Once upon a time* there was a young man who was both idealistic and egotistical in the way of many young men. He was blessed with an overblown sense of efficacy and entitlement, and curly golden locks; he was the epitome of white boy privilege.
He joined up with some similar passionately anti-establishment types to try and do something serious about changing the world. He hoped, at the back of his mind, that if it worked, it would probably make him a bit famous in alternative circles, and if he was lucky, gain him the positive attention of lots of the women there. It would be his version of joining a band: make some cool music, maybe create a small space for yourself in history, and get laid. A lot.
So he and his friends started this really excellent movement using technology to expose corruption and evil doings by the powerful. It was so successful that their fame spread like wildfire, and the powerful quickly cracked down on them. It was successful in making these guys into rock stars of the new anti-establishment movements burgeoning around the world.
Like rock stars they travelled widely, meeting with radical groups, spreading ideas and, inevitably, attending all-night discussion sessions that turned into parties. They were young after all. Of course, being young and like rock stars, and focussed on their own particular place in the radical ecology, they never learned much about the more nuanced details of oppression and privilege and how these play out between and among radical groups. Plenty had been written and shared about this for the past few decades, but they thought they were moving on from the stuffy old guard, that those things didn’t matter any more anyway.
This young man was particularly enamoured of a small, egalitarian European nation, which had always had a reputation for political liberalism and openness about sexual matters. He was excited to visit there and meet some of his fellow travellers. And, in keeping with his rock star dreams, for two nights in a row, he pulled! With two different women! And noone seemed to bat an eyelid. What a great life.
The horror came later when he discovered that these women had reported him for sexual assault. Him! Golden haired rock star of the new movement! He was bewildered and scared. And angry. He felt he’d done nothing wrong! He’d done nothing differently from any of his other sexual encounters. Women loved him, and he was enough of a rock star to get away with behaving like a spoiled brat. He was sure that this was part of the powerful crackdown on him and his movement.
He had some sleepless nights and thought things through. He thought about all the women in the world who are sexually assaulted every day, and how the powerful ignored them, and blamed them, and generally supported the social and economic conditions where their abuse prospered. He also thought about his movement and how utterly derailing the publicity around the charges against him could be. He sat up for a couple more nights reading up on the politics of rape culture.
He realised that his life path so far had led to this point. That one way or another the authorities were going to bring him down. So he made a decision to limit damage to the movement, and to limit his contribution to the further oppression of women around the world.
The first thing he did was put out an unequivocal statement that the supporters of his movement were to focus 100% on ensuring the movement’s survival, and to not give any further attention to the charges against him.
He demanded that the movement stay away entirely from commenting on the charges against him or the alleged victims and their character and motivations. He pointed out that scurrilous, unfounded rape apologism, silencing and trolling verbal abuse against two women whom none of them knew would seriously affect every woman, every rape survivor, every future rape victim who might come forward to report her rape. He called for the elimination of sexism and sexual violence in radical communities.
Here’s the thing: he knew that this country prided itself on equality between the sexes and its support for women in the fight against sexual violence and other forms of oppression. He also knew that there were powerful vested interests out there who would never let this case go. He had some decisions to make.
Here, this alternative history takes two possible paths forward, depending on what really happened on those two nights in bed with those two women:
Alternative History Branch Point One
He realised that, given what happened on those two nights, he may well be found guilty under the laws of this wonderful liberal country. He decided to face the music, and plead guilty to save further trauma to the victims, and further time and expense to them and the legal system.
Alternative History Branch Point Two
He realised that, although he hadn’t done what the two women claimed, it would be best for all concerned if he showed respect for the law and faced his charges. Any other response would be expensive and would derail his movement from its good work. He wanted to clear his name. He declared from the start that he was innocent and that he would fight the charges.
Back to One Track in the Alternative History
He found himself an excellent lawyer, but forbade the lawyer from utilising any of society’s misogynistic derailing tactics, publicly or in the courtroom. He got himself on the next plane to face his accusers.
He ended up in prison for a while. Or he didn’t. He used the time constructively to further his own education, and, where he could, continue to support his movement. Or he did that anyway, outside prison.
Meanwhile the movement prospered with thousands of radical people, including feminists, joining its supporters in droves, in appreciation of this man who had turned himself around and inspired many more men to understand sexual politics and interrupt the way they played out in their own lives and more widely.
The movement unleashed a torrent of exposures and challenges to the powerful, backed by donations of money and time and effort and publicity from their supporters.
Other related movements took heart and learned lessons. The ideals of feminism took deep root in occupation movements, and anti-cuts movements, and anti-capitalism movements, and all the movements. Similar issues of colonialism and oppression and class war came to the fore as people thought about all the ways that privilege or the lack of it poisoned the lives of millions.
Women’s energies, and the energies of other marginalised, excluded and oppressed groups, were freed up from fighting the same battles outside radical movements AND within them, and the contribution they made to changing the world became the critical mass required to rethink EVERYTHING and change EVERYTHING.
The end. The beginning.
* Alternate history or alternative history is a genre of fiction consisting of stories that are set in worlds in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world. — Wikipedia, Alternate history.