People, we need to have a talk about this post-Weinstein world.
I'm so happy that women finally feel safe to come forward and feel empowered to speak out about the abuses, small and large, we've all been dealing with since time in memoriam. It's about damn time you men realized that you've been behaving very badly and it's time to stop.
I know also that it's been a tsunami of accusations and it can be bewildering. Imagine how we women have felt holding this in because we didn't think anyone would take it seriously or we feared losing jobs or being threatened? That we're raising awareness of how prevalent this is can only be a good thing as we evolve as a society.
That said, we have to come to a few agreements:
- Purity doesn't work. To my knowledge, only one person in history allegedly never made a mistake and look what ended up happening to him. Expecting perfection from anyone else is an exercise in stupidity. Accept right now that people who you admire and respect have screwed up, possibly royally, at some point in their life.
- This level of "wokeness" is very, very new. Like so new that even last year, we weren't collectively believing the women. Like so new that even when Hef passed away a couple of months ago, I had men insisting to me that no one did more for women's sexual liberation than him. So let's not lay this level of awareness on a much less aware time.
- We need to make a distinction--and this is really critical--between assholish and criminal behavior. That jerk catcalling you or the boss who loved dirty jokes are assholes. The guy who didn't take no for an answer until you left the club in disgust is an asshole. The bros who asked you whether your breasts were real are assholes. That's very different from preying on teenage girls to the extent that the mall needs to ban you from their premises. That is criminal. Rapists are criminal. All of that and more contribute to rape culture, but if we're going to ban all men guilty contributing to rape culture, it's going to be really lonely out here and frankly, I don't think there's a desert island out there large enough to house them all.
- So therefore, we have to create a pathway for men who want redemption. Not all men, especially the ones like Moore who accuse victims of lying. But the ones like Franken who own that they've done something inappropriate and apologize and seek forgiveness deserve our consideration, not a knee-jerk demand that they step down lest the right calls us hypocritical. Make no mistake, that path won't be without consequences and it does require contrition. But it has to be there.
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Here's the ugly truth: I am in my 50s now and I don't know a single man who lived through the '70s and '80s (which celebrated sexual harassment as a particular male entitlement--see Clarence Thomas, et al) who would pass today's standards of behavior, including men in my own life who consider themselves feminists and allies.
That's the danger of retroactive lenses. Those feminist men in my life have had their awareness grow and evolve but it hasn't always been perfect. I forgive them their past mistakes and have sought to help them learn these new parameters, because they want to be better allies to women. That's what we all have to do societally: We have to help men who want to to be an ally, even if their past behavior isn't perfect.
- That isn't to say that all men are candidates for redemption. I'm not suggesting that the criminals I've described above get a pass from us. Some men cannot be forgiven, either of their own volition or they just do not have the wherewithal to grasp how they've should seek it (Think Trump). There are men who, without question, should be banished, because they've shown a complete disregard for respecting women and feel themselves above the norms of decent society.
I also think we need to have some discussion of how to deal with women's accusations. Traditionally, it's been hard for women to come forward, because we could expect to be ignored, dismissed, threatened or even campaigned against. Plus, there's no joy in reliving pain and shame. So acknowledge that. It's critical that we at all times take accusations seriously and investigate them fairly.
But that's not the same as lending a blanket assumption of truth-telling ad infinitum. I've seen some lefty publications using the "believe women" trope to resurrect Bill Clinton's alleged crimes against women. But let's be clear: those charges were investigated (Ken Starr had a team of over 200 attorneys, spent over $70 million and many years and multiple interviews investigating everything about the Clintons and not one of those women's accusations made it into his final report. Only Monica Lewinsky's admission of a consensual, albeit gross power dynamic, relationship was proved). Is it necessary to continue to believe them when they're determined to not be credible? Frankly, as a victim of an actual assault, I find that diminishing of my experiences.
And don't kid yourself, the right is already weaponizing these charges, because it helps muddy their own circling of wagons for their bad behavior. That's been their M.O. all along.
So as new accusations come out--and they will, and without question, the right will weaponize them--we need to know how to deal with it that doesn't make it impossible for us to go forward.
I don't have the answers, but I know we have to start the conversation.