The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood has suggested the young women at the forefront of the #MeToo anti-harassment movement should create a new etiquette guide for “ordinary people”.
The Canadian writer has stirred up controversy with her comments about the movement, suggesting men should seek out advice on their behavior around women following a string of assault and misconduct allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, director James Toback and others.
And now she tells BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, the #MeToo movement is not enough to change things, insisting it’s a “symptom of something being wrong”, but it’s not an “end goal”.
“There are some things we’re going to need to fix, I would say in three areas,” Atwood said. “One of them being courts of law. One of them being large institutions and corporations. And one of them being personal behavior.
“There used to be a lot of etiquette books on how to behave. Those seem to have gone out of the window. We used to be bombarded with them in the 50s. So where is the Mr Manners? There should be a Mr Manners column – like: ‘What do you do when…?’.”
“I think it can help men to understand what may possibly be expected of them in the behavior department,” the feminist guru added.
“I think we should let younger people deal with that. I’m 78.”
Atwood went on to suggest that the introduction of the pill in the 1950s was partly responsible for creating a harassment culture in the workplace.
“In the 50s there were a lot of these problems that we didn’t have,” she explained. “One of the reasons they were fewer is that the pill had not come along. When it did come along, all of a sudden, because you could – you were expected to (have sex). Whereas beforehand, you were not expected to as you might get pregnant.”