A conservative friend announced to me on the phone, gleefully, “This is the end of #MeToo.” He paused. “Do you believe all women? Do you? Do you? Or do you only believe it when it’s our guy?”
This sentiment is repeated everywhere in the conservative media. Finally, conservatives feel vindicated. They’ve got “us” this time. Right-wing journalist Stephen L. Miller tweeted, “Lot of blue checks suddenly not believing women.”
At first look, one might think that this is about muddying the waters so that the allegation against Joe Biden looks the same as the more than two dozen against Donald Trump. But to conservatives, this is about more than Biden. Don’t get me wrong, they’re thrilled that the other guy finally has a sexual misconduct allegation of his own—so thrilled that they’ve let their true motives slip. This isn’t about justice for the possible victim. This isn’t about what happened or didn’t happen in 1993 in the U.S. Capitol complex.
For conservatives, this isn’t about protecting women or believing women. No, this is about destroying the thing that has since its inception been enraging to them: #MeToo.
Defender of almost every single conservative man who has ever faced a sexual assault allegation Mollie Hemingway wrote, “If the media and Democrats thought that they could get away with their despicable behavior with Kavanaugh and then turn around and attempt to bury a sexual assault allegation against Biden, they were sorely mistaken.” For her, this is about one thing: retribution. Hemingway wants Biden taken down as payback for Kavanaugh.
Or, as Karol Markowicz put it in the New York Post, “Sorry, #MeToo: the liberal media had its first major test in the “believe all women” era and, of course, it has failed spectacularly.”
Welcome to the worst dystopia ever, a place where women’s allegations are used purely as bad faith pawns for a partisan “win.”
#MeToo was started to give voice to victims of sexual assault and harassment. Activist Tarana Burke came up with the phrase “me too” in 1997 “after she heard a 13-year-old sexual abuse survivor share her story.” From there the movement moved to the now defunct website Myspace. Later it was picked up by Alyssa Milano, whose famous Oct. 15, 2017, tweet helped launch #MeToo as a global phenomenon. And now Harvey Weinstein is in prison, and more than 200 powerful men have lost their jobs, including Mark Halperin, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. But the real goal of #MeToo was always to protect women and to stop harassment.
When Milano came out supporting Biden despite the allegation, conservative media could not control their excitement. National Review, the Washington Times, and The Blaze accused her of hypocrisy and partisanship. Breitbart called the actress “morally vacuous” and said, “In the most grotesque way imaginable it’s been fascinating watching Milano shift her rapey goal posts to justify her support for Biden.”
Breitbart also used the allegations as a way to call out Sarah Silverman and Kirsten Gillibrand. Yes, the conservative media was very excited to use Reade’s allegations against Biden as a way to bully and batter women for their supposed partisanship. Conservatives could finally use #MeToo against uppity women who had dared to accuse “their people” of impropriety.
Democratic women are in a terrible, impossible position, a Sophie’s choice in the worst possible dystopia. Writing in The Cut, Rebecca Traister lays out the tragic consequence of all this: “And make no mistake, if Biden loses, regardless of his running mate, even as feminists are being criticized for hypocrisy in not condemning him more swiftly, it will also be feminists and women who are blamed for his loss.”
Meantime, conservatives can’t contain their joy at the prospect of keeping power and snuffing out #MeToo and the women who support it. Do they believe Reade? “Trump himself has remained wary of Reade’s story, expressing regular skepticism when talking about it over the last five weeks,” as Asawin Suebsaeng reported at The Daily Beast.
But this was never about believing women. This was always about crushing #MeToo and the women who support it. And now conservatives have finally figured out a way to use #MeToo as a way to attack women.
When you elect a clown, you get a circus, and when you elect a misogynist, you get a world that no longer values women. In the end, it’s possible that people like Mollie Hemingway will be able to use the story of Tara Reade to destroy #MeToo. After all, that’s their goal: Silence women, believe no women, and treat all allegations as chess moves.