When Misogyny Comes From Women: What #MeToo Articles Reveal About the Gender Power Structure

As tempting as it may be to paint all women as defenders of the #MeToo movement, and all men as villains against it, that would be wrong and reductive. As most know, #MeToo went global when the story on Harvey Weinstein was broken by Ronan Farrow, son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen (yes, THAT Woody Allen). He insisted the story get out, even after he encountered resistance at NBC. The story was eventually published in the New York Times. Clearly not all problematic #MeToo articles are written by men, and not all positive articles are written by women.It seems many publications and corporations — including the Miss America Pageant, which will now be hosted by Gretchen Carlson — have bought into the post #MeToo mythology that a nice, warm, comforting heap of misogyny is just fine if it’s served up by a woman.And that is exactly what the normally non-reactionary New York Times got in the form of Daphne Merkin’s “Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings.” Merkin’s position is that women publicly support #MeToo, mostly because they are afraid to admit they don’t really agree with it. She states, “In private it’s a different story. “Grow up, this is real life,” I hear these same feminist friends say. “What ever happened to flirting?” and “What about the women who are the predators?” Some women, including random people I talk to in supermarket lines, have gone so far as to call it an outright witch hunt.” Hearing a feminist refer to anything as a witch hunt would be remarkable indeed.Merkin then trods two familiar paths. One is familiar to male opponents of #MeToo — that the movement is puritanical, anti-sex and anti-romance, evoking the imagery of the witch trial, crying, “There is an inquisitorial whiff in the air, and my particular fear is that in true American fashion, all subtlety and reflection is being lost. Next we’ll be torching people for the content of their fantasies.”The other weapon in her hand is wielded almost exclusively by women — the suggestion that #MeToo is bad for women’s agency. She states, “What happened to women’s agency? That’s what I find myself wondering as I hear story after story of adult women who helplessly acquiesce to sexual demands. I find it especially curious given that a majority of women I know have been in situations in which men have come on to them — at work or otherwise. They have routinely said, “I’m not interested” or “Get your hands off me right now.” And they’ve taken the risk that comes with it.”No one should have to risk being fired to say “I’m not interested”, but the reason this argument is so irritating is also the reason it’s so effective. It implies she’s actually on the side of other women, and is simply trying to toughen them up. For the record, there were — and still are — plenty of articles implying civil rights are bad for African American, LGBT, or Native American agency also, and that everything from hate crime legislation to Affirmative Action should be abolished for failing to support minority “agency.” The effectiveness of this tactic lies in the argument’s deception, implying women are just as tough as men, when in truth the argument is a sophisticated form of victim blaming, in which those women who are intimidated or threatened into not speaking up (or fired for their trouble) simply aren’t as tough as women who do.A similar article, “The Other Whisper Network” in March 2018’s Harper’s by Katie Roiphe, compares #MeToo to the 1996 case of a six-year-old boy being suspended for kissing a little girl on the cheek. The rest of the article, reminiscent of Hockenberry’s piece, is largely composed of sour grapes — in this case expressing hurt feelings over how she’s been treated by feminists in the past. She shares with Merkin knowing a great number of women who are comfortable defending themselves from sexual assault, but are too terrified to speak to her on record.On the other side of the spectrum, men do write helpful #MeToo articles, even if they’re flawed. There have been several medium.com. “What Do Men Do Now?” by Tony Goldwyn appeared in the May issue of InStyle magazine, an article he wrote after attending a Time’s Up meeting in Los Angeles, hosted by women. Mr. Goldwyn states he wrote the article to help men understand what they should and should not do to support Time’s Up. He even offers some solid advice: “It takes courage to acknowledge uncertainty” and “The simple truth is that men are better bosses, colleagues, parents, friends, allies, and lovers when we ask instead of assume.” Rather than attacking the movement, this essay deserves credit for trying to be part of the solution.Here on medium, John de Vore’s This is How Men Forget Women tackles the difficult concept of sexual abuse with raw honesty. De Vore imagines the difficulty of a girlfriend watching the Kavanaugh testimony, wanting to initiate a conversation about what her boyfriend may have done in his past. Recognizing the dodge. And dealing with the sanctified silence in which men protect other men, he writes: “As a person who hasn’t had a drink in eight short years, I can tell you that drinking so much that you pass out doesn’t absolve you of anything. The groping. The cruel words and laughter. The sexual boundaries pushed. The sexual boundaries violated. Horseplay. We forget the looks of anger and disappointment. We forget the wreckage. We forget women.”Patriarchy is the system we live in, and the system we live in is predetermined to reward those who reinforce the status quo and punish those who rebel. Every society has done so. Often the quickest path to success for a woman is cooperation and turning a blind eye, while those with privilege can sometimes use it for good.

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