Media Partners | Contributors | Advertise | Contact | Log in | Friday 3 February 2023

As a counter-movement picks up steam, it's important to remember why #MeToo started in the first place


Share This Article:

It’s been under three months since the Harvey Weinstein scandal propelled a powerful socio-cultural movement yet without a formal name, but already there are those who are protesting that things have been taken too far, comparing sexual harassment allegations and the #MeToo campaign to a McCarthyite witch-hunt against men.

The backlash against this upset in norms of relations between gender and power was explicit in a recent article by The Associated Press and shared by CBS Los Angeles, the Washington Post, Daily Mail, and other high-circulation media outlets titled “In Wake of Weinstein, Men Wonder If Hugging Women Still OK.” The men interviewed were quick to portray themselves as the victims of such situations, lamenting over what they viewed as new generational attitudes they did not understand.

“Have we gotten to the point now where men can’t say, ‘That’s a nice dress’ or ‘Did you do something with your hair?’”, asks Steve Wyard, a sales associate.

He feels the need to continue, “The potential problem is you can’t even feel safe saying, ‘Good morning’ anymore.” Reactions like his, which have been a constant, shadowy undercurrent to high-profile sexual harassment cases, not only attempt to draw the narrative away from victims but also trivialises the experiences of survivors of assault.

Matt Damon’s most recent comments in an interview with Business Insider where he expresses his belief that men in Hollywood who aren’t sexual predators should be talked about more, further exemplifies that such statements and discussions, more than laughable, are an ominous sign that a backlash against the #MeToo movement, for lack of a better name, is already emerging.

This whole ‘not all men’ attitude intrinsic in such comments is not only unhelpful to the narrative, it also actively hinders it. It is a derailment tactic for the focus to move away from the real issue, a defensive stance that does not add to the conversation but sidetracks it.  

Then there are those, fewer but more vocal, who work actively to silence women’s voices. After all, the history of progressivism and social justice has always to an extent, been a pendulum; with every swing forward, there will inevitably be those who seek to swing it back, to reinforce the oppressive system that benefits them.

A handful of examples are highlighted in Nesrine Malik’s The Guardian piece, each more ridiculous, repugnant and transparent than the next. Charles Moore’s claim that “women are now on top”, Peter Hitchens’ article “What will women gain from all this squawking about sex pests? A niqab”, or Brendan O’Neill’s claim that “the prudish purging of political life is a sinister menace to democracy”; we are spoilt for choice.

Yes, this is on one rather extreme end of a broad spectrum when it comes to recent reactions to the #MeToo movement and its consequences. However, it is a manifestation of a larger struggle by those in power to keep stable the status quo, and one which cannot be ignored and should not be dismissed as a fringe, radical view. As more CEOs, media moguls, and politicians continue to be toppled from the highest rungs of society, expect this countermovement to gain traction amongst those with a vested interest in maintaining a patriarchal system of power.

As more men claim that they will be far more careful in their interactions with women, “because they felt that the line between friendliness and sexual harassment was too easy to cross”, as they begin to follow ‘the Pence rule’, choosing to avoid women rather than assume responsibility for rectifying their own social conditioning, this will lead us ever further from the #MeToo movement’s purpose.

Not only are their pretensions that there exists some sort of grey area between appropriate social interactions and sexual assault absurd and deeply disturbing, these are also selfish and lazy responses by men.

Rather than re-examining their own behaviours, they would rather penalise women by severing ties with them, alienating them in the workplace and planting yet another obstacle to their career advancements, whilst comfortably keeping their positions and refusing to upset the established order.

The popular complaint that this has all ‘gone too far’ exposes that men do believe that some degree of unwanted sexual advances is normal, and it is a woman’s natural role to tolerate it men’s such behaviours. Why must women insist on rocking the boat, and compromise a system that has been so comfortably stable for so many years?

Such attitudes, if widely adopted, will set the feminist movement back decades. Men’s immediate reaction to the potential of their power being undermined, if the last couple of months are any indication, is either to act as though women are overreacting or to close off professional relations with women, in fear that they too, will fall ‘victim’ to allegations of sexual harassment. All this does is reinforce a patriarchal status quo, a systematic socio-economic gender discrimination that keeps women silent.

Pretending the #MeToo movement is women overreacting is a particular brand of rape culture, in which we are expected to believe that men lack the basic social skills to know the difference between wanted and unwanted advances, as though boundaries are just a symptom of political correctness gone too far. Simultaneously, this so-called ‘Pence Rule’ that is being adopted is just promoting an updated ‘separate spheres’ ideology, one that has been wielded against women for centuries to keep them in a position subservient to men. Both these attitudes are symptoms of a countermovement that will undoubtedly get stronger before it gets weaker. And we all will have to weather it before real change can begin. In Sandra Muller’s words, “I’m sure the road will be long and difficult, but it will be positive in the end”.

Articles: 29
Reads: 197423
© 2023 is a website of Studee Limited | 15 The Woolmarket, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 2PR, UK | registered in England No 6842641 VAT # 971692974