People Still Have No Idea What The #MeToo Movement Is Actually About

Woman holds up sign that says #metoo
Unsplash / Mihai Surdu

The #MeToo movement began this past October after actress Alyssa Milano suggested that all women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted write “Me too” on social media to show the magnitude of the problem. Those two little words have since taken the world by storm, outing quite a few big sexual predators in the entertainment industry and proving the world that yes, this is huge problem within our society. So, what are we going to do about it?

Since then, people have made it a point to make a difference. During this year’s Golden Globes, actresses and actors dressed in black to show their solidarity with Time’s Up, a legal defense fund meant to help women and men fight their assailants in court. Online, women began compiling a “Shitty Media Men” meant to warn others away from certain men in the media who had harassed or assaulted people in the past. Celebrities even began apologizing for working with accused sex offenders in the past and claimed they were determined to right their wrongs in the future.

So, yeah — so far, the #MeToo movement has made a real difference, even if it’s just a small one. So why is it that people still can’t seem to understand what it’s actually about?

Just the other day, actress Catherine Deneuve and 100 other French women signed a letter saying they were opposed to the #MeToo movement because it was leading toward a new form of “puritanism” and sparked anti-sex and anti-men attitudes. The writers claimed that men’s “freedom to pester” was a crucial part of sexual freedom. They claimed it turned women into victims and “poor little things.” And while I understand how they could have come to this conclusion on an intellectual level, I’d still like to disagree.

To put sex and sexual harassment in the same vein is a pretty toxic way to look at sexuality in general. It’s like people forget that sexual harassment isn’t just a form of foreplay. Women aren’t angry that men flirt with them in bars or ask for their numbers or, hell, even want to have one night stands with them. Women are mad that their employers are putting them in between a rock and a hard place by coercing them into sexual relations or talking about their ass in the workplace. They’re mad that men will yell crude things to them on the street and then threaten their lives if they don’t have an adequate response. They’re mad because they are literally being raped by men in power and no one wants to believe them.

But it seems like there are still people who don’t know how to make this distinction. The other day, The Hollywood Reporter published a piece called “How The #MeToo Movement Could Kill Some Sexy Hollywood Movies” that argued that movies like Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels wouldn’t do well in a post-Weinstein world. But why? Fifty Shades of Grey is about sex, not sex abuse (though don’t get me started about how Christian Grey is abusive in other ways). It’s like people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that no one cares about consensual sex — that isn’t the problem here.

To be fair, that’s not the full argument. Writer Tatiana Siegel pointed out that Hollywood simply isn’t interesting in making movies about sex — because, you know, no one wants to be accused of anything. Here’s a passage from the article:

“There may be a concern in this zero tolerance climate that creativity and creative opportunity could be restrained because individuals may become unwilling to put themselves in situations that could be misinterpreted or misconstrued in the creative process,” says Marc Simon, an entertainment attorney who produced After Innocence, about wrongful conviction, but also advocated for his clients like sexual-assault doc The Hunting Ground‘s Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering.

This statement may seem harmless on the surface, but in reality, it belittles the women who have come forward. It’s basically saying that people in Hollywood believe these accusations stem from misunderstandings — it’s not like these women were actually harassed, they’re just perceiving that they were. Not to mention the claim that standing up against sexual misconduct somehow restrains creativity is absolutely inane. Since when did our no-murder rule in society ever stop people from writing a good movie? If a sex scene is handled professionally, why would movie makers have anything to worry about?

I worry that women will be treated differently because of this, and not in a good way. It seems that some men have gone the extra mile and responded to the #MeToo movement by taking a Mike Pence approach to women, avoiding them altogether in hopes that they won’t be the ones accused of something. I’ve heard “good” men converse about how they refuse to meet with female employees one-on-one now because they fear either making them uncomfortable or regretting the decision altogether. But that isn’t what women are asking for. These men don’t seem to realize (or perhaps care) that doing so sets us back even further, taking away opportunities from women because they refuse to treat them like their male peers and instead tiptoe around them. They don’t care that we lose so they can ensure that they don’t.

It’s as if people have taken the #MeToo movement and twisted it backwards and sideways and so many directions that it’s stopping them from focusing on what it really is: a movement against sexual harassment and assault. It’s not anti-men. It’s not anti-sex. It’s not Victorian or puritanic. It’s not meant to create victims on either side. It’s about stopping a problem we’ve always had but have always overlooked — and the only reason it seems like a “revolution” is because people are finally paying attention. TC mark

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