A new book by JoAnn Wypijewski seeks to unpack the nuances of the #MeToo movement
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo: Essays on Sex, Authority and the Mess of Life. First of all, what a title. Standing alone, it evokes a sense of mystery from what has previously been thought of as a black and white movement – victim versus offender. Woman versus man. Subsequently, a lot of women versus a handful of men. In mainstream western media, it evolved into famous, intelligent and privileged women (in terms of their ability to voice concerns and, in recent years, actually be heard) versus famous, intelligent and privileged men (in terms of their status as rich, white males previously able to silence pesky female complainants with money).
The title adds new layers to the #MeToo movement, implying that there is more than meets the eye when approaching such a hot-button topic. Additions like ‘Authority’ and ‘the Mess of Life’ add new dimension to this media sensation. Is this more than simply a group of chauvinistic abusers who exist in well-lined pockets of society? Has our reaction been influenced by previous panics in society, by our approach to media in the twenty-first century, and by our historic prejudice surrounding gender?
‘Sex figures as a preternatural danger, emotion swamps reason, monsters abound, and protection demands any sacrifice’
Wypijewski, through a startling blend of lyrical prose asserting that, ‘Sex figures as a preternatural danger, emotion swamps reason, monsters abound, and protection demands any sacrifice’ and a mind-boggling array of statistics, has a forthright, if not controversial, objective. She seeks to pick apart the ‘ever expanding default language of monsters and victims’ and posits a manner of sexual politics to be applied to the fast-moving, messy society we live in.
Essays in the collection range through sensationalist, media-driven manhunts like that of Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen, to earlier examples of media panic around the AIDs crisis in the US. Her clear and incisive approach to historically taboo topics, which addresses cases and subjects with sensitivity to each particular context, shows us that there is a measured, analytical, and inherently modern attitude to be taken when discussing, prosecuting, and writing about entrenched sexual violence in industry and gender politics.
As Wypijewski concludes in the flagship essay of this illuminating collection: ‘The politics of good and evil leaves only righteousness and shame. Complex humanity evaporates in shame, and we’re back in the Garden, stitching fig leaves into garments.’ I think that says it all, to be honest.
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo: Essays on Sex, Authority and the Mess of Life, by JoAnn Wypijewski, will be available to buy on the 2nd June, 2020.
Last modified: 16th March 2020