You’ve seen the hashtag: #MeToo, posted by women testifying that they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, just as Harvey Weinstein’s long list of victims were. And Donald Trump’s. This is my “me too.” And mea culpa.
The stories about Weinstein are particularly painful because they’re emerging almost exactly a year after Trump’s so-called Access Hollywood tape, on which he bragged about sexually assaulting women, which he could get away with because he was “a star.” Now he is our president—even after at least a dozen other women came forward and accused him of similar behavior, or worse. In the wake of the multiple complaints, a great many women shared their own stories of abuse, and even rape, by other men. Stories they had never told anyone before. Yet 53 percent of white women voted for a confessed sexual predator nonetheless.
The correspondences to a year ago are demoralizing. I remember absolutely knowing that the video, and the subsequent charges, would make Trump unelectable. I wrote that, repeatedly, here at The Nation and on social media. I was wrong. It remains bewildering, as if everything you know in life is wrong, and, to this day, heartbreaking.
Now we are trying to believe that the Harvey Weinstein stories, unlike the Trump stories a year ago, will lead to some genuine social change, perhaps even an end to such dangerous, predatory assault and harassment of women. I hope so, but I’m not sure this time around. Women have been so responsible for so long for policing so much bad male behavior, by male teachers, male coworkers, male bosses… that I’ve lost my capacity to be optimistic about change.
Instead, I have found myself thinking: Goddamn it, what if we women had been able to devote all of the time and energy that we spend fending off all of this shit to ourselves? To our writing, our organizing, our art, our health, our children, partners, families, friends, and communities; to climate change, criminal-justice reform, reproductive rights, economic justice, racial justice, immigration justice? I know I’m leaving so much out. What would the world look like?
Reclaiming our time, indeed.
I have had too few jobs to have the liberty to write candidly about the way I have been degraded sexually, in some loose or specific way, by men over the years, and still effectively disguise the players. Let’s just say it happened, in some fashion, at every place I worked.
Is there any woman who can’t say that? Not a single woman I know.
The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino has written about how it feels, early in your career, when men ask you to drinks, or lunch—or drinking lunches—to talk about your work. And then it turns out they’re not interested in your work. There is a part of you that blames yourself when you realize that’s going on: for being such a dumb fuck that you could think he, of all people, would want to hire you, publish you, promote your work. Of course your work isn’t that good. Tolentino quotes actress Asia Argento, who concluded after her own bait-and-switch abuse by Harvey Weinstein: “I am a fucking fool.” But the writer recognized the same reaction in herself, thinking about her own relationships with potential male mentors turned harassers. And so do I: I am a fucking fool. Your talent and competence are subtly eroded. You may not stand quite so tall anymore, literally or figuratively.