how the world went back to tearing women down

People had had enough. The scales were too balanced and it was time to tip them again. Levels of acceptable misogyny are still rising and people have taken it upon themselves to right the perceived wrongs of five years of something that vaguely resembled justice for women.

Credit:

When an uncompromising young woman published an essay about her experience with domestic abuse at the hands of a beloved actor, she felt the wrath of the public on a scale only appropriate for perpetrators of war crimes.

We watched it play out on social media, spreading like disease and making global news. Her experience became a joke, her trauma turned into memes.

Who you believe is irrelevant. It’s the hungry flame it ignited that matters. The witch hunt. The pleasure people got from watching her cry on the stand. The countless tweets and honorary law degrees issued by TikTok university signalled something far more sinister than mere pop culture hysteria.

People say that being a good feminist doesn’t require you to defend all women blindly, that it’s important to hold each other accountable, that she is the ultimate charlatan and deserved every bit of criticism she got because, well, you just like her ex-husband better than her. She was hunted like game and it was nauseating to watch.

Someone tweeted recently: “People like being cruel and they like feeling powerful and they like it best when they can dress it up in the guise of righteousness.”

She was hunted like game and it was nauseating to watch.

There’s a bounty on Olivia Wilde’s head because she — at her worst — leaned a little too hard into the white feminism “pick-me girl” tropes Gen-Xers were raised on. Evan Rachel Wood is vilified for not being public enough in her support of other survivors. We’re one paparazzi photo of a coked-out pop star away from descending into the Perez Hilton hellscape of the early 2000s, when harassment was a sport and “fat” was the ultimate insult.

OK, but what do sloppy celebrities have to do with letting sexual predators off the hook?

Loading

Because it’s a slippery slope. Because the media we accept informs our attitudes and behaviour, and soon we’ll be back to telling women they’re too ugly to get raped. It might feel like we’ve made strides in gender equality, but I don’t think we’ve moved the needle all that far. For all the girl-boss feminism and slut walks and gender studies minors, like me, ranting about intersectionality, what progress have we really made when one snarky tweet is the first domino to fall before a woman’s reputation is destroyed?

Did misogyny ever really go away or did we just paint it millennial pink?

The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here.