Since the exposé of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, well, exposing himself took over the news cycle, women have been using the hashtag campaign #MeToo to share their stories.
Like most women, I’ve experienced my share of catcalling, and even a couple of sexually explicit comments and “accidental brush-ups” on the street. If you live in a big city, you know you encounter approximately 1,000 jerks per day behind the wheel, on the escalator, and in the subway. Inconsiderate asses, regrettably, are everywhere. Some of them seem to think that their sexual commentary, as well as the sound of their car horns, needs to be heard.
Depending on the circumstances and my mood, I’ve found these advances anything from hilariously awkward to enraging. Either way, I mostly forgot them at maximum half an hour later, which is the appropriate reaction to minor incidents with unpleasant people.
These incidents are on the same continuum with Weinstein’s behavior like a drop of water is on the same continuum with an ocean. We do a disservice to women who have experienced serious harassment at the workplace, or worse, sexual assault or rape, when we lump them in with catcalling or mere boorish behavior.
The #MeToo Movement Is Out of Control
The #MeToo mob has gone from the serious allegations levelled against powerful men like Bill O’Reilly and Weinstein to women working themselves up into a righteous lather over a stolen kiss to celebrate the end of a bloody war, or a 97-year-old mentally slowing former president making jokes and patting rumps from his wheelchair. As Matt Walsh pointed out in The Daily Wire, let’s hope for their own sake these ladies never visit a nursing home, if George H. W. Bush’s tame antics produced such offense.
But the slide from exposing the truly heinous into the minor leagues of “harassment” is all part of the plan for many on the Left. The Huffington Post writes, “The social media campaign is, of course, intended as a wake-up call for men. If every woman you know has been harassed or assaulted, then every man you know has likely made a woman feel unsafe.” Feel unsafe? In this age of snowflakes, even speaking about traditional gender roles makes some woman somewhere feel unsafe, prompting gutless universities to issue unconstitutionally broad harassment policies that turn on the subjective feelings of the recipient.
Being discomfited for a few moments by some guy’s awkward pass is not the same as a boss dropping trou and telling a subordinate her job depends on how she handles it. Further, sexual harassment in the workplace, while a serious problem with real power dynamics that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, is not the same as sexual assault and rape. In our rush for universal female victimhood, we cheapen the experiences of real victims and create a more hostile environment for their #MeToo stories.
In taking all incidents equally seriously, instead of guarding against future assault, we inoculate the public against outrage and feed backlash. If all men are accused of being Harvey Weinsteins when common sense tells us that truly disgusting behavior is relatively rare, then even Weinstein accusers will be dismissed as hysterics.
What We Lose When We Chase Victimhood
It’s not a real solution to suggest, as the Left does, that society should just “teach men not to rape.” The Weinsteins of the world won’t care, and the men who do need a better script for how to express interest in women should not be punished for ever-more-minor infractions in a culture that thinks that all displays of masculinity, whether gentlemanly or inappropriate, are equally sexist.
Meanwhile, the sleazeballs don’t give a rip about #MeToo, but good men are forced into questioning their own innocent interactions. A colleague recently shared her own story of how the widening campaign has affected a friendly professional relationship:
I just got off the phone after having the MOST uncomfortable conversation with a mentor of mine. He is a 68-year-old man with a wife and three children…He reached out to me and said he was very concerned and needed to speak with me. When we chatted, he proceeded to tell me how upset/confused/conflicted he was that because I am a woman and the last time he saw me he told me how great I looked in my dress, he was afraid he had offended me…
I was so sad he felt compelled to make that call… It was clear that a brilliant man, with decades of human interactions, was completely baffled by the things he was seeing called assault or offensive or harmful… good people don’t seem to know how to even interact with their long-term colleagues and friends.
The path our society has chosen to deal with this is forcing decent men who do not want to make women uncomfortable to retreat into treating women asexually, as interchangeable with men. We all lose if the wonderful dance between masculinity and femininity, even deployed completely innocently, is lost for all but the most unscrupulous among us.
A Return to Normalcy Between the Sexes
Our culture is at risk of becoming dangerously schizophrenic about sex. With the emotional whirlwind of “no judgement” casual encounters hanging all around us and past social proprieties long jettisoned, we’re expected to be sexually dialed up to the max outside the boardroom, and interchangeable, sexless automatons inside of it. It’s in this confused environment that the truly predatory, both men and women, thrive.
The Left’s solution to this sexual whiplash is to introduce endless hoops and legalities to what will always be inherently ambiguous situations, stretching the concept of “consent” to cover what was considered in earlier eras to be mere bad judgment, and stretching the definitions of harassment and assault to cover more minor occurrences.
But consent alone is not a strong enough code of sexual ethics. Consent is complex, and as has been highlighted by the ugly details of the Weinstein and Fox News cases, consent can be manipulated, coerced, and preyed upon.
Instead of trying to legalistically paper over these problems, maybe it’s time to reconsider some socially enforced boundaries around male-female interaction. These boundaries don’t have to be as strict as the much-maligned Pence Rule (although polling showed a majority of women found the vice president’s caution to be perfectly reasonable), but both sexes could use more structure in our various relationships with one other.
To bring a little calmness and comfort to the relations between the sexes, we don’t need ever-widening spheres of victimhood and grievance. Instead, we should acknowledge the differences between the sexes, and set boundaries that respect them. In a healthier sexual milieu, well-intentioned men and women can have mutually gratifying relationships, both personal and professional, while the real predators are easier to spot.