It’s been used when discussing the upcoming reboot/sequel for 9 To 5.
It’s been used when discussing developments regarding a potential Batgirl movie.
It’s been used when writing about Justine Bateman’s upcoming directorial debut.
I’ll admit I’ve used it quite a few times myself. Or I’ve danced around it by using a phrase like “current cultural moment.”
“…for the #MeToo generation.”
The comment is meant to position certain movies as being more relevant and timely because they speak to how we’re having a societal reckoning with powerful men who have used that power to keep women down. Often that’s taken the form of sexual harassment and abuse. Talented women are made to feel like outcasts in frat house cultures where they are made to feel less than and chastized if they don’t participate in the same bawdy activities as everyone else. Or their careers are cut short when they reject the advances of a man weilding outsized power. Or they’ve been attacked but kept silent for fear of the above.
It’s useful shorthand, but I’m concerned we’re overdoing it, watering #MeToo down by trying to make every example of an independent woman who refuses to play by the rules established by men or who tries to get out from under a man’s thumb part of the movement.
That framing is true to an extent. It’s great that more women are able to tell their stories and have their stories told. We don’t really need any more movies about Steve Jobs but could use a few more about successful women who have changed their respective industries. The more movies there are about female leadership, female friendship and female power, the better.
A real #MeToo movie, though, would be a little different. That movie – or movies – would tell the story/stories of the women who were kept out of the spotlight, who had their careers cut short because they couldn’t get an editor to give them a story despite having years more experience than male colleagues. Or the women who fell into severe depression because a male supervisor raped them, only to be fired because she was now seen as a troublemaker while he was promoted.
Those are the real #MeToo stories that could be told of women of all color. They may not be as uplifting as the stories of those who rose to great heights, but they’re more real. If we keep applying #MeToo to any story of female empowerment we’re going a disservice to those whose triumph is as simple as staying alive after years of abuse, gaslighting, both or worse.
For myself, I’m going to stop applying this label to every movie that has a central female character carving out her own path and embracing her own destiny. It means so much more and we should be respectful of that reality.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.