For too long, it’s been men who have set the agenda and determined what justice for us women looks like.
This year is turning out to be the year of reckoning followed by some serious house cleaning: Kevin Spacey? Yanked from Netflix. Louis C.K.? Film premiere canceled. Matt Lauer? Canned after 20 years at NBC. If you’re anything like me, the continuing “boy, byes” got you feeling giddy. The #MeToo viral campaign and the ensuing consequences for dozens of men is enough to make a girl cry tears of joy (I personally haven’t felt this excited since a silhouetted Beyoncé flashed the word “feminist” behind her on stage).
Unfortunately, some people (ahem, men) seem to be struggling with the idea that #yesallmen are to blame. There is a distinction in their outrage. It’s selective. My social media feeds are peppered with both my conservative Christian friends handwringing over Hollywood “sex scandals” and my liberal college mates raging on about Trump and Moore – both groups reserving their ire for men who aren’t like them; men removed from their own good-guy identity.
I’ve watched as family members who tossed-in for Trump rake men like Spacey (gay, liberal) over the coals all the while remaining silent on the accusations against the Predator-in-Chief they helped elect. I’ve watched as my male friends from college, guys who consider themselves allies and feminist, bob-and-weave about their boy Louis (“he tells masturbation jokes, what do you expect?!”) while pointing their righteous fingers at Trump and Moore. Their outrage is selective. Their justice partisan.
It must feel good to be one of the good guys. To internalize #NotMe while publicly applauding the bravery of #MeToo.
But here’s the thing: Men do not get to decide who we hold accountable and who we give a pass to. For too long, it’s been men who have set the agenda and determined what justice for us women looks like. In the 1920s, it looked like white men using white women’s honor to justify the murder of black men. In the ’90s, it looked like Newt Gingrich and the “Republican Revolution” leading a politically-motivated impeachment proceeding under the guise of morality and ethics. In 2016, it looked like transphobic activists defending women and girls from “predators” in bathrooms.
These men are not radical or brave. Rarely is their rage righteous and universal. Often, it is aimed at men they feel comfortable othering and distancing themselves from. Men they can stand on while crying, “look at me!”
After the release of Trump’s now infamous “grab them by the pussy” remarks, my Facebook feed was full of nice young liberal white men talking about #rapeculture and how awful Trump is. Jump forward a year and those same men are arguing that Sen. Al Franken should get a pass and remain in power because he’s one of the “good guys” we can’t afford to lose: The exact same argument that conservative Evangelicals made in favor of electing Trump. Remember when popular Evangelical pastor and Fox News favorite Franklin Graham dismissed Trump’s comments as merely “crude”?
“The most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court,” he said. “That impacts everything. There’s no question, Trump and Clinton scandals might be news for the moment, but who they appoint to the Supreme Court will remake the fabric of our society for our children and our grandchildren, for generations to come.”
Note that Graham downplays Trump’s comments as merely “crude” and refers to the sexual assault/harassment allegations against him as a “scandal.” His message to the Fox News faithful was clear: “What really matters is the Supreme Court nomination. Sorry, ladies.”
And that seems to be the all-too-common response from men across the political spectrum. Whether it’s progressive darling Bernie Sanders supporting an anti-choice candidate because it’s pragmatic or Christians refusing to hold an accused statutory rapist accountable because of “the babies,” women’s dignity and autonomy seems to be up for debate.
2017 (a.k.a., “The Year of The Reckoning”) isn’t about individual men and their actions. It’s not even about powerful men in Hollywood or in the White House. It’s about all men, #YesAllMen, being socialized in a way that makes them dangerous and toxic to the women around them. It’s about finally taking the power of narrative and agenda-setting away from the powerful and placing it where it belongs; in the hands of women.
So sorry, dudes, you don’t get to dictate who we hang and who we pardon: Louis, Trump, O’Reilly, Franken – they’re all on our list. Come get your boys, or we will.
Jessica Schreindl is a community organizer and freelance writer in Seattle, Washington. She is a contributing writer for Mic.com and has been published on Feministing.com. She graduated with her M.A. from Syracuse University where she studied film history and documentary filmmaking.