#MeToo revolution: Are things really going to change?
This is the first in a series of four blog posts about the #metoo movement from the perspective of several Brandman University professors and their respective disciplines.
Late last year, when celebrity women accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment, and women everywhere posted “Me too” on social media, I felt cautiously optimistic. The burden of admission and exposure, after all, still fell on women.
But soon the charges against Weinstein were followed by more accusations, which, in turn, led to apologies from high-profile men in positions of power. And while the sincerity of these apologies can, and should, be debated, the very act of men publicly taking responsibility for wantonly sexist acts –and losing their jobs because of it – is unprecedented.
No wonder many, including TIME Magazine – recently featuring an international group of women who spoke out against sexual harassment as its 2017 Person of the Year – are declaring this breaking of silence a revolution.
But although my optimism is now much less cautious, I can’t bring myself to make the declaration that we are in the midst of a revolution. Instead, I keep asking myself: Is this enough? Are things really going to change, not just now, but in the future? Will fewer women be the victims of sexual abuse, assault, harassment, and rape?
I remain hopeful that one day soon, the answers to all of these questions will be a resounding “YES!” And I do believe that what has occurred in just the last two months is moving us in that direction. But, for the moment, I know, as a sociologist, that the answer to all of these questions is still “No.” Or, rather, a lot more needs to happen before we can see real change in the treatment of women.
Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow saying that Weinstein harassed them, women posting “Me too” on social media, and men issuing half-hearted apologies in an attempt to save their careers aren’t striking hard enough at the heart of the issue, which is patriarchy.
Patriarchy is a social system made by men, for men, so that men –specifically, heterosexual cisgender men-- can perpetually remain in power. Even if individual men are not in positions of power, relative to others, they benefit from patriarchy. Our social institutions are founded on it.
So it is men, or our patriarchal legal system, who decide what constitutes sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape.
It is men who first sexualize women and then police women’s sexuality.
It is men who “can’t help themselves” and continually excuse their behavior while saying “women asked for it.”
It is men who create stringent school dress codes for girls while giving boys a pass to wear whatever they want.
It is men behind shows and movies nearly always portraying physical contact between characters as a matter of impulsive assumption and unspoken consent rather than verbal communication.
And it is still too many men who are silently reading the “Me toos” and apologies on social media, perhaps expressing their support, but still rarely admitting to their own violation of women.
Yes, violation. Because I can guarantee that if we didn’t live in a patriarchy, and women got to decide the terms for what men have done to them without their consent, they would choose the term “violation.”
The violation of women won’t end until patriarchy does. But how do we end patriarchy?
We demand that men stop what they started. We insist that they take a cue from Jackson Katz and recognize that violence against women, whatever its form, is not a women’s issue but a men’s problem—and not just after the fact, when women call them out on it, but before it even happens.
We ask that more men ‘fess up on social media –or, better yet, directly in front of the women in their lives—and admit to all of the ways they have violated women, intentionally or not.
And, ultimately, we ask that all of us embrace feminism and proudly call ourselves feminists. Because feminism’s objective is to smash the patriarchy --not to take power away from men, but to make sure men share power with women. And no one should have power over a woman, except the woman herself.
Lata Murti, Ph.D., is an associate professor of sociology for the School of Arts and Sciences at Brandman University whose area of research and teaching includes sociology, race and ethnicity, gender, and social inequalities.
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