Griggs: #MeToo: class and elitism
The #MeToo movement, while being a good introduction to the problem of sexual assault for many Americans, has received extensive media coverage focusing solely on Hollywood scandals impacting rich, typically white, celebrities. But can progressivism really be embraced and understood by people who benefit so richly from our current capitalist society? This is a paradox of the #MeToo movement, which culminates in one important question: does anybody care about the non-famous minority women who are sexually harassed and assaulted every day?
Hollywood certainly has a history of sexual misconduct and sexism; popularly made evident by the pay gap between male and female actresses and comedians. This Hollywood pay gap is reflective of the pay gap that exists in all realms of American life under the patriarchy, but having a few million dollars less than your male co-star is, while completely wrong, not going to cause one to starve or miss out on their fifth yearly trip to Fiji. Calling Hollywood “out of touch” with reality is a common and cheap tactic used by Fox News to distance themselves from liberal America, but it’s not wrong. In order for Hollywood, and this movement, to be more in-sync with what is really happening, they’re going to have to be a lot more intersectional, and in action, not just in theory.
Even among the Hollywood elites, Black women have been shown to not receive the same amount of sympathy or attention when they’ve accused men of being sexual predators. Even Lena Dunham, an outspoken feminist – who is rightfully beginning to be called out on her hypocritical feminism – defended a man, who happens to be her friend, against assault allegations from a Black woman. Minorities are frequently sexually exploited, and nobody will stand up for them. Dunham apologized for her very questionable victim-shaming, but it’s hard not to wonder if she really gets it. Last August, Buzzfeed wrote an expose about R. Kelly, who has allegedly been raping underage Black women in a secret cult. While the story got a bit of attention, the first thing you think about R. Kelly is his song, “Trapped in the Closet,” and not “R. Kelly is a disgusting creep.” How much of that has to do with the fact that the victims who spoke up against him weren’t rich or white or famous?
It’s hard to know if the system that treats women so terribly, especially women of color or transgender women, will be able to be fixed from within, especially when it’s only women at the top of the economic power structure that are being taken seriously. From the perspective of true leftist Marxists, popular culture exists as a “machine” that dominates everyone’s day-to-day livelihoods, as well as making existing power structures even more powerful. In Marx and Engel’s “Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas,” they state that “the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” While I am not a Marxist and I don’t think that sticking to true Marxist ideologies is conducive for nuanced arguments against sexual assault that places value on intersectionality, this brings up an important point to think about regarding the class structures that play a vital role in Hollywood and contribute to everyone’s discussions about our culture of sexism, even if you don’t fancy yourself a Marxist.
It’s impossible and completely misguided to try to have a conversation about sexual assault that only focuses on the one percent. It’s elitist and completely self-serving, and while this movement is historical for women, it’s only a start. I don’t entirely discredit the movement, because it has drawn attention to something that is imperative to start paying attention to, but we need to consider all of the people who aren’t at the top, or so many women will continue to suffer.
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