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No, #MeToo hasn’t gone too far

The revolution will not be quiet.

The women are talking. Image credit Nma7k3 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Well, this is a novelty. I’ve written a few articles about the #MeToo backlash, and by some incredible coincidence that is hardly ever experienced by feminist writers (honestly it literally never happens, except maybe once every other minute or so), I’ve received a load of comments from dudes pushing back against the #MeToo movement. This happens so infrequently to women on the internet that it has its own name, Lewis’s Law. So I thought I would take this opportunity to address some of their concerns.

What I’m hearing is that #MeToo has gone too far — a variation on “feminism has gone too far”, although with an extra level of misunderstanding. Those who claim that “feminism has gone too far” are arguing against a movement that promotes equality for all genders, and they get annoyed because they don’t see it that way. They see it as having some of their rights taken away from them, rather than ensuring a high standard of rights for everybody. It’s the age-old “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”.

But “#MeToo has gone too far” is a little more specific. It’s about equality, but it’s also about the way that men don’t realise that women haven’t had access to the same platforms and cultural approval that they have. It’s another privilege that is easy to overlook if you’ve never been made aware that others just aren’t able to safely behave in a way that you’ve taken for granted. All that women are doing is highlighting nasty behaviour and saying that it will no longer be tolerated, a thing that men have always had society’s blessing to do. Women have been told to pipe down, that it’s not that bad, it’s just how it is, etc, etc, for most of recorded history, and our culture has just accepted that as the norm. Well, it isn’t fair, and we don’t want to put up with that anymore, either. If men were treated like that, they’d demand some goddamn respect. And now we are demanding it — what’s unreasonable about that?

Men, and it’s often the “good guys” who would never dream of sexually assaulting someone else, can feel that cracking down on the awful behaviour of entitled abusers will impinge on their rights. But what rights do the Good Guys think will be taken away? If they’re not out there harassing and groping, what do they have to worry about? The belief that innocent men will be affected comes from the kind of insecurity and awkwardness that we can all experience when it comes to romantic encounters — but the difference here is that these men aren’t having the conversations necessary to overcome these feelings. These discussions need to happen both among men, and between men and women (seeing as this so often plays out along heteronormative lines).

Sometimes ordinary people can cross the line into harassing and stalking behaviour, and that needs to be dealt with as and when it happens. But most times people simply cross a line in error — and if they are made aware of it they can stop it and resolve to not do it again. That’s the point, it’s not sexual behaviour that’s the problem — it’s predatory and unwanted sexual behaviour. We can all make mistakes, and as long as we listen to feedback and don’t carry on making the same mistakes, we can move on happily with our lives. The key thing in this scenario is the listening part.

However, some ordinary Good Guys actually aren’t so good. They hear ‘no’ and its other variants, or they just wade in without a care for anyone’s feelings or autonomy but their own, and they dislike being told that they need to stop doing this. Well, I can’t help those guys. The message is for them. #MeToo has gone exactly far enough and they don’t like it. Maybe if you feel that #MeToo has gone too far, reflect on whether your own behaviour isn’t up to scratch.

If you’re not so experienced relationship-wise, you may worry that your advances toward another could be misconstrued. I understand that it’s scary approaching people no matter what — even the boldest among us feel some trepidation when asking someone out. But that fear is magnified by the narrative that one might be accused of harassment — and it’s unlikely to actually happen.

A lot of fear is being spread by anti-feminists who insist that all women are simultaneously too silly and naïve to differentiate between harassment and well-intentioned flirting; while also scheming to bring about the downfall of men through false allegations and a “witch hunt”. While that fear is unfounded, it still makes some men nervous. And the advice I have for them is the same as what I have for all men: you’re going to need to learn the ropes yourself.

No amount of dating advice is going to help you go about flirting with a cool head like actually getting out there and doing it — make mistakes, learn, enjoy yourself. We’re all in the same boat, and we all need to learn boundaries and figure out what we’re looking for. #MeToo doesn’t want to put an end to that — it could even help to improve it, by asking that we do talk among ourselves and to each other about relationships and sex. And so, if #MeToo is getting in the way of your flirting — then you’re doing it wrong and you need to rein it in before someone gets hurt.

The final point I’d like to address is that of consent. Consent is a good thing — if it wasn’t, then we wouldn’t be so keen to believe that we don’t need to ask for it. Do we need to ask? Ultimately yes, but that doesn’t mean we always need to do so explicitly or sign a waiver. Consent can be simple or complicated, and can be given or withdrawn, depending on context. It can be implied or stated outright, whispered or screamed emphatically. The only important thing is that you know you have it — and if you’re not sure, ask. Because some objectors to #MeToo do so because they don’t like the idea that consent might not always be given. And those objectors are rapists. #MeToo has not gone too far — it wants to stop you from doing something you could regret.

The #MeToo movement has made many of us feel uncomfortable, by addressing matters that we were all aware of, but never felt able to bring in to the open. We have a fantastic opportunity now, to sort out all these sexual dilemmas and quibbles, and to become better as individuals and a society. We’ve not seen such a change in society’s attitudes towards sex since the 1960s — and this is equally liberating.

And so, I’m not sorry at all, chaps. #MeToo is a revolution — and the revolution will not be quiet. Men’s feelings and voices have been prioritised over women’s for centuries, and it’s our turn now. I will carry on writing as much as I can on feminist topics, and any other matters of equality, because we can only defeat hate and negativity by standing up to it and spreading a message of truth and justice. And keep those page views and comments coming, lads — I’m rather enjoying the publicity.