#MeToo and the requirements of work

Analysts often miss when men complain about the new insecurity in the wake of #MeToo. Picture Funny Times
Analysts often miss when men complain about the new insecurity in the wake of #MeToo. Picture Funny Times

No debate in 2017 was as elemental as the one about sexism that started from the casting couch of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Thus it was not just a debate about sexism, but about the conditions of cooperation between men and women at work, in business and organizations. Some prominent cases have shown that, on the whole, the cooperation between men and women is still a challenge. And that this challenge has to do with sex, that is, with the way we look at the other and how we treat him or her as objects of our desires.


The adequate handling of sex is not laid in the cradle of mankind. To say something true about Eros has been proved to be an impossible task already in antiquity – see Plato's symposium. And also in the Garden of Eden around the myth of the expulsion from paradise the snake makes us aware that it might be better to renounce any knowledge since the handling of sexual diversity immediately goes along with shame.


From a psychoanalytic point of view, we cannot get around sexuality: We are mysteriously related to sexuality, eros, or whatever you want to call it. It shapes our manner of talking, just like our thoughts, acts and feelings. And above all it influences our ability to work. Organizations, however, usually hide this aspect. And yet, working alone or in teams would be impossible without the magnet of eros.


#MeToo was long overdue. But why does it come now? Is it a reaction to the blatant sexism of US President Trump? Or does its media distribution fit in our time, in which the connection between people more and more often comes about directly through emotions? The media scientist Marie-Luise Angerer notes a shift from desire to affect, with the result that psychoanalysis, sexuality and politics are becoming less important – the three unite on the one hand their dependence on symbolic mediation procedures and on the other their capacity to organize discourses of desire.


This explains why #MeToo is not really a debate. If it were one, it would stimulate discourse. That this does not happen, however, can be seen from the fact that men hardly participate in it. What is #MeToo then? A sum of innumerable affect-laden reflexes, not even a movement, hardly a campaign. Only medial noise, and that will trail away. As a mass movement, it also carries the authoritarian features of a mass movement.


So how to deal with the internet campaign #MeToo, with the craving for attention, love and sensuality, and with patriarchal oppression? Initially, one would have to remark the field of eros intellectually to be able to formulate central questions. Like why sublimation cannot be sustained? Or, to what extent paranoia has a social function in this regression – for example, if #MeToo is fundamentally against "the men" and there is no doubt who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? Not least, where does the discourse take its violence from? The accused are destroyed socially and professionally – without trial, without defense.


Ultimately, eros is about living with imperfection – see Plato's Symposion again. We are totally oriented to the requirements of work, effectiveness, and success, and ignore how far it is about eros. Therefore, it is advisable to open the space for ambiguity and ambivalence wide and to learn more about transference and desire. Surely, there won't be any final clarification of the relationships between the sexes. Whoever demands them usually does not have the interests of women in mind, on the contrary. Moritz Senarclens de Grancy