Rage is fashionable. I may be projecting – I’m good at anger – but I don’t think so. Argument without rancour seems an ancient courtesy and to take a nuanced position on anything seems cowardly. You are wrong or you are right. If you are wrong, you are always wrong – because you have been wrong once. The same goes if you are right. Everyone is a columnist now and in a world of columnists, no one is really listening.
I am going to take a nuanced position on #MeToo. It came, it was necessary, and much too late. I was astounded because it had never occurred to me that I didn’t have to accept the flirtation of the orange senior journalist with an easy smile. (‘You look like Monica Lewinsky. Would you like a cigar?’)
It didn’t bother me as much as it should have, because I despised them, I knew it showed on my face, and I knew that I would get what I wanted in the end, which was everything they had.
I tried to explain #MeToo’s importance to my mother, who had it far worse in the 1960s and 1970s. Every policeman who stopped her car – she was a terrible driver, and beautiful – asked for her telephone number. My grandmother, meanwhile, turned down the job she wanted most – a fashion buyer – because she didn’t want to earn more than her husband.
‘#MeToo came, it was necessary, and much too late’
#MeToo was righteous, but it was not perfect. Should women have a perfect revolution when they are not perfect and should not have to be? #MeToo began in Hollywood and that evil town celebrated it, and continued to put hot women only on the screen. (Unless mothers, or children, or crones). Actors appeared on red carpets – which should be burned for cruelty to women – with activists, as if they were cherished pets. The media concentrated on the woes of a woman paid $2 million a film rather than the $5 million for her male co-star, and not on less photogenic victims. That harmed #MeToo. It made it look stupid, as Hollywood tends to do. A list of men in the media, whose behaviour had veered from gauche to apparently criminal, was circulated and hurt people who were innocent of everything but idiocy. (Although others did more serious crimes and were rightly punished).
The counter-revolution arrived and armed itself with semi-innocent men, like Aziz Ansari, whose date accused him of forcing sex on her, when she never said she didn’t want it – so not rape then. The press attacked #MeToo – the press is full of men – and accused it of sabotaging the presumption of innocence. But something changed.
‘Should women have a perfect revolution when they are not perfect and should not have to be?’
Even so, women argue, in general, according to their age. Older women who had survived said: so what? Younger women said: no more. They are right, even if some of their jargon is insufferable. But you don’t judge a movement by its worst elements. You can hate people and agree with them. It is an excellent basis for a civilised society, or, as I wouldn’t say on Question Time: You pay for my abortion. I pay for your testicular cancer.
Is it possible to believe that women should not be assaulted and also to believe that not all men want to assault women, both at once? Of course it is, and most people believe it. They just don’t spend time saying it on Twitter.
I hope #MeToo will shrink away from Hollywood towards where it is needed most – in normal places of work. Every wave of feminism has its point, but how I miss the second wave, the economic wave, the best wave. Pay women equally and take equal responsibility for childcare, and perhaps assaulting them won’t seem so tempting?
I hope too, that we will be tender with each other and open to new ways of being. Despite the fear and the fury, these are new days full of hope.
Tanya Gold is an award-winning journalist and writer