Going Up or down?

Why Not Just #MeToo

For one thing, it has nothing to do with whether it happened to me or not. I don’t think it’s your business, but I thank those who make it so. And if you posted, I have complete compassion and hope you feel better. But a hashtag can’t fix it. What is it, anyway ?

The call to social media arms conflates sexual harassment and sexual assault. There is a world of difference. Neither is acceptable, both exist due to men behaving very badly, and the divide between a Hollywood ingénue pressured for sex in return for movie stardom and on par troubles of regular womenfolk (happens to men, too, sadly) isn’t that stark, in terms of retribution odds; both are dreary, more so the more dispensable your position.

Yet there’s a line between pressure for sex and the sex actually and forcefully occurring, just as off-color jokes and ogling and even catcalling women are not the same as groping, which, in turn, has more variety than it sounds: If the woman who claims that President Bush I, at age 90 and in a wheelchair, sexually assaulted her by touching her behind at a photo-op, had loudly told him Bad Boy instead, she would have been more sensible. Another level of horror altogether is rape. Sorry, publishing hacked nude pictures is not “like rape,” as Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence have claimed, whose acting talent I respect but, after statements like these, not much else. If Gwyneth Paltrow calls herself a “kid” at 22 when Weinstein asked her for a private massage, what do we call the 12-year old girl raped and impregnated by her stepfather and all the actual kids brutalized in non-glamourous settings, whom #MeToo was created for in the first place, and not by Alyssa Milano?

There’s too much difference for one hashtag.

If you detect a hint of cattiness, it’s not because I envy celebrities. I wouldn’t trade with them, and I mean it. Okay, what I mean is I’d love the perks of their job, the paycheck being the least of it, but oh, the freebies, the VIP parties, VIP lounges, VIP everything because that’s who and what we think of as important, the mansions and the help to keep them shipshape! But while we’re on shape: The requirement to stay in one, which would disallow me to use my harder-than-I-thought earned money gobbling on all the food I’d like, the agony of aging magnified, the overall scrutiny, the intrusions by the very staff that’s supposed to ensure I have a smooth day, the paparazzi, the security detail, the occasional stalker, the greater odds of my kids becoming screw-ups, and, um, dealing with pig producers; there’s the flipside of fame, and because you can’t have one without the other — no, thank you very much.

I digressed. But it irks me that it takes star power to shed light on what’s been around forever, while elsewhere on earth the plight of women is so gruesome that Miramax couldn’t make it up, and it’s getting short shrift, from me, too.

And if you read this far, I’ll reward you with a confession. While I lived in Germany, a man entered the elevator I was in and, for no reason I could see, pressed himself against me and shoved his tongue in my mouth, which must have been open in surprise. He fingered my jeans between my legs, and I remember exactly what I thought: Whatever happens, it will be over soon. The passivity sounds stunning, but somehow, in those eternal seconds it lasted before the elevator stopped for people to enter and for my assailant to exit, physical self-defense didn’t enter my mind, and I guess I was so shocked, also overpowered, that it didn’t happen reflexively. The elevator, by the way, was in my orthodontist’s building. I was twelve years old. The guy, defying child abuse statistics, was a stranger, and young (hard to say, but if I as a preteen didn’t think of him as old, and everyone above 30 seemed ancient, then he could have been in his early 20s.)

- As another aside, he was also of clearly foreign origin (as was I, less clearly), and never, not until the debate that flared up in Germany during the refugee situation of late have I even considered hating darker-complexioned people, men specifically, “only” because one of them has forced himself on me. My considerations were brief: I still don’t hate them.

If anyone wonders what I looked like at age 12 on that particular afternoon, not that it matters one bit: I had thick, shiny brown hair in a ponytail, uneven DIY bangs, I must have worn a basic T-shirt with a cardigan because my grandmother made sure I didn’t leave without, my jeans were no-label although I so wanted those the cool girls wore, but they didn’t fit me; also, I was in need of orthodontia.

So when someone named Mayim Bialik muses in the New York Times on how she, as a geeky girl, was protected by her modesty and all the sensuous, pretty girls had it coming, my best response is to stretch out my big-knuckled middle finger and say Fuck Off, Mayim. That we’re even talking about her is silly, let alone the thinkpieces figuring out what propelled her to share her views, not just because they’re wrong and her shows aren’t funny, but because it’s so damn obvious why she did. It’s just that those writing in media of minimum repute are too polite to say it. And while I’m in confession mode, yes I am jealous that her baloney found its way into a NYT op-ed, though she’s hardly alone to blame.

Many more instances happened to me, none as drastic, all rude and crude.

So why not just post the five letters? Because, even if it worked as a generator for sympathy Likes and got a few comments started, it’s spread so thin that I can’t be bothered beyond writing this down, and it’s not like this is some bravery. Talk doesn’t amount to action, neither does reaction, and, as with all hashtag activism I saw so far, however well-intended, it doesn’t do much outside of our news feeds. What would halt sexual violence is a full overhaul of society, and we’re only looking at the part where women have equal rights at least on paper, while a desperately large number don’t even have that.

Here’s hoping continuous education and call out-courage help in the meantime.