#MeToo Killed the Myth of Male Genius
Mark Halperin’s failed comeback attempt shows that no one misses the men ousted for abuse
Mark Halperin wants his career back. The political pundit and author, fired in 2017 after a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct, has been busy working on a new book, launching his blog, and conducting radio interviews. He even wants to get back on television — but on that front, he was stymied by his ex-boss, MSNBC network chief Phil Griffin.
Despite Halperin’s attempted push back into the public eye, said public hasn’t shown much interest. The strategists who lent their names to his book have now expressed regret, and the backlash against his media appearances and blog continue unabated.
Perhaps no one is eager to see Halperin back in politics because of the severity and number of accusations against him: The Game Change author was accused of pressing his erect penis against multiple women, grabbing a woman’s breasts, masturbating in front of a colleague, throwing a woman against a window and, when rejected, calling a woman to tell her she’d never work in media again.
Or maybe it’s because Halperin isn’t — and never was — that amazing at his job. In the two years since he’s been out of sight, no one has bemoaned the lack of his voice or work. There’s been no great gaping hole of political analysis in his absence.
The country went on without him, and we’re just fine.
There is genius and talent around every corner — plenty of it nonwhite and nonmale, even!
The same could be said for most of the men outed as abusers these last few years. Despite fears that the exits of people like Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer would create some broader cultural loss, these supposed vanguards have barely been missed.
It seems we’re seeing an unintended benefit of the #MeToo movement: a debunking of the irreplaceable male genius myth.
As #MeToo gained steam, and abusers started to be shunned or fired, some men argued that the world would be the worse for it. In Harper’s, for example, Lionel Shriver wrote that “the party that really pays for the new puritanism [is] the arts consumer.” And in the wake of the accusations against musician Ryan Adams, one columnist warned that if we “expect our artists to be paragons,” that audiences will be “stuck with a lot of mediocre art.”
Apparently these creators were so incredible and talented, that the world just couldn’t afford to lose their work, even if they did sexually harass or abuse others. Men’s accomplishments and potential contributions, it seemed, far outweighed any concerns over women’s safety.
In fact, women barely rated at all. After the New York Review of Books published a piece by Jian Ghomeshi — the former radio host accused of punching and choking multiple women — then-editor Ian Buruma responded to criticism by saying, “The exact nature of his behavior — how much consent was involved — I have no idea, nor is it really my concern.” Buruma was later fired.
For all the words spilled and social capital lost over men we supposedly couldn’t live without, the “arts consumer” is doing just fine.
Comedy is still funny without watching Louis C.K., and movies are still fantastic without Harvey Weinstein. Everyone is still binge-watching television shows without Les Moonves, and no one is thinking about Ghomeshi when they listen to their morning radio hour.
In part, I think that’s what really scares the men participating in the backlash against #MeToo: It’s not just that they’re worried about being fired, but also that they ultimately won’t be missed.
The truth is there are genius and talent around every corner — plenty of it nonwhite and nonmale, even! The industries that men were rightfully forced out of have moved on and thrived, oftentimes replacing outed abusers with female employees.
We don’t need to keep harassers on the payroll in order to give the world great art, music, writing, or comedy. Maybe their absence will even allow for new voices — ones that have traditionally been drowned or forced out.