Can you believe it, the #MeToo is one year old. Like any significant event, it feels like it’s been around for ever and yet for no time at all; blink and you would have missed the last year. But what a year it was! At times if felt as if each day brought about the downfall of another seemingly respectful public figure. Some were less surprising, but many instances highlighted how prolific the issue of sexual assault and misconduct is – so many ‘normal’ men, family men, good guys, protectors, have been implicated. It’s horrifying and disappointing in equal measure.
The weirdest thing is how fast it became the norm – always shocking but not surprising that these powerful men who wielded such influence, would abuse their power and, in the most part, the objects of their attentions were young, women. Most women have experienced some form of sexual assault or intimidation – from aggressive catcalling to rape – sadly, experiences are not in short supply. For the most part, I think the shock felt was linked to the bravery of the women standing up so publicly to lay bare horrors they had long battled to keep hidden. You see, even though most of us have our #MeToo stories; incidents long filed under ‘I shouldn’t have drunk so much’, ‘no one will believe me’ or worst of all ‘I deserved it’ – the truth is, for the majority of us, the #MeToo backlash is just too much to contemplate, so we will forever stay silent.
“Assemble the old guard!”
It’s inevitable that each time a group of people push to challenge the status quo in the name of progress, the battle cries of the old guard will also rally. In this particular instance it is undeniable that huge swathes of the male population are perpetrators, so of course this type of mass sharing by women is going to put the shitters up so many. I do often wonder if the star players in my personal #MeToo stories ever lie in bed worrying whether tomorrow will be their day. None of them are famous, but accusations of serious impropriety and sexual misconduct would be damaging nonetheless. I hope they do fear exposure – I hope every now and then the thought emerges and it ruins their day. Petty? Maybe. It’s scant satisfaction but I’ll take it.
Last week we saw a woman in America wheeled out to recall details of an alleged serious sexual assault and attempted rape by a now powerful man – and despite the progress made over the past year – the reactions have been just as expected. The so-called President of the United States publicly derided her (of course he did!), other powerful men apologised to the perpetrator for having to put him through the torment of having his name dragged through the mud, and worst of all, right wing conservative women rose up in chorus to throw their collective weight behind the poor chap because after all “if that was sexual assault, all women have experienced sexual assault”. No word of a lie – that was one line of defence. For fuck’s sake ladies, you’re so bloody close to getting it I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!
Progress vs inertia – which is winning?
So a year later I find myself wondering if #MeToo has had a positive impact or if, in fact, the resulting inertia has won, and ultimately we have been dragged backwards. It’s a demoralising state to be in, but despite the rather defeatist tone of my previous sentence, I actually think what we’re experiencing now is just part of the process of achieving change.
If nothing else, I believe the backlash shows us something ridiculously positive (stick with me here) – those who could be toppled by the #MeToo movement, and its tidal effect, are scared – no – petrified. Really. Fucking. Petrified! If this was viewed as a flash in the pan, an overreaction or something which would be proven to be isolated or limited in occurrence, we’d have received a cursory pat on the head and a “good for you honey” before being ignored completely.
But that isn’t what’s happening, far from it, because sexual abuse and the general intimidation of women has been the preserve of men – particularly powerful white men – for centuries, and everyone knows it. The thing that has kept this dark side of society protected is the shamed silence of women, and the long forced belief that men are actually allowed to do this. Take away that belief, give us a platform and let us discover our voices, and we become more powerful than we could ever possibly comprehend.
The current world we live in, one built by men, for men, is well established, and just like the dismantling of any old monolith, change will need to take place in a more structured manner; there’s no bomb big enough to achieve the full and instantaneous demolition of our world structure, and even if there was, chaos and devastation are not the end goal. Despite what some will have you believe, dismantling the patriarchy isn’t about wanting a world where men are second class citizens, it’s about creating an equitable society – bigger tables, more seats and an end to gender-based dehumanisation. Pretty reasonable right?!
Despite how fair it sounds, the reality makes for pretty depressing reading; last year the World Economic Forum estimated that global gender parity wouldn’t be achieved for another 170 years (up from 80 and then 120 years – great!). On the plus side, that sorts the issue of all those ‘Women for Trump’ types who declare that pussies are for grabbing – This isn’t just about you Janet, so off you jolly well fuck!
We must never kid ourselves that we’re playing anything but a long game. Despite the overwhelming feeling of inertia, we must press on. We owe it to every woman who publicly declared #MeToo despite the backlash – for every girl who was not given a choice – and because we truly believe that everyone deserves to see the sun rise on a world that no longer needs anyone to say #MeToo.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com