Views / Opinion

Rosemary Westwood: #MeToo is women exploiting a rare right to be deafening

Even a few thousand think-pieces on #MeToo could hardly, in the historical scheme of things, be called an excess.

The media, to some, is solely an outrage machine. So, to some, is #MeToo, writes Rosemary Westwood.

MARK RALSTON / AFP/Getty Images

The media, to some, is solely an outrage machine. So, to some, is #MeToo, writes Rosemary Westwood.

It occured to me not to write this, since U.S. media are already publishing about half a dozen think-pieces each this week on what the latest Aziz Ansari allegations published on babe.net — essentially that he pressured a women into sexual acts — means for the #MeToo movement. (Let alone the hundreds of op-eds already written.)

Let’s not go overboard, I thought to myself, mulling it over. It’s only Wednesday.

But women don’t get that many high-profile cracks at this particular monster of a bucket, our culture’s treatment of sex and sexuality.

We don’t run most newspapers or TV networks. We don’t write or produce or direct most of the entertainment media. We haven’t been the gender dictating social norms for centuries, running the schools and the governments and the businesses and the religions.

That was men. That is men.

So here we are, writing fervently from 360 degrees of perspectives, and if it’s getting a bit loud, that would be the sound of women exploiting a rare moment — a rare right — to be deafening.

Even a few thousand think-pieces on #MeToo could hardly, in the historical scheme of things, be called an excess.

I spoke to a woman recently who felt the media was really playing up #MeToo and the whole issue of sexual harassment, abuse, assault, coercion — and actively dividing our societies (she meant, I believe, American and Canadian) in the process.

I understood her critique. The media, to some, is solely an outrage machine. So, to some, is #MeToo.

But if the #MeToo movement is guilty of hysteria (not my main takeaway) — detractors are certainly no better, conjuring the vision of a reductionist wasteland populated by the career tombstones of once-accused men, and satisfied women.

And if you’re happy to read the critics, and little else about #MeToo, perhaps it’s not the decibels that are bothering you, but the tune itself. Most of us don’t really tire of seeing our own views reflected back to us in the media. We resent, deeply, when they are not.

One way to shut down a conversation is simply to suggest it’s too loud. Another is to suggest it’s too unfocused and unwieldy, a Jackson Pollock of divergent arguments destined to create an inscrutable bigger picture.

From the beginning, some have fought to contain #MeToo to a set of parameters and definitions of behaviours — it’s only this kind of abuse, or harassment we’re talking about — as if it was obvious to all that we’re collectively only interested in a specific set of actions. I have no idea why people want this to be such a neatly prescribed discussion, like some high school debate we've all prepped for using the same texts.

But that is a hopeless wish. The debate will be messy. The debate will be unwieldy. The debate will go places you may not have imagined, and that is actually a sign of success.

It denotes the kind of broad-based support that’s needed to effect change, the kind of diversity of opinion that leads to greater equality. It suggests a steely reserve not to let the moment pass without tangible improvements.

Women — those preeminent multitaskers — can absolutely have simultaneous and interconnected discussions on sex and power in our relationships, professional or otherwise — and a lot of them. We won’t lose the plot.

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