing.

#32 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 23, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

“What is so hard to understand about the fact that people with outsized power will never, no matter how guilty, get near a court of law and held accountable? If you’ve ever had anyone with enormous political power decide they don’t like you, you are pretty much persona non grata at that point.”

No flipping kidding. And that run can be on some completely immaterial, innocuous turn the accused party isn’t even aware of.

I have bitten my tongue on this matter – rather hard. Because I think my comments would be misappropriated and in my view over the line for prudence, even by the standards of Jim Carey – no offense Mr. Carey.

However, have seen and experienced some harsh realities, I am concerned about the excesses already on display. As for corrective action, I am not sure that women taking responsibility in real time wouldn’t resolve a good deal of this. I am not event sure how much of this there is to address.

Millions of women go through life saying no, to no negative consequence. In fact, given the pursuit model of male female relations, I would bet most women reject men all the time to no consequence. But turning every male female exchange into a consequence is abusive and destructive.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 24, 2018 @ 1:04 pm

An interesting find . . .

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safe space thinking for single males . . . or dating defensively

#34 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 24, 2018 @ 11:21 pm

Note: It would be utterly presumptuous, opportunistic and incorrect to conclude my reference to Dr. Fisher means that I subscribe to her ethos or moral perspective as to relational communication or that my constitution governing intimate expression has shifted one iota. But she does posit some very conservative and concrete concepts about male female dynamics.