This weekend was an odd juxtaposition of feminist issues on social media. On the one hand, there was the #MeToo campaign, which was visually striking. The idea was that if every woman who has been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted wrote “Me, too” on social media, it would be impossible to ignore.
And indeed, my Facebook feed was filled with variations of “Me, too,” as well as men responding about how heartbreaking it was to see, some men responding, “I see you,” as well criticism of the gender exclusivity of the meme and the responsibility it placed on women to “out themselves,” rather than on men to admit to being part of the culture of coercion.
If it takes your Facebook feed to realize that sexual harassment and sexual assault is a widespread problem, okay. In the wake of the “revelations” about Harvey Weinstein, I admit, in my ornery mood, to kind of feeling like some of these responses are like Captain Renault in Casablanca, shocked to discover that there’s gambling going on.
(Although, to be fair, I will admit that there are all sorts of mitigating factors, as John Scalzi importantly brings up.)
What I can’t stop thinking about, however, is one comment I saw on Facebook in response to a #MeToo post, making the claim that, really, most women are just exaggerating, giving the example of a man humping you uninvited on the dance floor--it’s doesn’t mean anything.
And the thing is, this comment was made by a woman. A woman I don’t know, and that I know nothing about, but I admit that it stings a bit, seeing a woman seem to be saying, “Oh, it’s just a little misogyny. Get over it.”
I think the reason why I find this comment so difficult to shake is that it goes so well with the other big feminist issue on social media this weekend: the inclusion of Bernie Sanders as a speaker at the upcoming Women’s Convention in Detroit. What I saw this weekend was the official Women’s March Facebook page posting several articles about the upcoming convention, all of which had headlines about Sanders being the opening night speaker. To which I--along with plenty of other women--had a variety of negative reactions, from surprise and disappointment to anger and outrage. All weekend, there were posts about how insulting it was to have Sanders “headlining” the event, expressing outrage and disappointment that Sanders, whose campaign against Hillary Clinton brought out a lot of misogyny on the left, would be promoted as the headliner. And the Women’s March’s response was to double down, complain that we hadn’t read right--Sanders was just one of many speakers, that it was the media characterizing as the “headliner,” and that our outrage was completely uncalled for.
First of all, I found this defensive stance disingenuous as well as completely unproductive. It was the Women’s March itself which was posting the articles promoting Sanders as the headliner--if this was such a misunderstanding, then they should have made that clear. However, the main speaker on the first night of a convention counts as a headliner, even if you don’t call it that. That is prime time real estate.
Second, I get that having a “controversial” speaker like Sanders definitely draws attention, and is a draw for a lot of people who feel marginalized by the mainstream. However, there are plenty of us who feel not only marginalized but endangered by Sanders. He continues to support anti-choice candidates, which is a bottom line issue for myself as well as plenty of others. And the misogyny which his campaign against Clinton engendered continues to run rampant.
So once again, women are told that we’re over-reacting and hysterical. It’s just a little misogyny, why can’t you get over it?
I wish I had some sort of sweeping conclusion to come to here, about making our voices heard or listening to women or what it’s going to take to get beyond “Fuck Bernie.” I don’t. I still feel disheartened and frustrated and quite a bit of anger. But I’m using this longer form to try to more clearly articulate where these feelings have come from, in the hope that at least some people who saw a weekend of surprising reactions from women might understand a bit more.