Where #MeToo Falls Short
Countless #MeToo stories from women have prompted countless #MeToo pledges from men; proclamations that they—“woke” men—intend to valiantly rid the world of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, even if that means having to shame each and every last male friend into compliance.
They are promising to not let their coworkers tell sexist jokes, promising to intervene when their friends catcall women on the street, and promising to report sexist memes or status updates on Facebook. But do these things really matter? I mean…I guess they do.
Yeah, sexist jokes and catcalls— especially catcalls—do make women uncomfortable, and we want them to stop. We also want the creepy back rubs and flirty mansplaining to stop. Unfortunately, though, those things aren’t what’s fueling the epidemic of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault.
It’s fantastic that men are pledging to put an end to those injustices, and that men are taking baby steps to right epic, deep-seated wrongs. But what men really have to do for women—and what women really have to do for women—is something none of us enjoy doing.
Often times, when sexual harassment, abuse, and assault come to light, people are forced to come to a harsh realization. It's the realization that a man that you and many other people may love, admire, and respect is a monster.
These aren’t the monsters they show you in movies or on TV. They aren’t big, dumb, drunken, smelly, tattooed caricatures who lumber through life, destroying everyone in their path. You know those caricatures are portrayed as more wild animal than human. I can say, however, with absolute certainty— as a former victim of violent physical abuse— that monsters walk among you, like normal people, and you don’t see them because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge the truth. You don’t see them because you don’t want to see them.
Consider all the dads and stepdads who molest their kids, and the mothers who don’t report them. Think of the grandpas who molest their grandkids, and the grandmas, aunts, or uncles who turn a blind eye to it. What about brothers who rape their younger siblings and cousins or church pastors, Catholic priests, sports coaches, and Boy Scout leaders who put on charming faces to hide their dark intentions?
Being the hero seems so easy in the movies, but movie heroes rarely consider, let alone suffer through, the moral dilemma of turning in a well-liked rapist or abuser. Reports of sexual abuse and rape that you see on the news might make you physically sick, but that’s different, because those aren’t people that you know. Those are people that don’t live in your neighborhood, don’t go to your school, or don’t work at your company. Maybe they lived a long time ago, or live a long distance away from you. Maybe they died before you were born, or they're people that you would never have met anyway.
It's easy to dismiss these perpetrators as men who are different from the type of person you think you are in every way. These are men who you would gladly drag down to the nearest police station, of course after having beaten them within an inch of their despicable lives, but honestly, monsters are usually just people. Most of them look and act like everyday people in your city. They live in houses just like yours and do things just like you. They have neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family, just like you.
When these terrible accusations come to light, you will suddenly be struck with the blindingly harsh reality that turning in this person will have consequences and that will make turning that person in really hard. There will be consequences that can never be undone and there will be consequences that will cause pain and ruin many lives.
So you start to think:
- Maybe it’s not that big of a deal.
- My community / company / church / pack / family would be finished if this man went to prison.
- Maybe I didn’t see or hear what I thought I did.
- Maybe she is exaggerating / drunk / a slut.
- He’s just a kid, he will grow out of it.
- I will be so lonely if he’s gone.
- Our family will not survive without him.
- He swore to me he would never do it again.
- Maybe if we ignore it, it will just go away.
That “normal life” and all those nasty consequences are what prevent many victims from speaking out against their attackers; not only out of fear that no one will believe their story, but because they will surely be blamed for all those consequences.
#MeToo has exposed the fact that sexual harassment, abuse, and assault are rife, but sharing these stories does little to stop the problem. It doesn’t solve the problem of men (and to a far lesser extent, some women) who are born predestined to commit these horrific crimes. Sharing these stories does little to help babies born into dysfunctional families in which sexual abuse begins not long after their birth and will continue as that baby gets older and eventually becomes a perpetrator as well as a victim.
No, preventing friends from telling sexist jokes or catcalling won’t stop serial rapists. It is, however, good practice in standing up to people you don’t hate. You will need all that practice when you have to stand up to a beloved monster, the one you don’t hate, the one that must be stopped at all costs if we ever hope to create a better, safer world.
- Harvey Weinstein’s Fall Opens the Floodgates in Hollywood - The New York Times
With women in the entertainment industry leading the discussion, talk of sexual harassment floods social media.