As anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock knows we’ve recently had confirmation that Hollywood is a pit of sexism, where the borders between consensual sex and non-consensual sexual predation have been increasingly blurred. Not that anyone who wasn’t paying attention (coff Polansky coff) wasn’t already aware of this – after all this is the industry that gave us the “casting couch”. I’m not going to go into the whole battered wife syndrome exhibited by Hollywood’s actresses beyond saying that John Ringo had a very interesting take on it on the Book of Feaces. What I want to comment on is the rush to “#MeToo”.

To some extent this is useful and interesting, but shocking, data in that when I read the #MeToos by various FB friends and acquaintances I’ve learned that more of them than I expected have actually been abused/assaulted. However, sadly, it seems to me that in the wider world we’ve seen a bunch of victim signalling, where all sorts of people desperately claim the #MeToo victim mantle for events that aren’t in the same league as Mr Weinstein’s assaults. Many would-be celebs, journalists etc. have gone and ruined the whole thing by conflating serious criminal acts (rape/sexual abuse/assault) with sexual harassment, which is less serious, and then defined the latter down to “some bloke I didn’t fancy said ‘nice dress’ once”.

In fact when it comes to the latter end, I’m hearing a feminist version of the 4 yorkshireman sketch:

“When I were a lass we walked 2 miles to school oophill in t’snow in a miniskirt with a pack of slavering men grabbing our tits to keep us warm”

“Aye lass. And when we got there, t’teachers’d beat us to an inch of our lives if we didn’t gi’them a blow job”

“A blow job? you were looky. We were gangbanged in t’classrooms regular every Monday”

“Kids today, they don’t believe us. They think sexual harassment means having some fat greasy bastard leering and saying ‘nice tits’ when we’re in t’pub”

This isn’t helpful. In fact, as with the redefinitions of date rape and consent so that sex you regret sometime next week is classified as rape, it weakens the fight against the actual bad guys. It does so because it leads to trivializing the crimes at the serious end of the spectrum. When people group together wolf-whistling and rape and claim that #AllMenAreGuilty, most men look at the list and think the shrieking harpies are exaggerating the whole thing because they (or friends/coworkers etc.) are probably guilty of stuff at the low end and can see that while it is perhaps not 100% harmless, it’s a petty irritation and no more so than the petty irritations they get from women. In fact many people (of both sexes) look at this and actively object because consensual flirtatious banter, sexual innuendo, poor taste jokes etc., which are what some of #MeToo crowd are complaining about, are ways to make the humdrum workday more pleasurable. The fact that a bunch of humorless upper-class sorts are lecturing the rest of us and taking away our fun really annoys and, in fact, potentially makes us more sympathetic to the real scumbags, such as certain famous Hollywood moguls, who actually do the real abuse instead of joke about it.

In fact, as a certain FB friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, pointed out, this might be deliberate:

If I were the cynical publicist of a famous person embroiled in a scandal, say a disgraced studio exec. who assaulted, raped and exploited women over DECADES, purely hypothetically speaking of course, how would I handle the fall out?

I suppose I would try to get him out of the picture as soon as possible. Send him to rehab, out of country, sure but I would also need to change the focus, defray the pain by spreading the blame to oh, all of society? Change the narrative from the deplorable actions of single person or even a single industry, which can and should be held accountable in a court of law and push it off on to all society, which of course can not be indicted, charged and sent to prison. I would even encourage victims of similar crimes to come forward to dilute the very specific and actionable charges by specific women against my specific client. I would spread this as a positive affirming movement on social media, a brave stance where we all have to face up to the music, because all of us are to blame really. […]

That’s what I would do.

But no one in Hollywood could ever be that cynical, could they?

I’m not sure that a publicist would seek to start such a trend, but I can certainly see one taking advantage of such a trend to divert attention. Combine that with puritanical grievance studies academics who can be counted on to publicly bansturbate on the issue and you have a sort of bootleggers and baptists coalition. Just as with other cases where such a coalition comes into being, the one thing you can be sure of is that it doesn’t help the victims of the bootleggers – in this case the actual abused women (and men for that matter).