The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
So here’s the thing: I am a pessimistic feminist.
I believe in the advancement of social rights and that our generation will be leaders in this fight. I also believe in progress. Where I digress from other young people is that I do not think progress is inevitable. I am often upset by the everyday occurrences around me, and young people’s inclination to think that everything will be fine even when we put no effort into fixing the injustices (particularly the subtle ones) that surround us 24/7. I think that this passive attitude toward justice is going to mean its death.
This is why I have beef with the #MeToo Movement.
The #MeToo Movement came about after a slew of extremely public sexual harassment allegations came out against very powerful men. We saw, for really the first time in American history, these allegations actually have an impact due to the mass public support behind the women. Many men were subsequently fired or received further legal ramifications.
First, let me make something oh-so clear: every person who has spoken up about their experiences with sexual harassment has every ounce of my respect. I owe them a great deal for their honorable nerve, and I admire them to no end. My problem with the movement does not lie with them in the least bit. Where it lies is with the people who have vaguely followed the movement. I am mainly pointing my figure at us, the young people who do believe in equity and justice, but our own ignorant hope gets in the way of substantial progress.
This is how it goes: We click on the TV. We go on Instagram. We see the news coverage of Harvey Weinstein’s victims coming forward – and Bill O’Neil’s – and Kevin Spacey’s – and others. We see these powerful men finally, after years and decades of sexually harassing and abusing women, get punished publicly and legally. Hip-hip-hooray for women’s rights. Women are creating spaces for other women to gain the courage to speak the truth. We see violence against women finally being publicized and we think to ourselves yes, we did it.
#MeToo was a moment, not a movement. I wish that it had kept up its momentum, but just as with many other moments of social activism, public attention for it died. We stopped posting New York Times articles to our Insta stories. We stopped talking about it at the dinner table. Now #MeToo has taken its seat at the table where many other 21st-century moments of activism find themselves – conscious oblivion. Conscious, because we did not have to place it there, and oblivion, because we simply do not hear about it anymore.
This is where my angry feminist persona comes into play. The public has placed sexual harassment into conscious oblivion. Okay. Now we have the audacity to convince ourselves that the world is fixed – somehow, #MeToo fixed everything, and women are now completely empowered to speak up at work against any misconduct, and WOW gender equality is here to stay! The younger generations in particular exceptionalize sexual harassment, perceiving it as rare. And if it does occur, surely it wouldn’t go unpunished, or it must just not be that big of a deal. I will call a spade a spade, and say that #MeToo caused many men to assume that harassment essentially doesn’t exist anymore in the workplace. They believe this not because it is not around them, but because they choose to not perceive it – it is simply easier to live in a world where you do not have to stand up for other people. Sexual harassment is still so incredibly invisible to men – they largely do not experience it, thus out of sight out of mind. I am of course angry that workplace harassment exists in the first place, but my skin crawls with frustration and disappointment when men (no worries, I’m not saying all men) insist on minimizing the problem into conscious oblivion. It takes that space away from women to pursue charges.
The thing about ignorance is that it is a choice. Every single person knows that sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. are present in America. Thus, it is on us when we are ignorant about those subjects, because the simple fact is that we know it exists, yet choose to stay in the dark about it. And ignorant optimism gives people permission to stop caring. It is a conscious choice we all make so that we can remove ourselves from others’ woes. We convince ourselves that the problem is fixed, but all we are doing is disempowering people and subjecting women to further violence that they are forced to stay silent about. And that is my beef. My beef is with us.