“The nothing is funny people are trying to take over the world and we can’t let them”
As the #MeToo movement faces backlash from the left and backlash to the backlash from other elements of the left, Bill Maher wades into the controversy. Maher, who is unafraid to say things that will be unpopular with his leftist audience, stated that he is “down with #MeToo, I’m not down with #MeCarthyism.”
Maher notes that the #MeToo movement has developed into a McCarthy-like witch hunt that does not distinguish between degrees of offense or even between a joke and sexual harassment. He labels them “distinction deniers.”
In the season premiere of Real Time with Bill Maher, the eponymous host had a bone to pick with the “nothing is funny” people. When the time came for the comedian to present his new rules, his final one included, “Keep laughing.”
“The nothing is funny people are trying to take over the world and we can’t let them,” Maher said as the audience began to cheer“ . . . .
This argument over PC comedy, and people being too sensitive to take a joke, quickly turned into Maher discussing the #MeToo movement.
“I have a penis,” Maher “admitted,” fairly tongue in cheek. “And while I admit that having one does predispose a human to to being aggressive and over-sexed, I don’t concede that it makes me automatically wrong about everything, and I say that as a true supporter of the #MeToo movement. I even wore black to the Golden Globes. I was home watching TV but still––I wore black. I was also morning the ability to think rationally. I’m down with #MeToo, I’m not down with #MeCarthyism.”
Maher continued to cite many criticisms of the movement, including the fact that Al Franken had to be “roadkill on the zero tolerance highway.” He also defended Matt Damon, who was criticized for his comments weeks ago on the matter.
He finished his lengthy rant by saying that there are degrees to sexual misconduct. “Mike Pence and ISIS are both homophobic,” he said. “But Mike doesn’t throw gay men off the roof, so he’s better. This isn’t that hard, people!”
“(Vice President) Mike Pence and ISIS are both homophobic,” he added. “But Mike doesn’t throw gay men off the roof, so he’s better. This isn’t that hard, people!”
Matt Damon is now apologizing for noting, quite rationally, “that men are being lumped into ‘one big bucket’ when in reality there is a ‘spectrum of behavior’.”
From the New York Times at the time of his comments:
The actor Matt Damon waded into the national conversation about sexual assault in an interview with ABC News on Thursday, observing that men are being lumped into “one big bucket” when in reality there is a “spectrum of behavior.”
“You know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” he told Peter Travers of ABC. “Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”
Those comments were met with anger and frustration online, where many women, including the actress Alyssa Milano, rejected attempts to categorize various forms of sexual misconduct.
“They all hurt,” Ms. Milano wrote on Twitter on Friday. “And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted — even welcomed — misogyny.”
As Maher notes in his segment, actress Minnie Driver also chimed in with outraged denial that there are degrees to the various reported examples of sexual harassment and rape and that they shouldn’t all be treated as the same thing.
Minnie Driver: men like Matt Damon 'cannot understand what abuse is like' https://t.co/HcbQmo4mc2
— The Guardian (@guardian) December 17, 2017
Gosh it’s so *interesting how men with all these opinions about women’s differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem( *profoundly unsurprising)
— Minnie Driver (@driverminnie) December 15, 2017
A number of leftist feminists, politicians, and actresses have weighed in with similar pushback. Feminists are noting that the accusations against Aziz Ansari have taken the #MeToo movement too far.
Even some feminists are voicing concerns about the precipitous turn the #MeToo movement has taken with an accusation against actor/screenwriter Aziz Ansari.
Legal analyst Ashleigh Banfield, host of HLN’s “Crime & Justice,” led the way with her denunciation of the babe.net report detailing the allegation of sexual assault. She called it a “bad date” that does not meet the legal threshold for rape.
“By your description, your sexual encounter was unpleasant,” Ms. Banfield said Monday on her show. “It did not send you to the police. It did not affect your workplace or your ability to get a job. So, I have to ask you, what exactly was your beef? That you had a bad date with Aziz Ansari?”
Brigitte Bardot noted that “the vast majority of [#MeToo] cases” are “hypocritical, ridiculous, without interest.” Bardot’s comments were made “a week after actress Catherine Deneuve joined 99 other French women in claiming that the #MeToo campaign amounted to ‘puritanism’ and was fueled by a ‘hatred of men’.”
At LI, we’ve covered some of this pushback in our posts “Democrats, Media: Franken Made a “Mistake,” We Need Him in the Senate,” “Al Franken, Democrats’ Sacrificial Man,” and “#MeToo has been hijacked by partisans as a political weapon and fundraising tool.
We’ve also published our own pushback: “The Silly Sexual Assault Allegations Against President HW Bush” and “#MeToo Is Going Too Far.”
On the left, the Huffington Post is upset about the “fake feminism” of the #MeToo backlash, and the Atlantic, spotting a problem with #MeToo, offers #TimesUp as its next “phase.”
For the most part, powerful women. For the most part, wealthy women. For the most part, white women. #MeToo, for all the progress it has made in exposing sexual harassment and abuse—and in exposing the contours of systemic sexism more broadly—has been, from the outset, largely limited in its scope: a movement started, in this iteration, by the famous and the familiar, a movement unsure of how to convert itself from stories into action.
The question quickly became: How do you broaden it? How do you move the #MeToo movement beyond the provinces of privilege to be more inclusive, more systematized, more politically effective? How can #MeToo, essentially, move from the realm of the “me” to the realm of, more fully and more meaningfully, the “we”?
One possible answer: Shift its orientation, collectively, intentionally. Move from identifying the problem to actively solving it. On Monday, as 2017 gave way to 2018, more than 300 women in Hollywood—executives, actors, agents, writers, directors, and producers—announced the formation of Time’s Up, an effort to counter systemic sexual harassment not just in the entertainment industry, but also in industries across the country.
It is an effort, significantly, that aims to combat workplace sexism at its foundations: through legal recourse. Through improved representation in board rooms and beyond. Through the changing of norms. “We just reached this conclusion in our heads that, damn it, everything is possible,” Shonda Rhimes, who has been closely involved with Time’s Up, told The New York Times of the effort.
Maher is, as usual, tapping into an ongoing battle between two factions on the left, and it remains to be seen if his side wins.
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