I’m a woman. I’m in my 30s and like most women I know I’ve been sexually harassed at some point in my life. I love that the #MeToo Movement has given women a voice and the feeling of safety and sisterhood to come out and share their stories. I think it’s incredibly important, but I have a couple of issues around the ‘scope creep’ of the movement.
Please note that this is purely an editorial opinion piece on current events. I cannot possibly mention all of the incredibly important details of this vast and diverse situation in one editorial blog article. My aim is to simply add another additional perspective to the conversation.
We’ve all watched as well-known public figures (mainly men) have been accused of sexual misconduct. We’ve seen the Twitter debate about men being tone-deaf and insensitive and that they need to stay out of the conversation. I think that we all need to be a part of the conversation and that at some point this needs to stop being just a conversation but more of a movement towards finding solutions and resolutions.
We Live In a World of False Equivalencies
We live in a world of false equivalencies. We see it on the news, we see it with the “what-about-isms” that seemed to consume the coverage of 2016 US Election and we see it with the double standards that dominate our society. It’s frustrating and it doesn’t help anything or anyone.
Did the #MeToo Movement give women a voice and a platform to share their stories and come together under a common plight? Yes. It did do that. But it also put all forms of sexual misconduct under one large equal umbrella and heaven forbid anyone, especially a man (gasp!) point that out. Enter Matt Damon vs. Minnie Driver.
Forgive me for paraphrasing a bit here – you can read the entire article from The Guardian.
Matt Damon’s comments on #MeToo:
Source: The Guardian
Minnie Driver responds via Twitter:
I don’t think it is tone deaf at all. To me it feels like the all-encompassing nature of this seems to falsely equivocate things like what happened to the little girl in A Time To Kill with someone being cat-called as they walk past a construction site or having someone grab your backside at a nightclub with being molested by your uncle. I really think that’s what Damon is getting at here.
I remember hearing in church that “a sin is a sin is a sin”. Really?! Is it? I have trouble believing that God (or any deity for that matter) thinks that rape and telling a lie are somehow equal or that murder and jealousy hold the same weight. Yes, we agree that all bad things are bad – no one is debating that molestation, harassment, assault or incest aren’t bad – but they aren’t equal. Being told you have a nice ass is not the same as someone raping you in said nice ass. Both bad, but they hold different weight.
I always wonder with things like this: if another woman had made the comments that Matt Damon did, would the reaction have been the same? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If the reaction was the same, she would be publicly shamed and banished from the “sisterhood” forever dubbed as “not a feminist” as if feminism were somehow synonymous with the Bush Doctrine. Yet another reason that we don’t always see intelligent discourse on these matters.
Men Are Victims, Too.
You’re Missing The Double Standard.
Men are victims, too. And if you just read that subtitle and made a whole bunch of pre-judgements about me and what I’m about to say, what does that say about you?
Do women make up the majority of victims in this? Yes, they certainly do. But let’s not forget there are male victims as well. Real-Life Example: Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexual misconduct. There doesn’t seem to have been as many cases of men accusing women as there are of men accusing other men, but none the less, I think this is worth noting. Women aren’t the only victims – it’s important to include all victims in the conversation, regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
We see it on tv all the time – a woman uses her physical beauty and sexuality to control a man for some sort of personal gain. One workplace example that comes to mind is a series of episodes from Gossip Girl. Diana Payne (played by Elizabeth Hurley) engages in a sexual relationship with her much younger subordinate, Nate Archibald (played by Chase Crawford). She comes across as a powerful, confident woman but she’s really using her sexuality to assert her power and position over someone else. Many probably view this as “hot” and “good for him”, but if the roles were reversed and this was an older man and a much younger woman, say a professor and his student, there would be outrage.
We see it on Saturday Night Live when Leslie Jones makes comments full of innuendo at Colin Jost during Weekend Update. Somehow calling him a “tall glass of skim milk” and making comments of a sexual nature are considered funny, if Jost were to call one of his female co-workers “sweetheart”, all hell would break loose. I think it’s worth noting that I don’t take issue with the Jones-Jost exchanges as I feel there is an important social commentary here that is being made using comedy.
Regret & Revenge
People lie about sexual encounters for a variety of reasons when taking responsibility for their own actions is the right course of action. But doing what’s right isn’t always easy.
We saw it on ABC’s Scandal when Karen ends up in a sex tape from an encounter at a frat party and her Dad’s immediate reaction is “Were you raped?” to which she retorts something along the lines of being able to have sex on her own terms. Her father didn’t want to see his little girl as a sexual being so rape was his obvious conclusion. Karen took responsibility for her own actions when she could have easily “gotten out of it” by making false accusations.
(spoiler alert) The episode goes on to show that Karen was part of the sexual encounter as more of an outward reaction to the recent loss of her brother. When her mother discusses the encounter with her, she teaches her an important lesson. She tells her daughter that “if you told me you did it because you felt empowered or turned on, then that’s fine” but encourages her not to use sexuality as a coping mechanism. At no point does she slut-shame her daughter for what happened.
How do we reconcile sexual empowerment and promiscuity?
How do we end slut-shaming in all capacities?
When it comes to regret, embarrassment or even private acts becoming public knowledge, girls will claim “he forced himself on me” to divert from appearing “un-pure”. This can be especially common in abstinence-only households. Slut-shaming isn’t just something that happens to victims of sexual abuse – it’s something that causes people to falsely claim sexual abuse, too. It’s somehow better to claim to be a rape victim than a “slut” or (gasp) a human being that has sex.
We all know someone who’s had a regrettable one night stand and done the proverbial “walk of shame”. Rather than own their actions, I’ve heard women say things like “Oh yeah? Well, then I’ll cry rape. And who are they going to believe?” Regret or embarrassment of a consensual sexual encounter does not give you the right to call it rape. These accusations hold an incredible amount of weight and have the capacity to ruin lives – especially when they are untrue.
False accusations do a number of terrible things. They not only hold enough weight to unfairly ruin someone’s life, they also create an environment where actual victims feel as if they can’t come forward because no one will believe them. (See articles below re: Aziz Ansari, false accusers and the effects on #MeToo).
We also seem to live in a society where if you’re accused of sexual misconduct, you are guilty until proven “innocent”. The court of public opinion is where judgement is passed down, rather than the traditional legal system. The moment someone tweets that you mistreated them, you’re guilty. You’re added to the list of offenders like Roy Moore, Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. Don’t believe me? Read Margaret Atwood’s article Am I a Bad Feminist? (Globe & Mail) and you’ll see this doesn’t just happen in Hollywood.
We Have To Get This Right
We have to get this right – on all sides. We need to hold those who are guilty accountable, we need for victims to feel that they can safely come forward and we need to have measures in place to prevent people from being wrongly accused.
It’s important that people be held accountable for their actions, but this goes for false accusations as well. Accusations of sexual impropriety hold a lot of weight and can be dangerous. Even if these accusations turn out to be false, if you do a simple Google search of someone’s name, the fact that they were accused at some point for something is sure to come up. They’re tagged with that wrongful accusation for the rest of their lives, sometimes unjustly.
What are the punishments for those who wrongfully accuse? The girl who falsely called ‘rape’ isn’t stuck with the lasting reputation of having been accused of misconduct, regardless of acquittal.
Truth & Consequence
So, what is the end game? What do those who are publicly accusing people of misconduct hope to gain? I’m not asking that question to say “there’s no point in sharing your story because there’s nothing to gain from it”, but more to imply that “you told your story, said accused agreed/confessed/corroborated…now what?” What do we do with these people and where do we all go from here?
Hopefully our society can move in a direction where people are treated equally so we don’t have to have a #MeToo movement because abuse and harassment won’t exist anymore, but in the meantime, what’s the solution?
Senator Al Franken had to resign for his actions because he admitted to and apologized for inappropriate actions. It’s worth noting that the woman accusing Franken said she accepted his apology and did not wish for him to resign. She wanted an apology and an acknowledgement that what he did was wrong and that he wouldn’t do it again – to anyone. But he resigned. His career in comedy, politics or really anything is basically over. Some may argue that “he shouldn’t have made that mistake – it’s his fault that his career is over.”
How do we handle public apologies and honest repentance for these actions? If someone grabbed your ass ten years ago and apologized for it and hasn’t ever done anything like that ever again, then how do we all move forward from that? Is there room for forgiveness in our hearts? How about in the court of public opinion? How do we move on and heal? Not just as individuals but as a society?
Does #MeToo need to start a truth and reconciliation commission? Maybe. Maybe if we just treat each other better, tell the truth and take responsibility for our own actions that we’d all be a little better off than we were yesterday.
There are countless perspectives on this topic. I think that trying to see as many sides of the discussion as possible is one of the most productive ways that we can create change. Here is a list of additional media that I encourage you to check out!
Article – The Atlantic: “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari”
Article – The Daily Beast: “Ashley Banfield Condemns Aziz Ansari’s Accuser”
Article – The Globe & Mail: “Am I a Bad Feminist?” – Margaret Atwood
Book: We’re Going To Need More Wine – Gabrielle Union
This book is a collection of personal essays by actress Gabrielle Union. In this vulnerable and impassioned editorial in which she urges our society to have compassion for victims of sexual violence.
Netflix Comedy Special: Iliza Shlesigner: Confirmed Kills
Iliza is one of my favorite comediennes. Her other specials include War Paint and my personal favorite Freezing Hot. In this special, Confirmed Kills, she tackles womanhood and the current climate with a more serious tone. It’s definitely worth watching.
Article – The Guardian (cited above): “Minnie Driver: men like Matt Damon ‘cannot understand what abuse is like”