JoAnn Wypijewski on #MeToo


The always brilliant JoAnn Wypijewski (also Washington Babylon‘s associate editor) has a story, “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo,” in the current issue of The Nation. You may not agree with the whole story — if you did, JoAnn wouldn’t have written it — but it’s interesting and unique and definitely worth a read.

Here’s an excerpt:

Amid the chorus of stories that define the #MeToo phenomenon, there remain other, unattended stories. These others do not displace the chorus. They do not say, “You are wrong, shut up.” They do not exist in the world of “Keep quiet” or “Be good.” They do not deny the reality of men’s age-old power over women, or conformity as a silencing force. They say power is cunning, power is a hydra; it has more heads than any story or group of stories can describe. They say history does, too. They invite us to inspect the hydra. What follows is my invitation.

We both were young, 20s, but I was older. We worked for the same outfit, but I was paid. We kissed while walking home from a party, and then at the back of a bus, and then in his stairwell. He had made the first move, but only I could say, in the midst of our distraction, “Of course this means I can’t hire you.” He was an intern, I a department chief. The declaration astonished him—whether because he sensed I underestimated him, I cannot say. Ultimately, he so surpassed the qualifying test’s requirements that not hiring him would have been absurd. Years later, a catty friend would say ambition alone drove the boy’s kisses: “After all, he was gorgeous, and you…” I was his boss and lover, he my assistant and lover, each of us on the seesaw of power and weakness that those dual roles implied until, over time, the temperature changed.

That is a true story, true to me, and the telling, I suppose, encourages you to believe it. But what do you know? Say I were a man and the intern a woman. Say I called her a girl and someone said her desire for a job figured in the encounter. Say you knew nothing of her side of the story, as you know nothing of his—as, actually, you know only the barest details of mine. Say, finally, that she knew the value of her kind of beauty in seduction and social competition—how could she not?—but also its curse. Does that imaginative exercise open what for me is a sweet, if complicated, memory to sinister interpretation? Is the intern now a victim? Am I a predator? And yet the information is unchanged, as revealing and partial as it was at first telling.

Read the whole story here.

(Note: Here’s an older short post from Washington Babylon, written by my daughter, which looks at #MeToo through a different lens. Also definitely worth a read.

The lede:

Hey, Me too, but this is statistically unsurprising and not my responsibility to reveal. What we need — rather than countless women confirming what we already know, that men routinely harass and assault us — is for the people who are actually responsible for these atrocities to speak up.

Men, where are you? Where are your #metoo’s? Why haven’t I seen “Me too, and I won’t do it again”? “Me too, and I won’t brush off your experiences again”? “Me too, and I won’t doubt you next time”? “Me too, and next time I won’t stand by?”

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