One of the open secrets that has been stripped of its secrecy in America’s current moment of #MeToo reckoning has been the nature of the secrets themselves. The spaces they have occupied. The structures that have allowed them to flourish out in the open for so long. The fact that women have been living in a world that has been built, in general, by and for men. Hollywood, pop culture, mass culture: by men, for men. Electoral politics, down to the notion of political charisma itself: by men, for men. Advertising. Manufacturing. Medicine. On and on. You see man made the cars / To take us over the road. Man made the train / To carry the heavy load. Women, in all that, in workplaces as in so many other places, have been made to do the thing women are so often made to do: adjust. Adapt. Make way. Make do. This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing—nothing—without a woman or a girl.
So while this is a moment of revelation about individual stories—individual truths—it is also a moment of revelation about the structures that shape the stories and bind the truths. The narratives delivered down from the echelons of the American media. The blithe social expectations that guide individual choices. The racism that is not merely a personal failing, but also a systemic one. The ways and means of power. In 1992, John Gray, a relationship therapist and former monk, published Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. The book became an instant hit—not just a bestseller, but also a full-fledged pop-cultural phenomenon. By 2015, Men Are From Mars had sold more than 15 million copies, and had spawned many more books of the self-help-meets-solar-system strain, among them Mars and Venus in Love, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, Mars and Venus on a Date. That was on top of the other products that populate the Mars/Venus universe: the audiobooks. The seminars. The off-Broadway show. The TV show. The TED talks. The Institute.