We all knew it was coming: After dozens of women have come forward in the media and thousands more used the #MeToo hashtag on social media, we’re seeing expected backlash to the movement.
Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Patrick Leahy claim that there’s a lack of “due process” in the case of Al Franken, who was accused by eight women of offenses such as grabbing their butts and forcibly kissing them, and announced his resignation two weeks ago.
Their colleagues, the two congressmen say, were too quick in telling him to resign. And they’re not alone: Log on to social media and you’ll see thousands of people agreeing that Franken’s resignation was a bridge too far.
First of all, it’s not up to any man to say whether or not the sexual harassment or assault of women is “that bad” or “bad enough” or worthy of being moved past. But more importantly, what we’re seeing is a new chapter in an age-old rift amongst Democrats: We’re all good with the scent of change — until it makes us realise that the people on our side also stink in their own right.
All of sudden, the conversations turn to punishing just the “worst” of the offenders and the “bad apples.” A “movement” becomes a “witch hunt” practically overnight. We suddenly forget about the mountains of complicity it takes to enable every one of these men, and folks who say they’re liberal are trying just as hard as conservatives to stomp out the flames.
People often ask why I’m hesitant to call myself part of “The Resistance” and why I find the term cringe-y. The discourse we’re seeing unfold amongst Democrats on the issue of sexual misconduct is exactly why.
If you look up the term “resist” and its synonyms, it’s all about enduring something bad or weathering the proverbial storm. There’s nothing in the definition, however, about disassembling the overall system from the ground up and making something new and better. There’s an inherent complicity to resisting something but not trying to take on the looming and overarching causes that created that monster. The fact is, I don’t want us to just “get through” this era; I want us to smash it to pieces so that we’re never even close to being in this position again.
Looking at the issues regarding sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault, there are lots of people calling for Donald Trump to resign. I don’t see nearly as many people, however, actively talking about breaking apart how our society — all of us, not just Republicans — discusses and handles these issues and then rebuilding something better. People are quick to point out how Donald Trump and folks like Al Franken are different without discussing how their alleged behaviour was enabled through the same misogynistic culture.
One thing’s for sure: If your politics are all about “resisting” Donald Trump and his bandits but not dismantling and replacing the systems that allowed them to thrive in the first place, you’re essentially coming in midway through open-heart surgery armed with a single Band-Aid.
It’s not just the issue of sexual harassment and assault where this is true. It’s about, for example, telling people to turn out to vote yet not working to ensure the right to vote for all Americans in subsequent elections. It’s about wanting marijuana legalisation without tackling the racism associated with drug policy. And it’s about just wanting to get Democrats back in power but not taking down the absurd gerrymandering laws that could defeat them once again in the future. Succeeding in the current, messed up system means you’re winning battles in spite of major obstacles, but you’re still trying to win against a machine that doesn’t need to exist.
My hope for 2018? I want us to move past just simply “resisting.” Telling Donald Trump and the Republicans to eat shit, and screwing up all of these diabolical plans, are necessary and satisfying in their own right; I’m not saying that those aren’t important measures. But they’re just the first steps. Destroying the systems we’ve been participating in — and in many cases, benefitting from — and rebuilding from scratch is way harder.
American society was meant to help people who are white, people who are male, people who are heterosexual, people who are able-bodied, and people who are rich. If we want to successfully disarm those who showcase the worst of America, that requires something far more difficult: Recognising and tackling the ugliness we all carry within ourselves.
Lily Herman is a contributing editor at Refinery29 in New York. Follow her on Twitter. The views expressed are her own.
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