In a recent interview, Henry Cavill revealed the ways in which the #MeToo movement has affected him. “There's something wonderful about a man chasing a woman,” he began. “There's a traditional approach to that, which is nice. I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I'm old-fashioned for thinking that.”
Speaking to GQ Australia, the Superman star continued: “It's very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it's like, ‘Well, I don't want to go up and talk to her, because I'm going to be called a rapist or something’.
“So you're like, ‘Forget it, I'm going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and then just go back to a relationship, which never really worked’.
“But it's way safer than casting myself into the fires of hell, because I'm someone in the public eye, and if I go and flirt with someone, then who knows what's going to happen?”
Elsewhere, the man who groped Taylor Swift – and was subsequently forced by a court to take responsibility for that – has said that Swift “ruined his life”. David Mueller was found guilty of assault and battery by a court last year; he put his hand up Swift’s skirt and grabbed her buttock, in public, in 2013. When asked by an interviewer this week what he would say to Swift, a year on from the court case, he replied: “How can you live with yourself? You ruined my life.”
Gosh, lads, aren’t we meant to be the hysterical ones? And yet – time and time again – we hear the same story: that men cannot talk to women, that they can no longer date, or speak, or flirt with women in the ways they once saw fit due to fear of retaliation. We’ve heard it from Alec Baldwin, from Matt Damon, from countless would-be raconteurs in the pub. Jean Hannah Edelstein wrote an entire series of advice columns for The Guardian based on this very idea.
Of course, when it comes from a place of concern, this uncertainty is something that we should be addressing. Men asking questions about their own behaviour, without weaponising their discomfort as an attack on women, is something that should be celebrated. Yet, often, this is not the case. Rather, comments like Cavill’s – pejorative and inflammatory statements – serve as a thinly veiled attempt to delegitimise facts that make men like him uncomfortable. And how many times must we say it: guys, this is not about your comfort. You are not the victims here, no matter how dexterous or creative you are in your attempt to seek out that position.
Men hold on to 'traditions' and bemoan the passing of courtship because, when that was the status quo, they didn’t have to confront anything about themselves
This is about the discomfort – and the attacks, and emotional and physical weight – that women have been carrying around for centuries. The #MeToo movement simply asked for some of the responsibility to be fairly redistributed, and for a bit of consideration. We would like to feel safer around men, we said, and in return we are accused of “witch-hunts” and lying and “ruining” men’s lives.
It isn’t easy to understand a common experience that is not your own, and it is not easy to let go of power that’s already in your hands. But the thing is, for men like Cavill and Mueller – straight, white, cis, middle-class men – that power was not earned. Rather, men like that are simply born at the top of the pile. And now – now that we are asking them to earn our respect and to allow us, for once, to take the reins for a while – they are finding out what it might be like to be lower down in the rankings. So, they resist. They hold on to “traditions” and bemoan the passing of courtship because, when that was the status quo, they didn’t have to confront anything about themselves or about the women around them. Cavill isn’t scared of “flirting”, he’s grasping at an “old-fashioned” time when he – and other men like him – were not held accountable for their actions.
That time has passed. Be uncomfortable. Change. Listen. The rest of us have been doing it for millennia. Now, it’s your turn.