Earlier this month, amongst the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations, the popular US sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL) released a parody of the whole fiasco. The parody was immediately a viral hit with Matt Damon who had taken up the role of Kavanaugh lauded for the performance.
However, as a few people pointed out, Damon does not have the best track record when it comes to speaking of assault. In 2017, responding to the #MeToo movement’s growth, Damon had been quoted as saying, you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right? This shows that Damon had pursued the common victim blaming tactic of assuming that some abuse is worse than others. However, the actor faced immediate backlash for his remarks, which were considered to be in poor taste at a time when women were just starting to come out with their testimonies. Damon later apologized for his comment.
However, less than a year later, with Damon as the face of a very pointed attack against a man in position of power, we are pushed to contemplate on the problems with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. The mistake lies in seeing the whole issue as a case of few bad eggs, instead of delving deeper into the unfair power dynamics that exist between men and women.
At this point, it is not necessary to discuss all the men who have been accused as part of this movement— from Kavanaugh to Weinstein— since their unforgivable actions have already been discussed enough and made public. What must be examined today are the Matt Damons of the whole ordeal i.e., the so-called innocent bystanders. Allegations against Kavanaugh show us how the #MeToo problem is not specific to the Hollywood. In fact, accusations have also been made closer to home, in Bollywood and South Indian film industries. Social media and the use of #MeToo and more recently #WhyIDidntReport have made it clear that the problem with men in positions of power is not confined to a single industry, or to a single part of the world.
The #MeToo movement is emblematic of the call out culture that exists in the internet discourse. The problem with the public response to sexual assault revelations is that it ends with blacklisting people by deeming them problematic. In some cases, the abusers maintain a low profile for a while and re-emerge as having turned over a new leaf. #MeToo and #TimesUp have done a good job by providing women a communal space to speak up against the difficulties they have had to face. However, the revelations that #MeToo have put forth have been dealt with at face value, instead of addressing its root cause.
The fact is, there exists a mechanism within Hollywood and in all the other industries that protects abusers. There is an in-group understanding that fosters hostility against the abused. The unfair power dynamic is not unique to just Hollywood. The societal and historical objectification of women has created an environment where powerful men get away with such heinous acts. This is why #MeToo is so important. It gives a voice to the so-far voiceless group, by providing a platform for them to share their experiences. It is a sign of progress. This is also why the common victim blaming rhetoric of Why didn’t she report it when it happened is an extremely uncharitable one, coming from a point of extreme privilege, that ignores the complex power dynamics that exist between men and women today.
Of course, there are many of you who will use the example of women in power today to disprove the power dynamics argument. However, by isolating and just looking at successful women and their role in the workplace, we remove the historical context and the struggles that they had to overcome in order to reach their current positions. By ignoring women’s side of the argument, one reveals their privilege, similar to Kavanaugh who claimed that his life is being ruined, while disregarding the trauma that the abused Dr. Ford when through.
What we need to do is probe into the revelations that the #MeToo movement has brought out and carefully analyse the systemic problems that caused them in the first place. Sexism has long been seen as a nuisance caused by a few bad men, but that is simply not true. What one needs to do is critically analyse the socio-cultural factors that spawned this trend. We already have the input, thanks to #MeToo, and what we need to do is apply it correctly. Simply silencing and blacklisting abusers won’t do. We need to allow growth to some degree because it is the only way to foster positive change.
If all the eggs in your carton have gone bad, the next logical step is to re-examine the packaging.
Picture Credits : express.co.uk