I haven’t written anything about the #MeToo movement because every time I try, I just get this overwhelming feeling of fatigue, and my hands won’t go to the keyboard. Plus, I almost feel like everything that could be said about it has been said, and said better than I could. Almost. Because I think that we need to keep talking about it, even if it’s repetitive, because if we let it become just of those short-lived fads, then things will go back to status quo really quickly.
In this current climate it seems that if someone is accused, they are guilty until proven innocent, and this worries me. I hesitate to use the word “witch hunt” because it’s a loaded term, but I also know that we here in the US of A have a long standing tradition of taking a good thing with the best intentions and carrying beyond the line of absurdity. And while I am glad that women are FINALLY being listened to, and it seems like people are more inclined to believe what they’re saying, I also worry about how quickly judgements are being passed, especially when it seems to immediately discredit all other accomplishments of the accused.
I am of the opinion that close to 100% of women have at some point or another experienced either unwelcome comments, or stereotyping, or frank sexual harrassment either at work or in other areas of their lives. Some don’t agree with this, and they might, just might, be one of the few lucky women who have not come in contact with such unpleasantries, but they are few and far between. So, I cannot be surprised that when the big story broke with Harvey Weinstein, it turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. Then, it wasn’t just Harvey Weinstein; it was Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Tom Ashbrook, Al Franken, that guy from Lake Wobegone, and I even saw an article about Elie Weisel grabbing someone’s ass at a book signing. Will we have to stop thinking of him as an icon b/c he was actually a dirty old man? The idea hurt. I thought, We should pass around a list and have people who HAVEN’T been predators in the past sign up, it might be easier!
And then it occurred to me that if you dig deep, you will find something in the past of any man that might be questionable. Hashtag Not all men, yeah yeah yeah, but I think yea, actually, all men. At one point or another ALL of us have done something that wasn’t right, whether we knew it or not. And I’m positive that all men have said or done something that was unsolicited, unwarranted, unwanted, or made someone uncomfortable and felt predatorial, whether the men themselves were aware of it or not. At the very least, they may have been sitting at the table where other men were discussing “bitches” and “hos” and laughed along.
How far back into the past do we go? 20 years? 50 years?
I also worry about what constitutes something worthy of “going public” with. I supported the #MeToo campaign, but all the while in the back of my mind, I had this niggling thought that my experiences with harassment and sexism at work are in no way equivalent to those of a sexual assault victim, for example, and shouldn’t be lumped into the same category. I understand the arguments that the small potatoes, so to say, have to be weeded out to prevent the bigger crimes, and that everyone’s struggle is their own, but I still couldn’t get rid of the thought.
Today, I read the piece about Aziz Ansari. It made me nauseous. It sounded like so many bad hookups I may have had or my friends may have had, before we shook our inhibitions and gained the maturity to speak up about our desires, wants, and wishes, and before we gained the courage of just getting the fuck out of a bad date without worrying about hurting feelings. It was a really shitty date. He sounded like he got sex pointers from porn. But was it worth it to put it out there? Sounded from the story like she wasn’t voicing her wishes, and he wasn’t picking up on the body language signs she was sending him; she also addressed it with him at the time, and he apologized (does that count? I don’t know). Was he a predator? Or just a bad date?
I cannot judge.
But this is slightly beyond my point.
My point is this. We are finally empowering women to stand up for themselves, and trying to shift the paradigm and change the rules, removing the burden of protecting themselves from the women. I am happy this is happening. I think we need a new set of rules to play by. I would like to see a world where no longer is it just expected that every day going to work is going to be a battle of the sexes, and I have to be on the lookout for aggressors. I wonder what would I do with all the extra energy I would have if I didn’t have to maintain my force field at all times.
But do we take today’s new rules, and the emerging new standards of behavior, go back and apply them to the past? To the norm of behaviors in the past, I mean? If we do that, we are going to have a whole lot of men with very dirty histories. And I am not talking about things that are and always have been illegal (in the modern world, at least, I like to think), like physical assault, or rape, or extortion. I am talking about unwanted remarks, innuendo, judgments based on appearance, even unwanted physical contact if you go further back. If we take the rules we are making today, and apply them retrospectively, a whole lot of men are going to turn out to be filthy predators.
I don’t think we can do that.
I have heard men say that they’re feverishly going over their past action to see if maybe they were one of those. I think decent men’s heads are spinning. They need to know what to do from here.
We need to collectively let the men know what’s up. Now, while they’re still paying attention. We have made new expectations they will need to fulfill FROM NOW ON. We need to let them be known. And go forward.
*thanks to N.Rymer for talking me through it.