National Column: #MeToo turns into a free-for-all pile-on

by Rosie DiManno

If I said #NotMeToo, I’d be lying. So I’ll say #Me’nuff.


Puritanical mob-rule is the last thing women need to carve out a safe and respectful work environment.

Because the pushback against some unspecified thing called inappropriate conduct – this might have very different meanings from one person to another – has turned into a cluster-cluck that apparently runs the gamut from off-colour kibitzing to rape to, in its latest manifestation, not getting paid enough for doing a movie nude scene.

What began as a cri de coeur from the victimized – these are mostly preyed-upon women, but also some men, because sexual shanking is not exclusive to any gender – has morphed into rabble-rousing and pitchforking and social-media shaming.

Bullying the bullies is almost as repugnant, however couched in virtue and righteousness.

Probably we can all agree that whipping out your penis in the office and pressing a hidden button to automatically lock the door preventing escape is barbarous behaviour, likely rising to the level of criminality. Extorting sex in exchange for a movie role or TV face-time on a sports broadcast is definitely within the realm of coercive assault.

So, take it to the cops. Or take it to the boss – unless he, like the late Fox chairperson Roger Ailes, is part of the Gang That Couldn’t Keep It In Their Pants.

Or take it to a lawyer specializing in sexual harassment. Or take it to your union. Or take it to a human-rights commission. Or take it, if you insist, to that “S—ty Media Men” list that dropped into the email inbox of women in the media industry last October, a spreadsheet – it was really a whisper campaign – naming names of men to be leery of because of their alleged lechery. Kind of like the Bad Date list disseminated among sex trade workers in every large city, warning them off clients who might do them harm. I understand the practicality of that because sex workers don’t attract the genuflective media coverage when they’re assaulted, hurt, forced to perform demeaning acts and then stiffed.

#MeToo is emphatically not that.

#MeToo is women who would never see themselves as occupying the same orbit as those vulnerable working females. And, overwhelmingly, it’s been women working in the narcissistic performing arts, from Hollywood to Cannes to New York network television to Toronto theatre. Because media resources aren’t going to be dedicated to the minimum wage worker at the automotive plant whose floor foreman cops a feel.

Just stop taking it to the masses as public spectacle, public denunciation and public kangaroo court. As social-media billboard.

Cease making this the fault line of New Age Feminism, when, in fact, it turns inside-out so much of what we fought for over the last four decades – crucially, our sexual freedom.

We are not delicate creatures. We are not snowflakes. We are not so manifestly the weaker sex that we need our fathers and our husbands and our brothers and the New York Times to rescue us from satyrs and villains and bullies.

This current projection of helpless females is, far from empowering, setting us back a half-century. In lieu of sackcloth and ashes – or the burka – we now have the little black designer protest uniform, donned for the red carpet at the Golden Globes, where a half-dozen highly privileged women demonstrated their solidarity by offering an escort arm to half-a-dozen social activists.

It’s theatre, of course, it is.

In this jagged-edged terrain, allegation is accusation is certitude.

Because nobody needs to prove anything.

And that’s OK, I guess, because opinions need not rely on fact or independent evidence.

In a real court, allegations must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. I-believe-you memes don’t cut the mustard. The burden of proof might be unreasonably high, but that’s a separate issue.

Personally, I don’t think that sexual assault is next to murder as a grievous offence. To accept that premise is to cast women who’ve been violated into a pit of moral contamination and condemnation, as if they can never retrieve their sanctity. Instead of an A on a woman’s forehead, incise an X for spoiled goods, as codified by medieval cultures.

I’ve no hankering to defend the creepy Harvey Weinsteins or Kevin Spaceys of this world, although neither sexual warlock, it should be noted, has yet been criminally charged with anything.

Maybe exposure is punishment enough for what they’re alleged to have done. Certainly their lives and careers have fallen apart in the first wave of bombardment by Twitter.

Just about everyone within the TV network news biz seems to have had some inkling, at least, of Matt Lauer’s voluptuous appetites and invasive besieging. But I’m still dumbfounded about Charlie Rose. And I’m dubious about the most recent slew of scattershot tweets against James Franco – actresses who accuse him of removing their “plastic genital guards” on set and one complainant, in particular, who tweeted after the Globes: “Remember a few weeks ago when you told me the full nudity you had me do in two of your movies for $100/day wasn’t exploitative because I signed a contract to do it? Times up.”

You signed a contract to do it. Nobody held a gun to your head, honey. Would $1,000 per day have made it nonexploitative, or less self-exploitative? There’s an old (sexist) joke about that: We know what you are, now we’re just bickering about the price.

It took a group of ballsy French dames to call out where this mutating #MeToo phenomenon is heading, has already reached in its all-encompassing firestorm of fury. A hundred female public figures, including the incandescent Catherine Deneuve, signed their names last week to an open letter published in Le Monde, decrying the excesses of the denunciation movement, arguing that the latest twist on feminism “takes on a hatred of men and of sexuality,” a consequence of the toxic puritanism that’s oozed out in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.

It’s more of a cult than a social movement, the femmes argued, quite observantly, pleading for a more nuanced treatment of the subject. What was originally a campaign to condemn “bad men,” they added, had transmogrified into a suspicion about an entire gender, although that’s a walloping overstatement.

The race to “out” alleged perverts, however, does seem to have turned into a free-for-all pile-on.

One of the signatories, the writer Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, told the BBC in an interview: “We are talking here about destroying all the ambiguity and the charm of relationships between men and women.”

None of the women, it should be emphasized, defended the sexual cannibalism of Weinstein, et all those swinging-dick career-destroyers.

“We are French,” continued Moutet. “We believe in grey area. America is a different country. They do things in black and white and make good computers. We don’t think human relationships should be treated like that.”

Naturally, there’s been pushback to the pushback. And pushback to the pushback to the pushback, with some claiming the French 100 are old-school feminists, or just plain old and out of touch. But I have friends in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, and every single one has expressed views similar to those outlined in the French manifesto.

Of course, the outrage on social media hits a different tone in its condemnation of the Gallic dissidents.

Because there’s never been a shortage of women dumping on women. We hardly need men for the purpose.

And the damn twitter mob can go hang itself.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Copyright 2018-Torstar Syndication Services

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