The conversation #MeToo needs to have

If you haven’t noticed, we’re angry. We’re seething. For some of us, it began the first time we were groped on public transportation and discovered one of the dark realities of living life in a female body. For others—among them, famously, Oprah Winfrey—it began even earlier, and in a much more terrifying way. “I knew that it was bad,” she has said of the sexual abuse she endured as a child, “because it hurt so badly.” We live with it, suppress it, are to some extent shaped by it, but mostly we keep a cork in it. But every so often, that rage roars up to the surface, and it’s not just one or two of us, it’s just about all of us. And when that happens, it seems to us that—if we can just stay angry and if we can just keep going—we might actually change things. Female rage is the essential fuel of #MeToo. Unchecked it is the potent force that will destroy it.

You may also have noticed that we’re starting to lose the crowd. This gets called “backlash,” which makes it seem a product of sexism, but to a significant extent it’s also a product of the rage itself, and the irrational, score-settling things it can make people do. “I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations,” tweeted Emily Linden, a writer for Teen Vogue. “Sorry. If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.” These turned out to be sentiments that a fair number of activists shared—along with the assumption that only men would reject them. But when messy hook ups and ill-conceived passes receive the same public shaming and career-damaging punishment as serious crimes, you also get the attention of millions of wives, mothers, and sisters who are not willing to see their loved ones unfairly targeted, and some of them are starting to cool on the movement. As for the men—the good ones—they’re eager to fight rape, but unwilling to lose their jobs over unfounded or minor accusations.