Stop Applauding Men for Not Assaulting Women

Putting men on a pedestal for performing basic decency is not helping the #MeToo cause.
August 28, 2018, 3:51pm
Matt Damon and Melora Hardin in 'The Bold Type.' Images courtesy of CP/YouTube. 

In this season’s “Rose Coloured Glasses” episode of the painstakingly millennial curated show The Bold Type, a pitch meeting for an upcoming issue of Scarlet Magazine, the workplace of the show’s protagonists, turns to men and #MeToo.

“There is something we need to talk about,” editor Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin) starts off by saying. “Our allies. The guys who do show up at women’s rallies and who speak up when others are silent. I want to do a roundup of honourable men.”

In a room full of women no one thought to point out that men who come to rallies are not deserving of applause, let alone a fashion spread. “#TheyAreNotAllBad,” Carlyle suggested to Scarlet social media director Kat (Aisha Dee), a hashtag she probably hoped would trend resulting in a worldwide acknowledgment of good men. Matt Damon would be positively thrilled.

In keeping up with the accountability politics of the current zeitgeist, the series writers presented an episode that attempted to address the #MeToo movement while also making sure to note that not all men are bad, and it is these good men that we should applaud lest they forget they still have fans. That is a nightmare. In the same breath that Carlyle asked to honour the honourable she pitied the young women who are currently trying to find love. “I do not envy any of you all dating in this climate.” It’s almost as if the writers were stuck between a rock and an #AllMenAreTrash conundrum. How do we acknowledge rampant, pervasive and systemic sexual violence without putting #AllMen in a collective heap even though #AllMen collectively benefit from the social structures that have made sexual assault a constant part of women’s lives? Well, I know putting men on a pedestal for performing basic decency is definitely not the way forward.

I’ve watched the #MeToo movement as most digitally plugged in people have, watched its nascent growth from a singular innocuous hashtag to a rallying social media call to action. I even watched it when it was simply the call of black female activist Tarana Burke and in the story shared by actress Gabrielle Union on the sexual assault she suffered while in her teens, long before the hashtag found an audience via famous white women implicating powerful white men. In this particular moment that feels unlike any the world has ever seen in terms of illuminating a widespread problem, it is unnerving to see that women can never have a space where their trauma and the violent experiences of their day-to-day lives (some of which are so omnipresent they’ve become mundane) are the singular focus. We will always be required to fall back, pick up, reassure and praise the good men who do not use their gender to oppress women.

In the first episode of The Bold Type’s second season, “Feminist Army,” a meeting occurred with the staff where a third party talked about the revamped rules of workplace dating. These rules would ensure that a superior could date one of his employees so long as a document was signed that ensured the absence of secrecy while also guaranteeing consent.

As a show built around the journalism industry, The Bold Type had an opportunity to address the boy’s club of the media industry, its toxicity and claustrophobic closeness. Piss off one entitled male superior and your career will most likely be affected, not only at your current workplace but anywhere else he might have reach. So many young women journalists find themselves subscribing to a code of silence so they do not jeopardise their careers in an entire industry. A look at this reality could have led to a discussion on male coworkers who choose to be silent and simply take these experiences as an expected “boys will be boys” norm. Instead, the show treated #MeToo as a human resources and public relations issue, not as a reality dictated by access to power and privilege. It was such a surface retelling of an issue with deep and structural layers.

At the height of the Weinstein scandal, Matt Damon griped about the fact that good men were not receiving their deserved time in the sun and although his reasoning was found lacking and ill-advised, he is not alone in his desire to uplift men for doing the most bare minimum of leaving women the fuck alone. Men are able to avoid accountability so easily, partly because women are always viewed with suspicion and also because power protects power. We see this regardless of whether it grabs feminism by the pussy, throws children in a cage, recites the gospel to defend Roy Moore’s sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl, or confesses to a good friend spitting in the face of a black woman.

The world has had to contend with the #MeToo movement but it is increasingly clear that whatever space is made available to emphasize the realities of living as a woman, room will always need to be made for the good guy who needs you to know he is here standing by the side. As television shows become not only reflective of the world but an extension of social politics so much more needs to be done in terms of how pop culture chooses to portray changing social norms.

There needs to be a genuine intention at not only addressing but calling to attention the imbalanced power dynamics that determine how people are able to co-exist. Tip-toeing around issues to avoid rocking the boat a little too much is not only irresponsible it is dangerous. If you are going to do the work, do all of it.

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