The Singular Perspective of a Male in the Era of #MeToo.
By Guru Ramanathan.
My name is Guru Ramanathan and I am going to be a sophomore Dramatic Writing student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. As an aspiring filmmaker I have always wanted to know about any news coming out of the industry and care about how it is changing on a creative, commercial and social level. Over the past few years Hollywood has seen quite a number of progressive movements, the most recent being #MeToo which has grown out of a series of Hollywood sexual assault scandals (but the movement undoubtedly stretches beyond the confines of the film world).
Mid-December 2017 I was having a conversation with a male friend about the #MeToo movement. We were both happy to see many women come out to share their stories while seeing several monsters finally be exposed and take the downfall they well deserved (i.e. we thoroughly supported it!). But there was another sentiment we were harboring: what did it now mean to be a man in the era of #MeToo? We both wanted to support women but were also afraid of speaking out in case it would be perceived as insensitive. This movement was about letting women speak up against their silencers and having the rest of the world finally start listening. What would the repercussions be of men now speaking on top of the women again? Would that not go against the point?
I do not know if it is worrying in general that these concerns came through my mind. It was not an inflation of the backlash but rather a genuine need to know how to improve the situation. I was not trying to find an excuse to have a voice but rather find where I fit in all this. I was confused more than anything.
But then came the backlash. In the film industry male celebrities like Michael Haneke and Roman Polanski (the latter has been charged with sexual assault against a minor) called it a “witch hunt.” It seemed as if all males were put on an endangered species list. I cannot dissect every little caress and look (as many people who try to criticize #MeToo do look to these extremes and question the cause). But I found the criticism weak and regressive because it was trying to label this movement as if it were something divisive and vitriolic very early in its development.
This movement builds itself on inclusivity, supporting survivors and one another. #MeToo advocates for a world in which someone does not have to worry about the violation of their safety and privacy in the workplace, let alone anywhere else. Not to mention, while #MeToo has generally been a female driven cause, men also get sexually assaulted and a few (e.g. Terry Crews, Brendan Fraser) have spoken out about their sexual harassment experiences. All men are not the enemy; likewise, the women of #MeToo are not out to get all men.
#MeToo began featuring prominently during awards shows. At that point—January 2018 was the 75th Golden Globes—it had presumably cemented itself in the zeitgeist forever. Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes was one of the many enlightening statements I had heard over the past few months and a definitive “it is time ” moment for me: “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again” (Winfrey 2018). Silence is to being complicit as listening is to being supportive. That was always obvious. But, speaking out is necessary and it is with and for the women, not as a man. As in, I really did not matter.
Of course, it was important for me to be on the right side, but it was about how I used my voice to help the survivors, not patch up my own feelings. This realization made me feel even stronger about the cause in general. I think that any black-and-white concern I had was only pushing me back into the problems of the past and in a way subtly feeding the backlash without knowing it. Men do indeed have a lot to deal with right now: the past mistakes of other monsters and what they can do right now to improve the future.
I have to admit that I do not believe change is happening but rather beginning to happen. The process will be gradual. For decades we were stuck in the calm before the storm, but now the clouds have formed and over the course of the next few years we will be enveloped in a hurricane of change.