No, #MeToo isn't McCarthyism

None of these examples of women speaking out about their experiences amounts to McCarthyism. The women adding names to the Shitty Media Men list thought they were doing so privately; when the list eventually did become public, it was partly thanks to a man with his own political agenda, who was the first to post a handful of names from it. A substantial number of men on the list remain in their jobs. Those who don’t have been investigated by their employers, and the claims against them have been validated. That’s not a witch hunt—it’s a version of due process. Nor is this evidence of women being hysterical about gallantry and seduction, as the French actress Catherine Deneuve has argued. Those who charge, as Deneuve and Sullivan do, that women are conflating innocent catcalls and actual assault, are ignoring the actual key distinction here: Unsolicited comments on the street are one thing; unsolicited comments from your boss are totally different.

If the people who’ve written about their own objections to #MeToo have another thing in common, it’s an impulse to wantonly exaggerate what they think women actually want. “These are scary times, for women as well as men,” Daphne Merkin wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times. “There is an inquisitorial whiff in the air, and my particular fear is that in true American fashion, all subtlety and reflection is being lost. Next we’ll be torching people for the content of their fantasies.” I’m hesitant to speak on behalf of any proportion of women, but to characterize what the women I know hope for, here it is. A workplace where women aren’t harassed, excluded, or forced to compromise themselves for fear of losing their jobs. And outside the workplace: sexual encounters that are consensual from beginning to end. The ability to ride packed subway cars from Union Square to Grand Central without having grinning men grind their erect penises against our hips (if this last one is oddly specific it’s because it happened to me, and I laughed about it later but still tend to take local trains when I’m in New York if I can).

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