Kate Maltby and the madness of #MeToo
A man has been accused of sending a text and touching someone’s knee. Thankfully, the prime minister has launched an investigation into this harrowing claim.
The man is Conservative MP for Ashford, and first secretary of state, Damian Green. His alleged victim is theatre critic and scholar, Kate Maltby. Maltby made her allegation against Green in a column for The Times. Her accusation consists of ‘a fleeting hand against my knee — so brief, it was almost deniable’, and a text from Green which read: ‘Long time no see. But having admired you in a corset in my favourite tabloid I feel impelled to ask if you are free for a drink anytime?’
It is easy to laugh at such a risible accusation. But this sex-pest panic is no longer a laughing matter. As a result of Maltby’s opportunist and crass allegation, her transparent attempt to be part of the celebrity #MeToo movement, Green is being investigated by the state. He has released a statement, saying ‘this untrue allegation has come as a complete shock and is deeply hurtful, especially from someone I considered a personal friend’. But even if it were true, whose business is it that a man asked a woman out, and ‘fleetingly’, ‘so brief, it was almost deniable’, touched her knee?
Perhaps we should thank Maltby. Her attention-seeking behaviour might have one positive result. She has unwittingly revealed just how ridiculous and dangerous the #MeToo hysteria has become. Maltby’s accusation echoes many of the #MeToo claims circulating on Twitter, which amount to overblown and self-absorbed accusations which nonetheless have the potential to ruin an individual’s career.
Maltby’s justification for making her accusation is straight out of the contemporary feminist playbook – she claims she is trying to ‘raise awareness’ and ‘change the culture’. But all she has done is made herself, and women more broadly, look like pathetic wallflowers. Are we really saying it’s brave to get a man investigated over an alleged text?
If Green did what has been suggested, he was not abusing his position – he wasn’t Maltby’s boss. And so what if he is considerably older than her? Has no one seen Harold and Maude? Maltby admits in her article that she has used her connection with Green (a family friend) advantageously. ‘Since he joined the cabinet I have exchanged many texts with him about political gossip. If you had the mobile number of Theresa May’s No 2, wouldn’t you?’, she asks.
Maltby says in her Times piece that she is bracing herself for a backlash. Well, here it comes: enough of this mania. Enough of #MeToo. Enough of the victim narrative. Enough of the conflation of alleged come-ons with genuine sexual assault. Enough cavalier destruction of people’s careers and lives simply because they (allegedly) tried it on with you.
Stop it. This has gone too far. We risk dragging women back to the world of chaperones, minders and curfews. In the past, women’s liberation movements fought for the freedom of women to engage in the rough and tumble of public life. And back then, it really was rough. Yet through standing up for themselves and fighting discrimination and sexism, those women won us the freedoms we enjoy today. I’m not a victim waiting to happen – I’m a woman. And I’ve had enough of this nonsense. We need a new hashtag: #NotMe.