Oh, girls, look what we’ve done now. We’ve gone too far. The growing backlash against the MeToo movement has finally settled on a form that can face itself in the mirror. The charge is hysteria, moral panic, hatred of sex, hatred of men. More specifically, as Andrew Sullivan complained in New York magazine this week, “the righteous exposure of hideous abuse of power had morphed into a more generalized revolution against the patriarchy.” Well, yes. That’s rather the point.
Sullivan is far from the only one to accuse the MeToo movement of becoming a moral panic about sexuality itself, and he joins a chorus of hand-wringers warning that if this continues — well, men will lose their jobs unjustly, and what could be worse than that, really? The story being put about is that women, girls, and a few presumably hoodwinked men are now so carried away by their “anger” and “temporary power” that, according to one piece in the Atlantic, they have become “dangerous.” Of course — what could be more terrifying than an angry, powerful woman, especially if you secretly care a little bit more about being comfortable than you do about justice? This was always how the counter-narrative was going to unfold: It was always going to become a meltdown about castrating feminist hellcats whipping up their followers into a Cybelian frenzy, interpreting any clumsy come-on as an attempted rape and murder. We know what happens when women get out of control, don’t we?
Charges like this are serious. Too serious to dismiss out of hand. I don’t mean to do so, not least because I am a queer person, and I do not take the notion of sex panic lightly. Why, then, are so many people so anxious to believe that this is one? There is at least one simple answer. It is easier — much, much easier — to manufacture an attack on sexuality than it is to imagine an attack on patriarchy.