I’ve been thinking about how to write this with a delicate hand since yesterday, when I first started seeing “Me Too” pop up on social media as a status from women who were interested in letting people know they, too, have been victims of sexual harassment/assault. I wanted to be especially careful because so many of these women I like and admire, and I’ve no wish to downplay their experiences.
And I’ve been there, too, ladies. Hoo boy, have I. From subtle hints and suggestions; to blatant power plays using gender stereotypes (and even body parts. That one was no fun.); to an outright “You’re cute. If you sleep with me, I’ll help you get a job” kind of thing. It’s been a real drag at times. No doubt about it.
All that said, this kind of hashtag activism — the very same kind displayed by former FLOTUS Michelle Obama when she used #bringbackourgirls in a weak attempt to “do something!” about the Nigerian schoolgirl kidnappings — is a hammer without a nail, which is to say: what’s the goal here?
Banding together in solidarity to fight a common enemy is noble enough, but only if the end goal is noble. Martin Luther King Jr. used this kind of call to ideological unity to great effect. But he had legislation in mind. Who’s the common enemy for the #MeToo ladies? Men? A society that doesn’t recognize it has a problem? And is legislation on the list of possible solutions? And what would it do, exactly? Enforce laws against sexual harassment and assault? More than those that already exist? (Because they do.)
And since we’re at it, we’ll have to define our terms here; because, as was pointed out to me this morning by several women, sexual harassment is different from sexual assault and rape by several orders of magnitude. So what exactly are ladies “Me Too”-ing? (My experiences up top never even came close to rape, thank God. Can I even begin to understand what those women go through?)
There are other problems I see with this kind of easy activism. It has the potential to spiral out of control rather quickly and become (much as I hate to use the word since Weasel Woody recently used it regarding his brother in perversion, Weinstein), a witch hunt. This came through my Twitter feed this morning:
This is a call for men to admit they are harassers, and possibly rapists. And if they don’t, will they be shamed until they do? Because that’s where these things tend to lead in a culture that is determined to stop men from behaving naturally, whether it be by punishing them for wanting to play with guns and tanks in school or by asking them to tamp down their appreciation for the female form. And ladies, while we’re at it, part of the freedom of being able to wear that gorgeous dress that hugs your curves is that you might have to endure a compliment or two from the visually-aligned male of the species. (Here’s where defining our terms comes in handy — is a compliment the same as harassment?)
I suppose we could go the route some have suggested: letting Islam’s rules regarding women dictate how we approach relationships between men and women.
I suspect no one really wants that here in the free West. Which is why the outcry over Mike Pence and his decision to steer clear of even the appearance of impropriety is so baffling in light of these things. Pence has done quite a noble thing as regards women: he puts the onus on the man to play a role in the preservation of a woman’s dignity, rather than the way of the hijab, which places all the blame on the woman for being a temptation by virtue of her very sex.
As RedState’s own Brad Slager wrote recently, this is a very confusing thing for men. Do feminists want men to protect them? Or are they opposed to that kind of chivalry?:
My favorite reaction to the decades-long sex scandal was the call for men to stand up and halt these aggressive actions on behalf of women. Oh really?!?! Funny, since feminists and the media have spent the past generation attempting to tamp down this very behavior. Men who cherish and protect women have been cast in the role of the enemy. Holding a door open for a lady has been called demeaning. Any chivalrous or traditional act is regarded as casting the female in a subservient role. Treat women as equals, and don’t pay them preferential attention, has been the lesson plan.
But the most pressing concern for me personally about these efforts to crowdsource victims is that any nuance is lost as the effort grows. It’s not fair to lump all men together — to turn them all into a Harvey Weinstein, even if they were a little inappropriate in a comment, or were a little demeaning in their attitude. That’s not the same as rape, and it shouldn’t be regarded as such.
Finally, apparently — and this is not unusual while people are still wondering if they should feel victimized — humor is out of the question. I think the gathering storm of outrage only exacerbates that. And I take comedy very seriously because laughter heals better than anything. Certainly better than a hashtag.
So, too, does a good shoulder to cry on. If that’s what #MeToo offers, numerous shoulders, then I fully support it. But let’s be careful we don’t cheapen what is a very real struggle for women who have been truly victimized in our attempt to relate. Because maybe we actually don’t. And that’s ok, too. Doesn’t mean we can’t be empathetic even if we don’t know the pain.