WHY WE ARE NOT IN A POST-#METOO WORLD
High level journalism is painstaking and thorough; it is takes persistence and calls for detective work. It is unembarrassed about pumping sources. But the best hacks also value justice and have deep reservoirs of empathy.
It isn’t easy making a film about reporters, because so much of the action takes place on laptops and mobiles, but several pictures – All the President’s Men, Spotlight, The Post – have succeeded admirably and to this canon can be added the 2022 film She Said.
Taking the book of the same title, it conveys the work of the New York Times’ Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey who uncovered the sexual assault scandals surrounding Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein; work which led to the global #MeToo campaign.
Compressing several years’ desk-based research into two hours of film may be hard, but those used to talky scripts will feel at home in the intense and analytical world Kantor and Twohey inhabit. It is a long way from Bernstein and Woodward’s Watergate enquiry and the culture shift is clocked: the family life of the female reporters are laid bare: there are supportive male partners who yield the limelight and offer childcare; there is talk of clinical depression and physical exhaustion in juggling family and work. These women are credible; both vulnerable and courageous.
The horror of Weinstein’s crimes have a creepily timeless quality. Powerful men who exploit the imbalance in their relationship with women to abuse them. Who then deny every allegation made against them, use their position to ruin the victims’ careers while buying them off with non-disclosure orders. One of the most disturbing aspects of the film is the existence of a dark professional network of support to the abuser. Public relations experts, accountants and lawyers who turn a blind eye but pocket the money and bring shame on their professions.
We hear claims of a post-#MeToo world now. If people’s attention has been diverted elsewhere, it only shows the strange moral failure at the heart of distraction. Women are still abused and silenced. In some cultures it is embedded. Even in countries with greater equality, many women are demeaned in their homes and specific places of work. The remote control is held by men and it is turned to mute.
King David’s act of adultery with Bathsheba is an archetype. Bathsheba had no agency; this was no affair. He was the king and she was the wife of a Hittite. It was an act of rape. And to protect and enrich himself, David used his power and his obedient network to make a widow of the woman he abused. The Bible is full of God, but in the telling of this story in 2 Samuel 11, there is no mention of the Lord. Until the end, that is, when the laconic but devastating words are used: ‘But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord’.
Silence is not consent, either with God or with women.
Speak out for those who cannot speak says the Proverb (31:8).
Sometimes it takes years to speak out because of the infrastructure of abuse, but not often. The White Ribbon pledge (www.whiteribbon.org.uk) asks men not to remain silent when violence or threats of violence are made against women. There is a bigger and more virtuous infrastructure we can call on than those who support abusers. It’s called the human race.
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