Polly Ver­non

IN 20 YEARS of jour­nal­ism, I’ve never been more scared to say the things I think,

Grazia (UK) - - Contents -

feel and be­lieve, than I am now. I’ve never self-cen­sored so ag­gres­sively. Never qual­i­fied so ram­pantly. I’ve never stopped my­self from say­ing some­thing al­to­gether be­cause I fear I’ll be sub­ject to all man­ner of fury and take­downs; on Twit­ter, on In­sta­gram, from the most self-right­eous of my peers, in emails, in let­ters, in cam­paigns to get me lynched, fired.

It’s not just me, is it? You don’t just have to be in the pre­pos­ter­ous po­si­tion of be­ing paid to share your opin­ion, to feel in­cred­i­bly ner­vous about shar­ing your opin­ion. Of think­ing – oh, I don’t know – that while you be­lieve #Timesup and #Metoo are truly im­pres­sive and po­tent, you are nonethe­less a touch con­cerned about men be­ing tried and con­demned on so­cial me­dia, be­cause that’s what due le­gal process is for, and, yes! The law has re­ally let women down in the past! But still, the law is all we have, and if we deny it in this in­stance, then what else might it be de­nied over? So maybe you think that. But you know that if you say it, you risk be­ing called a ‘rape apol­o­gist’. A ‘non-be­liever of women’. A ‘ We­in­stein-ally’. So you don’t. Or per­haps you think that while the men of the Pres­i­dents Club Dorch­ester din­ner truly be­haved like pa­thetic, drunken ar­se­holes, they weren’t nec­es­sar­ily all cyn­i­cal preda­tors hell-bent on sex­u­ally as­sault­ing the all-women wait­ress­ing team as­sem­bled to serve them. Maybe you think

that. But you worry that if you say it, you’ll in­vite ac­cu­sa­tions of ‘Stock­holm syn­drome to the pa­tri­archy’ or sim­i­lar. So you don’t. Or maybe you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced bad dates and bad sex (as de­scribed in Kris­ten Roupe­nian’s Cat Per­son, The New Yorker short story of vi­ral fame), be­cause, of course you have! That’s life, in­nit, bad dates and bad sex are an in­evitable part of the try­ing-to-meet-some­one process, women are as re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing them ‘ bad’ as men, what with us be­ing ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in the Quest For Love, all of which makes you won­der if Bad Dates and Bad Sex are not ‘fem­i­nist’ is­sues, but rather, ‘ hu­man’ ones… Say that, and brace your­self for pity, be­cause you don’t recog­nise the un­der­ly­ing misog­yny of your bad dates and bad sex, poor fool! So you don’t say that, ei­ther.

But you should. You know you should. I know I should. Be­cause it’s hon­est and real, and be­cause when you keep quiet, you be­tray your­self and the broader de­bate. It’s a rough time to risk opin­ions. But it’ll be a rougher one if we stop.

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