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Bill Maher Is Way off in Taking a Shot at “Fragile” Millennials in the Era of #MeToo

Bill Maher

Last week on Real Time With Bill Maher, Bill Maher took shots at the #MeToo movement along with The New York Times’ Bari Weiss, who dropped pearls of wisdom like the phrase “hard left feminist orthodoxy,” which I’m sure will be integrated into your local MRA pamphlets soon enough.

The issue was how the #MeToo movement perpetuates the infantilization of women, the fact that men need due process, and of course, the fragility of those damn youths: “I don’t think it’s the majority of them [millennials]. I think it’s the upper-middle-class kids who grew up screaming at their parents and that was okay. And they are just so fucking fragile—excuse me—I think of them as emotional hemophiliacs and the rest of us have to be so careful around them …”

Sigh.

I truly hate how conversations about safe spaces, millennial progressive movements, and even this #MeToo movement, get painted as the actions of spoiled upper-middle-class and white kids. I grew up in Brooklyn to immigrant parents in a working-class household. I did not grow up with some silver spoon or the privilege to be “fragile.” Caring about the issues of consent and trying to talk about the multiple ways it can be communicated or exist is not something that is only the concern of upper-class white kids. It matters to all women, women of color, women who engage in sex work, and women who date in general.

There’s also a willful ignorance to the broadness of the #MeToo conversation. Yes, the movement started out in revealing the horrible misconduct of Weinstein, Louis C.K., and the like, but now it has grown to express the ways in which we don’t talk about sex with young people.

On a recent episode of The View—yeah, I know—the hosts got into the Aziz Ansari issue and Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, and Meghan McCain all sort of played the same discussion game of “does it take away a woman’s agency?” Whoopi went so far as to say that “non-verbal cues” indicating a desire not to have sex don’t exist—that a woman has to be able to walk out of the door on her own. It sounds great in theory, but again, this issue has gone through plenty of nuanced discussion an effort to explain why women don’t always feel comfortable saying “no” at first and what “bad sex” for women is like, yet that nuance is being willfully overlooked by pundits too eager to talk down to an entire movement.

It’s easy to complain that liberals are engaged in a witch hunt and say that they don’t understand there should be a “spectrum” of dealing these issues if you ignore the spectrum of conversation that has come out of it.

People were not mad at Matt Damon because he was mistaken when he tried to point out that there are different levels of abuse. People were mad at Matt Damon because his comments were messy, his continued invocation of his daughters as some sort of force field against criticism was absurd, and ultimately, his concern—identical to Maher’s—was about a perceived lack of nuance that’s not based in reality. Women do understand nuance. We’re not saying that every case or infraction has to be handled exactly the same, but that doesn’t mean, as Samantha Bee said, that they shouldn’t be talked about, because sexual misconduct doesn’t have to go as far as rape to ruin a woman’s life—or to contribute to rape culture.

Never mind the fact that these men are being called out for their own actions. There have been ample receipts. What it really comes down to with many of these defenses is how much people like/respect the person being called out, which, quite frankly, is not helpful or “nuanced.”

As of right now, of the men who have been accused of sexual harassment in this current #MeToo climate, the worst thing that has happened to any of them is a loss of work. Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, for all the dragging that was done to him on a national and international stage, will not serve a day in jail. He simply lost out on being a senator. Weinstein is being investigated, but he is still a free man. Louis C.K. has gone underground, and his terrible movie was canceled. Kevin Spacey is checked into a therapy program. Al Franken was peer pressured into resigning, and people have been saying that isn’t fair because of Donald Trump’s continued presidency.

Everyone was talking about James Franco’s snub at the Oscars, but he’s still going to be on the next season of The Deuce. Aziz Ansari hasn’t been pulled from Netflix, and we have no idea yet if the Babe.net article about him will have any real lasting effect on his career, considering how divided people are on it.

So where are the pillars of smoke or gallows for this witch hunt? Where are all the hair shirts? Have we started to delete Instagram models off the internet in embracing of our new puritanical #MeToo government where no one is allowed to flirt or fuck? Are FashonNova dresses going to be burned?!

If millennials are so fragile, why are so many women willing to put their emotional trauma on stage for the world to see? If we are so fragile, why are we starting these really hard conversations and taking the mirror to ourselves and our own sex lives to see if we have fallen into traps and didn’t realize it? If we are the fragile ones, why is everyone so afraid of what we have to say?

But more than that, why is it that people who say they are liberals, claim they’re for women’s rights, and advocate for having civil conversation decide that things are going “too far” when it’s about something they don’t understand. Maher’s comments are almost exactly the same as Trump’s concerning the domestic abuse issue facing the White House right now, and that is a huge problem.

(via HBO, image: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

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