In a poem from his new book Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, Sean Penn calls #MeToo a toddler’s crusade and a platform for accusation impunity. The book which is being panned by reviewers left, right and centre, for Penn’s writing, contains a poem by the actor which defends men like Charlie Rose and Louis C.K.
As published in an article on CNN the poem goes:
"There are no men nor women/only movements own the day/until movements morph to mayhem/and militaries chip away/whether North Korean missiles/or marching Tehran's way/Where did all the laughs go?/Are you out there, Louis C.K.?
"Once crucial conversations/kept us on our toes/was it really in our interest to trample Charlie Rose? /And what's with this 'Me Too’? /This infantilizing term of the day/Is this a toddlers'
If his poem is anything to go by, Penn is a part of an exclusive Hollywood club, whose members are power drunk, entitled, insensitive men, and only sympathise with them.
They are so used to having things done the "classic men’s" way in Hollywood, that for them sexual harassment is not a big offence.
Penn’s writing reflects his deep-rooted misogyny. Men like him casualise sexual harassment. They find no harm in offences like groping, lewd calls or masturbating in front of women. Penn and his band of entitled Hollywood chummies feel cornered by #MeToo. They find it exhausting to have to mind their manners and hands. Their argument is that what world calls harassment is mere workplace fun. Mr Penn, it’s not #MeToo which has reduced “rape, slut-shaming, and suffrage to reckless child's play”. It is the likes of Charlie Rose and Louis C.K. who have done so, by using their power to guise their sexually perverted behaviour as jocular.
If Penn wants to know “Where did all the laughs go”, probably he should look at how those laughs came into existence.
It was when men like Weinstein casually turned the misery of women into locker room jokes. Now Hollywood’s women have decided that they will not let you laugh at their dignity’s expense. If Penn finds this to be a “toddler’s crusade”, then it is he who is on the wrong side here.
Post #MeToo world is very unforgiving Mr Penn
The backlash to his poem and book from people should be a lesson for Sean Penn. He lives no longer in a world where the glint of professional acclaim makes people overlook offences like sexual harassment. In fact, in post #MeToo world, your professional life will suffer the consequences of your personal actions and stance. Just look at what happened with the likes of Weinstein, Louis C.K. and Charlie Rose.
Thus, defending these predators is neither thought-provoking nor sensitive. It is a career self sabotage and a proof of ignorant entitlement.
If Penn continues to waddle down this stream, he will soon find himself sitting beside those very friends he is defending; socially ostracised.
But we cannot bring him to correct his course forcefully. He is a middle-aged man, who has spent most of his life living among peers who classify touching a woman inappropriately, without her consent, as harmless fun. These things will take generations to get out of the system. What we can do is to shut them up, and work forward to make sure the next lot of Hollywood men is sensitised and think of #MeToo as a relevant agent of change, and not just a “platform for accusation impunity”.
Picture Credit: irishtimes.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.