People talk about #MeToo incidents as if they are binary. This type of behaviour makes for a #MeToo. This type of behaviour doesn’t. That’s just the sort of thing you have to put up with as a girl. That’s not a predator, that’s just a creep.
It’s a type of analysis that fails to recognise that #MeToo incidents (which is just the new way of saying sexual harassment) exist on a spectrum, not a binary.
The line between creepy behaviour and illegal behaviour is important to draw. We don’t want to live in an authoritarian matriarchy where men are jailed for wolf-whistling (actually… hang on a minute…). But it’s important to recognise that (unsolicited) wolf-whistling exists on the very same spectrum as sexual harassment. It’s on a different end, but it’s not a different thing.
Where former Vice President Joe Biden fits on that spectrum is difficult to assess. Samantha Bee once skewered the then-VP for this infamous image, in a sketch called The Audacity of Grope. But the woman in said image, Stephanie Carter, defended Biden, saying; “he kept his hands on my shoulders as a means of offering his support.”
Carter, of course, is the arbiter of her own story. If Biden’s tactile approach doesn’t offend her, then that’s perfectly fine. But several other women have found his handsiness creepy; including Lucy Flores, who said of Biden kissing her on the back of the head; “even if his behaviour wasn’t violent or sexual, it was demeaning and disrespectful.”
It’s noteworthy that when asked to address this incident, and the numerous others like it, Biden reached for the same explanation many predators use: I come from a different time.
Is Biden’s behaviour #MeToo worthy?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Is it on the spectrum?
In my view, absolutely, yes.
Creepy behaviour is often thought of as something women (and girls!) have to put up with. But it shouldn’t be. If the only lesson we take from the #MeToo movement is that sexual harassment in the workplace is unacceptable, we will have fallen short. Because I also don’t want a shoulder rub from a guy 20 years my senior. I don’t to be touched on the lower back whenever a guy has to move past me. And I certainly don’t want to be called a heartbreaker when you could be praising my talent (or simply shutting up, is it really that hard?).
Do I want men to be fired for this type of uncouth behaviour? No, not particularly. But I do want them to stop.
It’s hard to know when ‘eras’ finish (what wave of feminism is this, by the way?). But the sentencing of Harvey Weinstein certainly feels like some sort of #MeToo bookend. Weinstein, while a real-life monster, also serves a symbolic function. He represents all the thousands of powerful men who abuse their positions in exchange for sexual gratification. He represents the common ways victims can become entrapped. He represents bad behaviour.
The predators who were ousted by the #MeToo movement deserved what happened to them. Some face criminal charges, some lost jobs, some just took a reputation hit. Many won’t bounce back. But when Weinstein himself, a man accused of sexual misconduct by EIGHTY women, can only be charged on TWO counts, it’s hard to agree with the notion that #MeToo goes too far. It’s satisfying to watch figureheads of evil get their comeuppance – but it’s bittersweet to note how hard the system still works to protect them.
In a system that tolerates male creepiness (and beyond), it’s up to us to call out bad behaviour.
We might be officially ‘Post #MeToo’ – but the work is never over.Support Villainesse