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