Mayim Bialik’s much-discussed New York Times op-ed about her own experiences in Hollywood, for instance, likely had the best intentions.
This week, my “women and feminism” Google alert (the gift that, in the year 2017, truly never stops giving) hipped me to a group that calls itself the Lovely Ladies of Men’s Issues.
This summer, they crowdfunded a 2018 pinup calendar that “represents the wonderful women who are dedicated to addressing the inequalities faced by men that are largely ignored in society today,” and which was ultimately funded well beyond its goal.
And actor Rose Mc Gowan, an early Weinstein whistleblower who has worked to highlight Hollywood exploitation, has managed to fuck up her intended message with tweets that center “women” as exclusively white, straight, and cisgender.
#Me Too has been a powerful statement, but it’s also another example of in-plain-sight abuse portrayed as intolerable only when its most prominent or timely victims are white women.
With a possible few exceptions (looking at you, De Vos and Conway) these women aren’t intentionally perpetuating harm.
They have not set out with a dastardly plan to compromise the safety and autonomy and well-being of other women.
We’ve seen a rallying cry for young Black women appropriated as a hashtag campaign, a well-meaning call for a Twitter boycott, and—inevitably—as Instafeminist commerce.
We’ve also seen the “whisper network”—the time-honored tradition whereby communities, usually those marginalized within their larger environs, aim to protect one another by privately naming bad actors—dragged into the spotlight.
Their will-to-loophole-womanhood is a bargain they strike in order to find a seemingly secure place within an unbalanced system of power that they don’t want to call by its name. They are gatekeepers, and their actions—and maybe more to the point, their inaction—can determine whose lives and careers matter and whose are expendable.
They can be the difference between being heard and being erased.
We can’t blame them, but we have to reckon with them.