Editor’s Note: This story includes mention of sexual assault. Resources are available here. This story also includes mention of suicide. If you are struggling with suicide or your mental health, you are not alone. Resources are available here.
There’s a reply to a comment on Yoko Ono’s most recent Instagram post that calls the acclaimed artist and activist a “dumb talentless hag” who was responsible for breaking up The Beatles. The user, who was responding to a claim that most hate toward Ono is sexist in nature, was backed up by another man who said that “women are not blameless just because they are women.”
More than 50 years after the greatest band of all time had their divorce, men still find a way to blame John Lennon’s widow. Despite the fact Paul McCartney has publicly stated he doesn’t hold Ono accountable, the instinct to blame a woman is so natural for so many people that it’s been accepted among them as truth.
“Truth” in the same way it’s common knowledge Britney Spears had a meltdown in the mid-2000s that warranted her being put under a conservatorship.
“Truth” in the same way it’s basically fact that actor Sophie Turner would rather spend the night at the club than with her own children, forcing the poor, introverted Joe Jonas to play the role of stay-at-home dad.
It’s easier to blame a woman right? Publicly shaming prominently controversial women has been a social pastime for a while now, just look at the Salem Witch Trials. Not only does it perpetuate the misogyny so deeply rooted in our culture, it’s easy to get your rocks off participating in the spectacle.
But, isn’t it usually men who are bemoaning cancel culture? Men’s rights icons like Depp and Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan have made a lot of money using their celebrity statuses to complain about the fact they’ve been “canceled.”
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These social exiles, being prominently interviewed in their mansions about their traumatic experiences being voted off the island — the media is really doing God’s work giving them their bully pulpit.
Never mind that we’ve made certain our undesirable women, the ones we’ve publicly belittled, shamed, vilified and degraded, still face harassment over things they’ve never done. We’ve made it a deliberate point that, in this world, you can be raped by Johnny Depp, but because he’s such a good actor and we love him, you best not say a word about it.
It’s worth mentioning that for a fleeting, bright moment, our culture did tolerate fourth-wave feminism. The #MeToo movement brought down the likes of Harvey Weinstein for his sexual crimes and became a rallying cry for women around the world. For what felt like the first time in history, women, both famous and ordinary, were encouraged and widely praised for speaking about their struggles with sexual abuse.
But how can we claim to still honor this movement when a woman was put on trial and made to pay $1 million to her ex-husband for trying to do the same thing?
It’s a valid question, especially after the fall of Roe v. Wade last year — this world hates women now just as much as it ever did, even if it does so under seemingly progressive takes like upholding the integrity of men who have been abused: a righteous commitment indeed, but one that needn’t apply here.
That being said, it is true men aren’t the only ones burning Heard or Turner or Love or Ono or Spears at the metaphorical stake. The deep role of misogyny and patriarchy in our society means we all absorb it, even those who are most affected by it — internalized misogyny is a very real, very concerning issue among those assigned female at birth, and it’s impossible to totally overcome without the complete abolishment of the systemic problems that birth it.
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Maybe one day we will live in a world where women can behave like human beings without being criticized for doing so. Maybe that world will even allow them to have autonomy over their bodies. It’s a pipe dream, but a dream nonetheless. Until then, the public will undoubtedly continue being cruel for the sake of being cruel.
A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse. A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know is struggling with suicide or mental health.
Joey Sills (he/him) is a junior studying journalism, political science and film production.