Daphne Merkin, a writer who, frankly, I expect better of, has written a very bad take on the #MeToo movement for the New York Times under the header "Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings." It does not improve from there! Let's dive in.
But privately, I suspect, many of us, including many longstanding feminists, will be rolling our eyes, having had it with the reflexive and unnuanced sense of outrage that has accompanied this cause from its inception, turning a bona fide moment of moral accountability into a series of ad hoc and sometimes unproven accusations.
This line of thinking is... odd. I actually HAVE been rolling my eyes since #MeToo started, and DO YOU KNOW WHY? Because I don't think people should have to out their own traumatic experiences to be taken seriously. It irritates me when people without much knowledge of the issue laud them as "brave" when the real bravery is simply in surviving.
ANYWAY. Back 2 you, Daphne!
Perhaps even more troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be — and perceive themselves to be — as frail as Victorian housewives.
I don't actually think this is true? Coming forward about something shitty that's happened to you isn't the same thing as playing the role of a victim. Guess what, when a crime happens to you, you are LEGALLY a victim. That's what having a crime committed against you means! And sexual harassment is a crime. Oh my god I think writing this is actually making me dumber.
Also "Victorian housewives" is an odd mixed simile that seems to conflate Victorian sexual mores with the Laura Browns of the 1950s. Both repressed, sure! But the conflation is distracting from the overall point.
The fact that such unwelcome advances persist, and often in the office, is, yes, evidence of sexism and the abusive power of the patriarchy. But I don’t believe that scattershot, life-destroying denunciations are the way to upend it. In our current climate, to be accused is to be convicted. Due process is nowhere to be found.
I found due process, Daphne Merkin. It's in the justice system. Corporations like Miramax are not the justice system. Thank god.
And what exactly are men being accused of? What is the difference between harassment and assault and “inappropriate conduct”? There is a disturbing lack of clarity about the terms being thrown around and a lack of distinction regarding what the spectrum of objectionable behavior really is. Shouldn’t sexual harassment, for instance, imply a degree of hostility? Is kissing someone in affection, however inappropriately, or showing someone a photo of a nude male torso necessarily predatory behavior?
Oh, don't play dumb. "Inappropriate conduct" is a softball phrase that means assault and harassment almost every time.
I think this confusion reflects a deeper ambivalence about how we want and expect people to behave. Expressing sexual interest is inherently messy and, frankly, nonconsensual — one person, typically the man, bites the bullet by expressing interest in the other, typically the woman — whether it happens at work or at a bar. Some are now suggesting that come-ons need to be constricted to a repressive degree. Asking for oral consent before proceeding with a sexual advance seems both innately clumsy and retrograde, like going back to the childhood game of “Mother, May I?” We are witnessing the re-moralization of sex, not via the Judeo-Christian ethos but via a legalistic, corporate consensus.
Expressing sexual interest is "frankly, nonconsensual"? Um, frankly, no, it's not. Expressing sexual interest is literally asking for consent. If consent isn't given and one forges ahead, THAT is nonconsensual.
Stripping sex of eros isn’t the solution. Nor is calling out individual offenders, one by one. We need a broader and more thoroughgoing overhaul, one that begins with the way we bring up our sons and daughters.
"Stripping sex of eros"? Oh yes, let us mourn the sad, sad loss of silent, terrible sex where no one gets off. Let us pour one out for everyone who is sad they now feel obligated to make sure their partner is having a good time. Daphne, to use your pretentious turn of phrase, sex was stripped of eros long ago. Because there is nothing less appealing than some dummy who just thinks they can grab you whenever without your consent.
If anything, I think the #MeToo movement is primed to make sex better for everyone. But what do I know? This is just one young Victorian housewife's opinion.