The #sheknew movement could tear #metoo apart.

Video via CNN Today

Posters of a smiling Meryl Streep posing with Harvey Weinstein pasted to Hollywood mailboxes.

Videos of Streep calling Weinstein “a God” in an old Golden Globes speech being pinged from phone to phone.

A hashtag, rolling off the tongue a little more easily every minute, every hour.

This is the beginning of a new #metoo related moment – #sheknew.

It started when a victim – the fierce #metoo advocate Rose McGowan – publicly questioned the intentions of the actresses who are pledging to wear black on the Golden Globes red carpet on January 8.

“Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are wearing black @goldenglobes in a silent protest,” McGowan tweeted last weekend. “YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change. I despise your hypocrisy. Maybe you should all wear Marchesa.”

Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud hosts discussing celebrities commenting on #metoo:

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After that, really, Streep had no choice but to react.

“It hurt to be attacked by Rose McGowan in banner headlines this weekend, but I want to let her know I did not know about Weinstein’s crimes, not in the 90s when he attacked her, or through subsequent decades when he proceeded to attack others,” she said, as reported by CNN. “I wasn’t deliberately silent. I didn’t know.

“Rose assumed and broadcast something untrue about me, and I wanted to let her know the truth. Through friends who know her, I got my home phone number to her the minute I read the headlines. I sat by that phone all day yesterday and this morning, hoping to express both my deep respect for her and others’ bravery in exposing the monsters among us, and my sympathy for the untold, ongoing pain she suffers.”

That wasn’t good enough for the Internet, especially not for those who look at Weinstein and Streep and take a particular delight in seeing “lecturing liberals” tumbling from high horses.

And so a movement began…

Since the tsunami of allegations against prominent Hollywood men like Weinstein began back in October, discussion of who “knew” and who didn’t have been inevitable. The extreme lengths that Weinstein went to to keep the silence around his behaviour has been subject to their own investigations, and the tentacles stretched far and wide – snooping journalists suddenly found their books being optioned by Miramax in a flattering bid to silence them, Intelligence agencies were put on payrolls, legal writs flew, bald threats and slur campaigns mounted – all with one purpose: To stop people knowing that Hollywood’s most powerful man was an alleged rapist, an alleged serial abuser, an alleged sexual predator who stalked and preyed upon some of the famous women in the world, and who crushed the careers of hundreds more.

So, is it possible that Meryl Streep didn’t know? It’s very difficult to imagine a world where she thought Harvey Weinstein was a Good Guy, but it’s perfectly possible to imagine that Streep, a Hollywood legend nominated for 19 Academy Awards, and whose success and influence predates Weinstein’s rise as the powerful head of Miramax was a woman who it was important Weinstein kept on-side.

As Streep herself said in her statement to the Huffington Post:

“Not every actor, actress, and director who made films that [Weinstein] distributed knew he abused women, or that he raped Rose in the 90s, other women before and others after, until they told us. We did not know that women’s silence was purchased by him and his enablers.

“HW needed us not to know this, because our association with him bought him credibility, an ability to lure young, aspiring women into circumstances where they would be hurt.

“He needed me much more than I needed him and he made sure I didn’t know.”

But here's a question more interesting, more urgent, than whether it's likely Streep wasn't listening to unsettling Hollywood whispers: Why does it matter so very much?

The ever-snowballing #metoo is the defining movement of 2017. It's a seismic shift that has recognised the reality that women - not only famous ones, by any stretch - have had to live with intimidation and harassment and abuse and coercion for, well, ever.  That is has ruined lives and shut us up and derailed careers. And finally, women are in a position to rip aside the curtain and shove back.

The #metoo moment has the potential to change everything. Not only the way people behave, but the way people think. It has the power to alter the way men view their own actions and attitudes and change how women can move through the world.

Keeping the forward momentum is essential. Unmasking abusers and telling the stories of victims is the work that investigative journalists have started, both here and overseas, and it now needs to move on into the world's "ordinary" workplaces in legislation and laws to actively change a culture that has silenced women for too long.

Rabbit-holing on who's doing #metoo 'right' is not helpful. In fact it does women a great mis-service. The Angry Men love to perpetuate a myth that women can't work together, that we are naturally predisposed to distrust each other, to in-fight and undermine.

Rose McGowan is a warrior. And Meryl Streep is one, too. There is no rule that women have to see the world the same way, or that we need to all love each other blindly or approve of every choice others have made. But when women have punched a hole in history, created a real opportunity for change, it would be a pitiful waste for focus to be pulled from where it really needs to be - on the abusers and the toxic systems that have protected them for too long - and directed at each other.

So, yes, it's interesting to consider who knew what. But it's not the main game.

The "enemies" are not the women in the black dresses on a red carpet. Or even the men and women who made money for a monster. The enemies are the monsters themselves. And they have convincing masks that are starting to slip.

We owe it to ourselves - our past and present selves - our daughters and each other, to keep the target up, where it belongs.

Additional reporting by Caitlin Bishop

What do you think of #sheknew? 

 

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