Kidman, Johansson, Gadot and Other Reasons to Stop Reading Now

The powerful do not instigate mass movements. They appropriate and profit from them, then kill them at the grassroots.

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Stop. Stop reading. Stop reading now.

Do not apply cleaning solvents intended for glass to your TV screen. As it turns out, TV screens are no longer made of glass. Who knew? Not me, apparently, until I tried to give the LED a streak-free shine. Today, there’s a big magenta stripe down the middle of my TV. Please, use a dedicated cloth for all your media screens.

This is, perhaps, the only practical advice you will ever derive from this reporter.

But, wait. There’s more: stop reading. This is also good advice. It is offered freely to anyone buoyed by the current dedication of our society’s most powerful women to “empowerment” of the masses.

Stop reading if you were “inspired” by Nicole Kidman at the Screen Actors Guild awards.

Stop reading if you were “inspired” by Nicole Kidman at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Stop reading if you buy Kidman’s claim that her industry “instigated” change for all women. Just how can she claim to have “instigated” a modern movement which began 100 years ago through the action of women textile workers is anybody’s guess. The powerful do not instigate mass movements. They appropriate them. They profit from them. Then, they kill them at the grassroots.

Stop reading if you have faith that the possible end of comedian Aziz Ansari’s career is the start of a good conversation. It is plainly the start of a shit conversation. We have one type of feminist media commentator insisting that the 23-year-old woman who recounted the story should man up, per Ashleigh Banfield’s spray, and another suggesting that all men should.

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At some point, media workers may realise that moral instructions do not work on either men or women. Stop reading until then. Stop reading if you don’t agree that a question from the sorry Ansari case remains unasked. That is: were all Millennial women raised never to tell a sexual partner “this isn’t working for me,” or just those posh white ones who end up in the paper?

Stop reading if you misread the above as an apology for abuse. There can be no apologies for abuse. Abuse is no less abusive if its target was unable to utter the word “no.” Stop reading if you believe it is misogynistic to suggest women may take greater part in their pleasure. That this may be expedited through use of terms including “no,” “faster” or “Whoa, Nelly” is not an anti-feminist statement.

Stop reading if you found Scarlett Johansson heroic when she upbraided James Franco last weekend at a “women’s” rally. Johansson is a coward. It is possible that Johansson echoed allegations about Franco’s “inappropriate” use of power, said to have occurred during a sex-scene workshop and a filmed sex-scene, with heroic intentions. It is unlikely that heroic intentions led her to silence the “inappropriate” truth of Palestine.

Stop reading if you have already decided this connection, made by the Palestinian American Women’s Association, is whataboutery. Stop reading if you do not believe that women’s rights are also human rights. If you do believe this, you will agree that Johansson currently does not. When the actor consciously dismissed BDS — a campaign that seeks to counter news stories generated by Israel’s state apparatus on its brutal occupation of Palestine — she suspended her belief in human rights. Until Johansson takes one of the many opportunities she has been given to apologise for her profitable defiance of BDS, she cannot be heard as an advocate for human rights.

Stop reading if you believe that it is gracious to overlook the occupation of a territory and noble to forget bodies under military and economic control. You cannot speak, as Johansson did, of a woman’s right to control her own body when the bodies of women, and men, remain under state control. Stop reading if you continue the white Australian feminist tradition of calling for the incarceration of Aboriginal men or of advocating for state control of Aboriginal communities. To save them from “the men.”

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Stop reading if you intend to spend this International Women’s Day at a big bank networking lunch.

Stop reading if you found Gal Gadot’s depiction of Wonder Woman sufficiently powerful to excuse her cheerleading of death. Stop reading if you think that the celebration of “women in power!” can be anything but a celebration of unequal power itself.

Stop reading if you believe that Lean In feminism is true justice. Stop reading if you overuse and misuse the term “intersectional” as your free pass to justice day camp. Stop reading if you intend to spend this International Women’s Day at a big bank networking lunch. Stop reading if you believe that the finance sector, Hollywood, the political class, the media class, arms manufacturers, Silicon Valley or any other elite group is equipped or even inclined to represent the many.

Stop reading if you want your daughter to grow up just like Hillary Clinton. For the sake of goodness, get your daughter a better role model. Clinton ordered the devastation of Africa’s most prosperous state. Stop reading if you think that all criticism of war and cruel death should be suspended just because a Powerful Woman ordered it.

Stop reading if you understand the liberation of women to be possible without the liberation of all. Stop reading if you admire the demands by Jennifer Lawrence or Lisa Wilkinson for vulgar, equal paydays. Stop reading if you think Christine Lagarde is magnificent. Stop reading if you find Angela Merkel a true delight.

Stop reading if you do not wish to address the truth that the “gender pay gap” gapes most among Western white high-income earners. Stop reading if you would prefer not to concede that it is no longer gender so much as it is class, nation and race that will determine wealth. Stop reading if you would prefer to see no connection between the brutalisation of women and the brutalisation of men. Certainly, stop reading if you are very white and very eager to make a connection between the premeditated gang rape of a black woman –an act of war — to that time some brown guy didn’t know what you wanted in bed.

Stop reading if you are not now sick to the tits of elite pain. Yes, it is true pain. But, to ignore the background to this pain and to universalise it for all women is not very — what’s that word you keep using? — “intersectional.”

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We’re now entering the fifth #metoo month following the Harvey Weinstein allegations, and I have yet to read a major press account of sexual abuse or harassment in any major employment sector. I am reassured daily that this movement is for all women. Yet, the lives of very atypical women are the only ones described.

Retail, eldercare and healthcare are the sectors where most Australian women labour. Yet, my tiny sector is the one under scrutiny, save for occasional journeys into elite athletics or politics. Again, not huge employers. Do you not think, ever, that these stories about acting classes and hotel rooms and awards nights have been so plentiful that they now fail to empower “all women”? I imagine folks outside my knowledge class hear much more offensive things at work than “I’d like to lick your back.” I might ask a hospital worker if that’s not nicer than anything they heard in the kitchen all week.

Stop reading. Keep applauding the powerful.

Or, I might ask a typical worker if they think harassment in the workplace would be easier to counter if they were not at risk of losing their job. As 40% of Australian workers are casual, contracted or self-employed, 40% of Australians can get the sack tomorrow. Women are more likely than men to be of this number. This number is growing, however, and we will close that gender pay gap when everyone is shit broke. In just a few years, those now young and needing a way to understand the many forms of abuse they face at work will recall the antidote recommended by journalists in 2018. It was to “speak your truth” — an activity, to date, confined to celebrities or their associates.

Perhaps you believe that the guidance to “speak your truth” is useful. Stop reading if you believe that Oprah, the person who advised this so prominently and to such acclaim, would make a wonderful President.

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Stop reading. Keep applauding the powerful. Retain your belief that the US will start behaving well for the very first time in its violent history if led by a person who has so often declared that “Asking The Universe” is the surest route to fulfillment for all. Be Your Best Self. It’s all your fault if you’re not. You have chosen your failure. I’m looking at you, Congo. Use the laws of attraction to end your ineffable poverty. And you, Yemen. Stop thinking negative thoughts to conquer those airstrikes.

You all choose not to be empowered. Except, I guess, when some famous male comic chooses this for you. Otherwise, you’re on your own, sister. Those thin cheers of Hollywood’s narcissists, amplified by an obsequious media class, will not last much longer.

Oops. I intended to corrupt your beautiful view of the world no more than I intended to corrupt my view of TV. Stop reading. Just be your Best Self. Tell me how empowering the Oscars were, and how you were moved by Meryl “African” Streep when she accepted a Lifetime Achievement award for her services to the delusions of a liberal, largely white, elite who believes itself to be good. I won’t see it. Telly’s on the blink. Lemons. Lemonade.

This article was first published on Daily Review, the CFR’s Australian partner.