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No one wins when Margaret Atwood gets cancelled by #MeToo

‘A war among women, as opposed to a war on women, is always pleasing to those who do not wish women well’

Joining in the conversations surrounding sexual harassment, Margaret Atwood penned an article for the Globe and Mail named: “Am I a bad feminist?”. In it, the 78-year-old novelist said recent controversies were the symptom of a broken legal system and must be “seen as a massive wake up call”.

However, she received backlash online for suggesting that aspects of the movement threatened to divide rather than liberate women. “In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.”

The piece continued, posing the question: “If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers?”

If the crux of what she is saying is that #MeToo is symptomatic of a broken legal system, then she is right. Accusations would ideally take place in a court of law and find these men guilty. In the piece she clarifies why she likened a case where disgraced lecturer Steven Galloway was found not guilty of sexual assault after having his life ruined to the Salem witch trials clarifying that in “the structure of the Salem witchcraft trials, you were guilty because accused.”

Calling for due process in cases of sexual assault is not the same as saying you don’t believe women, it's ensuring that there are proper systems in place to deliver justice. 

Nevertheless here’s how Twitter responded, some admittedly before they’d actually read the piece:

As Atwood concluded in the controversial column: “A war among women, as opposed to a war on women, is always pleasing to those who do not wish women well.”

Given that she has devoted her entire career to centring women’s narratives and exploring a lack of female autonomy, is Atwood’s call for nuance deserving of a Twitter storm labelling her a “bad feminist”? 

Maybe it’s time to think outside the realm of accusation and Twitter cancellation – we desperately need to talk about law and policy reform to tackle sexual assault, and it’ll take a lot of different thoughts and perspectives to decide on the next step to take.