It’s hard to ignore the #MeToo movement right now. And that is a good thing. It is forcing much to the surface. This is a necessary, if difficult, process. But I fear that the recent trend of women coming forward will simultaneously go too far and not far enough.
For example, a recent allegation against Al Franken is that he had his arm around a woman during a photograph and squeezed her waist. Even assuming this allegation was honestly intended, such an action is not sexual misconduct. If the woman didn’t like being touched in that manner and thought it inappropriate, she simply should have stated so at the time. I realize it is difficult to speak out when a situation is uncomfortable, but making a public allegation of such minor behavior so long after the event in no way helps anyone involved. Besides, it is an insult to women (and men) who have actually experienced sexual harassment and assault.
That kind of thing will end up causing many to question the legitimacy of even the women who should be coming forward, which some fear is already leading to a backlash. And that would be an unfortunate and counterproductive result. What we need is a better process for dealing with these problems. Trial by media and judgment by public opinion is inherently anti-democratic. This atmosphere further promotes those like Trump, in pushing the reactionaries toward greater reaction. And partisanship makes the whole fiasco even more of a mess.
We live in a society where there is so much abuse, far beyond the recent cases: women molesting young boys, police harming minorities, the homeless being endlessly harassed, etc. People, not only men, in positions of authority misuse their power in victimizing others all the time. And most oppression is largely impersonal, as it is systemic and institutional. We need to be having a larger conversation. What has been happening lately is a good start. But I worry that this is where it will end. And as a society, after scapegoating a few people, we’ll likely go back to pretending that our society isn’t completely fucked up in a thousand ways.
When is there going to be a #MeToo movement for every time a poor person is unfairly evicted from their home, every time a family falls into debt because of medical costs, every time someone turns to prostitution or selling drugs in order to pay the bills, every time another person is sent to prison for a victimless crime, every time a poor black child is damaged by lead toxicity, every time an innocent is killed in America’s endless wars of aggression, and on and on? And When will the corporate media and identity politics activists equally obsess over the abuse, oppression, and prejudice millions of Americans (mostly poor or minority, many of them men) experience everyday?
I want a just and fair society. But we refuse to look at all of this vast abuse and put it in context. It’s not limited to individuals or even limited to specific kinds of abuse. It all connects together, as a victim of one kind of abuse might grow up to become a victimizer of another kind of abuse, and few people want to talk about this culture and cycle of victimization where the status of victim and victmizer blurs over time. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d have to question our complicity in not protesting or revolting against such overwhelming moral depravity that we have come to accept as normal or simply, out of discomfort and apathy, that we silently pretend isn’t happening.
I’m not feeling hopeful. Much of what is going on with sexual allegations is a useful and necessary first step. But it is a tiny step compared to how far we need to go. What needs to be challenged is the authoritarianism inherent to a hierarchical society built on high inequality — such as a powerful white woman like Hillary Clinton laughing about a situation, the death of Gaddafi (because Western imperialists didn’t want a Pan-African currency), that led to mass violence of untold number of poor brown people; and don’t forget that the pseudo-feminist Hillary Clinton attacked women who came forward with sexual allegations against her husband.
Even limiting ourselves to the patriarchy, consider the following. Some feminists want to emphasize the stereotypical narrative of older male victimizers and younger female victims. And some feminists want to claim that, even when boys and men are victimized, it isn’t systemic as it is with girls and women. But these ways of looking at abuse is part of the patriarchal worldview. The only way to challenge patriarchy is to move the frame of discussion toward intersectional politics, where it is understood that abusive women too can hold power over others and where most men are at risk of being victims of a systemically oppressive and abusive society.
When is that discussion going to happen? Besides the men’s rights activists, you can get some radical leftists to take it seriously. But there isn’t much discussion across the corporate media, in establishment politics, and among liberal class activists. This moment is an opportunity that could quickly become a lost opportunity. It’s far from clear that civil rights for women and all Americans will be advanced, rather than undermined and misdirected. Already it is becoming yet another political game and media spectacle, exactly what the establishment loves to promote in maintaining the status quo.
Unsurprisingly, as women have increased in number moving up the corporate ladder, the rate of workplace harassment of men by women has also increased. Are we hoping to lessen abusive behavior toward women or simply make abusive behavior more gender equal? Are we hoping to end the patriarchy or to help more women join the patriarchy?
Why can’t we get to the point of acknowledging that we live in a severely oppressive society that victimizes large numbers across numerous demographics? Why not focus on and publicly discuss the systemic, institutional, and pervasive reality of population-wide victimization and how it cyclically persists, sadly with many victims becoming a new generation of victimizers? What are we afraid of? And why would we rather allow this horrific moral failure to continue than accept our shared responsibility in dealing with it? If not now, when? Why do we continually delay justice? Why is it never the right time to seek reform and defend the rights of all victims?
Compassion isn’t a limited commodity and justice isn’t a zero sum game. I have a suggestion. Instead of being manipulated by divide and conquer, instead of seeking the benefit of one’s group alone, let’s seek solidarity against a system of victimization that makes it possible for victimizers to take advantage of others. Let’s all agree that so many of us have been harmed by this dysfunctional social order. Let’s work together to create a better society for everyone. Let’s give voice to a shared intention to include, support, and promote each other through a vision of common good. And let’s strive for a functioning social democracy built on the upholding and defense of constitutional civil rights and universal human rights.
That almost sounds inspiring and unifying. Now that is something to which we can all add an emphatic #MeToo!
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How Politics Might Sour the #MeToo Movement
by R. Marie Griffith
Why the #MeToo Movement Should Be Ready for a Backlash
by Emily Yoffe
Could cascade of allegations send #MeToo movement off the rails?
by Pam Louwagie
Is #MeToo Only For Women? Should It Be?
by Abby Franquemont
What Happens When Men Say #MeToo, Too?
by Colin Beavan
To Stop the Abuse of Women, We Also Have to Stop the Abuse of Men
by Mike Kasdan and Lisa Hickey
When #MeToo Means #WeBlameYou
by T. S. Barracks
More Men Report Sexual Harassment at Work
by Robert DiGiacomo
More men file workplace sexual harassment claims
by The Washington Times
Women Harassing Men
by Gretchen Voss
Sexual harassment of men more common than you think
by Emanuel Shirazi
Sexual harassment at work not just men against women
by Science Daily
Workplace sexual harassment at the margins
by Paula McDonald and Sara Charlesworth
When Men Face Sexual Harassment
by Romeo Vitelli
I Was Sexually Harassed By My (Female) Boss
by Eugene S. Robinson
Laughing at the Sexual Abuse of Boys?
by Amy Simpson
Why female violence against men is society’s last great taboo
by Martin Daubney
The Understudied Female Sexual Predator
by Conor Friedersdorf
Sexual Victimization by Women Is More Common Than Previously Known
by Lara Stemple and Ilan H. Meyer
Sexual victimization perpetrated by women: Federal data reveal surprising prevalence
by Lara Stemple, Andrew Flores, and Ilan HMeyer
Sexual Abuse of Men by Women is Underreported
by Christen Hovet
Cases of sexual abuse of boys by women raise awareness of an uncommon crime
by Keith L. Alexander
Sexual Abuse of Boys
by Jim Hopper
When Men Are Raped
by Hanna Rosin
The Hidden Epidemic of Men Who Are Raped by Women
by Steven Blum
Myths and Facts
Adapted and expanded from an online piece by Ken Singer
Latest Data From The ABS And AIC
by One in Three
Men Can Be Abused, Too
Embarrassment barrier for abused men
by Melissa Wishart
Why are so many MEN becoming victims of domestic violence?
by Antonia Hoyle
Woman As Aggressor: The Unspoken Truth Of Domestic Violence
by Edward Rhymes
The Truth About Domestic Violence Against Men
by Abby Jackson
What Domestic Violence Against Men Looks Like
by C. Brian Smith
Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too
by The National Domestic Violence Hotline
CDC Study: More Men than Women Victims of Partner Abuse
by Bert H. Hoff, J.D
More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals
by Denis Campbell
Domestic violence against men – Prevalence