This October marks two years of the Me Too movement. Can you believe that? It’s been two years since the Weinstein allegations. One year since Dr Ford gave testimony. Mere days since news broke Boris Johnson groped a female journalist.
Two years but has anything changed?
A lot has happened. A lot has not changed.
Year one felt like the universe coming to terms with the sexual harassment and assault womxn face on a daily basis, year two opened the doors to a more nuanced discussion on sex and relationships across the genders, year three feels like we need to start again at the beginning.
Because the root of the cause is not in one bad man, nor a couple of bad men. If it was it would be easy; we would simply kill the bad men. But the situations and circumstances that have left us in a position where the President of the US and Prime Minister of the UK and the men running Hollywood and our spotify top tens, and the royal family and the millionaires and billionaires and tech giants and supreme court judges are some of the absolute worst of the bad men.
When the worst of the bad men are in charge without consequences it’s easier to excuse some of the middle bad men, the ones who’ve never been involved in child sex trafficking, for who they are and what they are doing. How do we have the energy to be mad at the creepy dude who didn’t understand your no in a bar when the people in charge of the world are assaulting and raping and grooming women and children and getting away with it?
We need to go back to basics.
The discourse around gender politics has never been more fluid, I think. We (as a whole) have a much better grasp of concepts and more language than before to describe and discuss and dismantle the existing structures of oppression. New words and phrases and concepts have entered the mainstream dialogue.
We’re talking about active consent much more I think. At least some of us are. We know something doesn’t have to be bad before it is wrong, nor wrong before it is bad. We have been learning to live in the grey, explore the nuances, be comfortable in the idea that right and wrong aren’t absolutes but a sliding scale that shifts from interaction to interaction. We know that is true for ourselves, now we need to focus on learning that it is true for others. Just as you wanted that greasy kebab one time when you were drunk on the way home from the club doesn’t mean it is what you want at 9am on a Tuesday. Just because she felt one way about a situation one time doesn’t mean she will feel that way about a situation all of the time. We, as a people, are mostly cool with that now which is great progress, I think.
Men seem more open to the idea that they have unlearning and learning to do around the power their gender holds. Maybe it’s just the people I surround myself with, or maybe my friends (my men) have been paying attention to my feminist rants for the past two years.
But it feels like now we are having these discussions on a much more granular level about what is and isn’t good or right the misogyny is slipping out in other ways. Grown men on the internet shouting at an autistic 16 year old girl who is scared of dying. Attacks on the trans community (because there is something suspicious about somebody who was assigned male at birth daring to live as a woman — being a woman is bad don’t you know). We can’t have a female Oceans 11/Ghostbusters/Captain America. Repeat ad nauseam. It’s exhausting.
How do we prioritize our energy for these little arguments when we have much bigger fish to fry. How do we spend our time arguing with one stranger outside a club at 2am because he thinks women use abortions like contraceptive whilst knowing that the Jordan Petersons of the world have radicalized many more men than you’ll ever have hours to argue with? How do we care about men being loud on Twitter when the men in our governments are dangerous?
It’s hard to talk about being a woman without talking about your existence in relation to men. It is a constant and consciousness process of decentering males from my feminism. Always unlearning and relearning. It’s not that my experiences dating men over the past year and a half have been anything other than fucking shambolic, it’s just I don’t want to be the sort of feminist who only reflects on myself through the prism of my interactions with men. I don’t just want to write about men on tinder because my feminism needs to be broader than that.
Women, and ESPECIALLY white women (myself included) need to be much better at this; you can be the perpetrator of as much misogyny as you receive. Just because you are one sort of marginalized person doesn’t mean you can’t marginalize others. Your feminism must extend outside of your immediate. We need to be more conscious of our misogynoir. We need to be more conscious of our personal politics.
As the debate about climate change ramps up and more companies are taking action, or at least giving lip service to it, we need to be ready to understand the ways both these actions and inactions acutely affect different parts of society. We can’t do that if we’re still *just* talking cat calling. It’s not that these things aren’t important, it’s just that our feminism needs to be broader than that.
The power of the Me Too moment fuelled the power of cancel culture. A culture that says if you’ve done something bad you should suffer the consequences. Old racist tweets? Off SNL. But cancel culture, whilst already problematic in many ways, becomes much more complicated when used in relation to the abuse of gendered power.
It’s hard to talk about being a woman without talking about your existence in relation to men. If a powerful man sexually assaults you and you tell the story your names become forever intertwined. You personally might not ask for the cultural boycott but you’ll be the face of it.
You cannot tell your story without mentioning his.
And whilst people should be held responsible and accountable for their actions we need to create space for growth and change. For learning and acceptance and apologies. You can’t cancel somebody unilaterally — boys will be boys hurts men as much as women. Boys need to be believed in and allowed to grow. There needs to be room for ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I’ve learnt’.
Cancel culture doesn’t allow us to teach men how to be accountable and how to be better allies, and cancel culture doesn’t allow women to share their experiences without the additional emotional labour of being the face of a movement. Cancel culture as it stands is a witch hunt, looking for its next victim — taking down the individual rather than the structure that enables the individual.
It’s been two years and we’re still working this out.
I wanted this to be a complete state of the nation, a yearly update on the Me Too movement and all of its facets. But there’s so much ground to cover and so few new things to say.
Some things are much better and some things are exactly the same. When researching this I struggled to find one moment that would singularly define the past year because everything has just been so bad and so unrelenting.
It feels odd to be writing a summary of the last year without mentioning R Kelly, or Michael Jackson, or Jeffrey Epstein, or Chris Brown or Drake or Aziz or Louis CK or Cosby or etc etc etc. But frankly the only people who deserve a space on this page are their victims. I do not want to write or think or watch or engage in any of the many shows movies and podcasts that glamourize men murdering or attacking women. Not the Ted Bundy film nor the podcast about men who kill women violently that you all seem to like so much. I do not have the energy for it.
Me Too erupted as a moment for womxn to have voices against the men who were assaulting, harassing, bothering, and overstepping. It was never about naming and shaming, it was about stopping and preventing. Direct action to dethrone Weinstein so that he couldn’t hurt again. Direct action to stop Kavanaugh so that women could be tried fairly. Creating a space so that women felt safe sharing their experiences. I don’t think we’ve been doing that so much anymore.
We need to decenter the men from our feminism order to incite substantial change on a systematic level. We need to go back to basics.