What’s next after #MeToo

Although it is a step forward that survivors are feeling they can come forward to name their perpetrators, there is a reason we were so hesitant in the first place. None of that has necessarily budged after the #MeToo social media campaign, started by Tarana Burke in 2006.

Scores of women have felt rawdisheartened, and fatigued by the #MeToo news cycle over the past months for the obvious reason that these are transmissions of suffering and for many, reminders of exclusion. But the relentless news coverage is further disconcerting because these tales of horror are making some companies a lot of money, often by allowing one writer to dismiss and denigrate accusers in the same pages where another writer first broke the allegations.

So the perception of widespread insatiability that has so many conservatives and even liberals lamenting the fall of “due process” is not entirely off the mark. We harpies do indeed want more, much more. Even the handful of prominent men’s professional casualties isn’t quelling our appetite for revolution, which is misconstrued by some as a senseless, hysterical lust for vengeance. If anything, this growing parade of superficially disgraced figures only deepens our aggrievement: again, not by driving us to indiscriminate bloodletting, but by further whetting the craving for true change. Throw another famous gasbag into the fires of public disapproval—hell, throw them all in a fire—and see if we care. We will not be distracted or placated. A scab has been torn away and underneath is not a nearly-healed wound but a puncture so deep it drives down to the bone.

If this past year taught us anything, it was how profoundly every system one might have hoped to improve with mere reform, every institution one might have trusted to “do the right thing,” every politician who’d been positioned as a beacon of integrity, will never come to our rescue. Parity and justice and restitution are not priorities of our existing structures because those structures were designed to maintain hierarchies that make justice and parity and restitution impossible. This means that “the task ahead for women…is immense,” as Jo Livingstone writes: “It’s nothing less than a utopian project.”

You don’t get utopia by tweaking who stars in what Netflix show, or by kicking a handful of .01%-ers off the metaphorical island. The restless women of 2018 did not come seeking cosmetic corrections. We are ready for razing and remaking. Here, then, is an attempt to clear away some of the clutter so we can move on to the work most urgently at hand.

While it is important we feel ready to name the wrongdoing that occurs in our lives, we are still at incredible risk from structural problems that have yet to change. Discussed more here.



  1. says

    Nice article, Charlotte Shane. I am enthusiastically in favor of social arson, since something happened in late 2016. Burn this society to the ground if that’s what it takes to make things right for once.

  2. Hj Hornbeck says

    I’m starting to see the Aziz Ansari story as emblematic of this, it inspired so much backlash because it didn’t quite fit the script of “powerful man accused of outrageous behaviour by multiple women.” A fair number of women argued the story didn’t belong under the #MeToo banner, because they and all their friends had experienced something like that. Along the same lines, I heard a feminist podcast invoked “real rape” talking points!

    These lines from the article capture the danger of an awareness campaign without a well-thought-out action attached:

    Arguably, displacing these men serves to protect the dynamics that fostered their abuse in the first place, in the same way that suppressing symptoms of an infection without appropriate treatment only allows the infection to fester and spread. Specific men might leave, but there’s no guarantee that the culture—as it’s shaped by and reinforced by HR departments, PR professionals, and upper management—will look any different.

    The awareness portion has done its bit. Now, it’s time to leverage that to change on culture.