By Jackie Acho and Eva Basilion
It’s been a big week in this #MeToo moment. Oprah gave a speech at the Golden Globes that captivated Americans, so much so that there has been serious talk of her running for President of the United States. In her eyes, #MeToo is growing into #TimeIsUp. Meanwhile, a group of French women, including Catherine Denueve, denounced the movement as it’s progressing here and in France, where it’s aptly called #Balancetonporc or “Expose Your Pig.”
What are they really saying?
Why is it so captivating?
What is becoming of this #MeToo movement?
Some are faulting Oprah and her audience for being complicit by protecting Weinstein. How could they not have known?
And Catherine. Her letter defended men’s “right to pester.” But when pestering is ok, how do we distinguish rape from consensual relations?
All of these criticisms have merit. But there is something bigger at play here. What are Oprah and Catherine really saying? It seems that Oprah and Catherine may be saying the same thing:
We need each other.
Listen to Oprah’s speech again. She spoke of Sydney Poitier keeping her company in a lifetime achievement award. Of Recy Taylor seeking justice when she was raped. Of those who were emboldened to say #MeToo in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s comeuppance. The common refrain? We are better together. She’s right. For victims, bearing witness together is often the only way forward from unspeakable pain. We are better together also holds for those of us who saw transgression and were too scared to speak up. We’ve all been there. It’s hard to be brave alone. The singular hero may be one of the most damaging myths of our time.
It wasn’t just the words. It was HOW Oprah spoke to us. She drew us in because she was WITH us. And we with her. She’s spent a lifetime talking to us; it was natural. All of the actresses wore black in solidarity. The fact that the dresses were luxurious, sexy, and revealing is beside the point. Or is it? Even as they protested male aggression, could they help inviting attention to their breasts? Maybe even as they push some men away, they want to make sure they continue to lure in the rest of us.
Because as Catherine Denueve and friends made clear, we need our men. Have you ever asked a French woman about American feminism? We have. They scratch their heads at the competition we’ve set up over here. Men vs. women. #MeToo can isolate our men further, setting them up as not just the competition, but the enemy. This loss of connectivity is not good for men or women. Women can’t live like Wonder Woman – on an island by ourselves. We love our men. And thank goodness, because there is more than one way for our species to end.
We’ve been living with a lot of repulsion lately. A lack of empathy is getting exposed in all of its ugliness. A lot of #NotSexy. #NotSexy Harvey was just the kindling on a fire that’s been burning forever. But the answer cannot be to isolate ourselves. Isolation is the severest form of punishment, and we all fear it consciously and subconsciously. We are not built for isolation, whether by a wall at our national borders, racial segregation, or a movement that divides men and women further. Isolation is #NotSexy.
And what about #Sexy? Oprah and Catherine may be older and not as biologically sexual as we might have perceived them to be in earlier days. They are postmenopausal even – not in a faded way, but in the way that is wise with experience and wields all of that power for the greater good. Like menopausal whales, they are leaders because we swim in the wake of their truth. In this moment, they are not dominating so much as inspiring. More, please.
In quintessentially American and French ways, Oprah and Catherine have shown us #Sexy. They have reminded us that we are built for connecting and creating together. That we need each other. That no one really wants to be alone. That’s what #Sexy is really all about. It’s time to change the conversation. As #MeToo grows up, it’s worth pondering the question: What is #Sexy?