This is a continuation of my last post: Making Sense of #MeToo, Part 2
The other problem I see with #MeToo, at least as it currently stands in the media, is that it’s divisive – whether or not it is intended that way. It’s largely pitting women and men against each other. Instead of being everyone against rape and sexual assault, it’s coming across as women against men who have or show any kind of sexual interest. I know… I know… patriarchy has put women in that position for years… correction… centuries. I get that, but two wrongs don’t make a right and two extremes don’t make for a fair, balanced, and equal society. It also raises everyone’s fears and anxieties over sexuality. For women this might mean raising fears that there are predators and pedophiles around every corner. For men it raises fears that any outward expressions of interest or sexuality could lead to public shaming, even job loss.
When the movement starts ousting men for the slightest expressions of sexuality because they don’t hold up to the highest ideals of sexual purity or for past incidents that maybe they’ve grown from, eventually you’ve got a lot of men on the outside. When it gets to that point it really does become a battle between women’s sexuality and men’s sexuality – rival sexualities and possibly rival moralities. Keeping on task and showing forgiveness for minor or unintended transgressions (especially if the accused makes a public apology) would mitigate some of this and ensure that the movement doesn’t lose its male allies. Right now, even seemingly sincere apologies are being met with hostility. A total zero-tolerance, zero-forgiveness stance will only lead to ongoing backlash against the movement.
While women are less likely to hold positions of power over men in our society, the #MeToo movement should also hold women accountable for sexual abuses against men in the workplace. It may not be as common, but it still happens. And just look at all the female high school teachers accused of sex with underage male students in the news. By shining the spotlight on women, not just men, such an action would show that the movement isn’t just a witch hunt against men. Right now almost all of those accused in #MeToo stories are men. They might be straight or gay, but they’re almost exclusively men.
Perhaps a problem too with the movement is that #MeToo isn’t really a proper movement per se, it’s really a large number of people telling their stories. Those stories are mainly about abuses and alleged abuses by celebrities and public figures. There is value in that because it raises awareness of the challenges that women endure in our society. It might also provide many with relief that their story is finally being told and heard. Seeing all these cases also raises awareness that men, even the “woke” guy next door, might not be immune to the impulses of their sexuality or to the institutionalized differences of sex and power between men and women in our society.
If #MeToo is to become a real movement and not just a means of revenge and shaming, I feel like the #MeToo folks should come up with some kind of unified platform or policy. Such a policy could keep the media from fully dominating the dialogue on these issues where the media currently interviews people and picks stories that are likely to provoke controversy and increase their ratings. Such a policy could outline levels of sexual abuse from the severe to the trivial and decide what actions are appropriate for each. The movement should also have a designated spokeswoman to weigh in on the issues. That would also help alleviate many of the mixed messages about the movement coming from media interviews with random women. Even prominent female celebrities and public figures might have different views on the movement and each case brought forward. Perhaps the movement could start a legal fund to help women who are currently or recently victims of abuse; and perhaps too the movement could work toward helping mitigate counseling costs for those who have been traumatized by sexual abuses. Perhaps the movement could host workshops on better communication about dating and sex for both men and women. Hopefully, the movement would distinguish between positive sexual expression and negative sexual abuse. Hopefully too, the movement would extend forgiveness to well-meaning men who have made trivial offenses or who made larger offenses in their past, but have since learned and grown from them.