British “Superman” actor Henry Cavill is taking heat for being honest about how the MeToo phenomenon, of women publicly accusing men of everything from complimenting their outfit to rape, has heightened an adversarial relationship between the sexes. In a recent chatty, writer-centered GQ profile, Adam Baidawi asked Cavill what he has learned from MeToo.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to not be around the kind of people who behave that way,” Cavill responded. “To my memory there’s been no moments where I look back and think, ‘Ooh, OK, maybe someone shouldn’t have gone through that’. I know there have been situations with people I’ve worked with being perhaps overfamiliar with some of the actresses. But, I’ve always walked up to them and said, ‘Hey, are you all right? That’s creepy’.”
The article continues:
‘Stuff has to change, absolutely,’ he adds, addressing men’s behaviour. ‘It’s important to also retain the good things, which were a quality of the past, and get rid of the bad things.
‘There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman. There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice. I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that. It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place.
Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something’. So you’re like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and then just go back to a relationship, which never really worked’. But it’s way safer than casting myself into the fires of hell, because I’m someone in the public eye, and if I go and flirt with someone, then who knows what’s going to happen?
‘Now? Now you really can’t pursue someone further than, ‘No’. It’s like, ‘OK, cool’. But then there’s the, ‘Oh why’d you give up?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, because I didn’t want to go to jail?’’
Not only does this read like a humane approach to a complex, delicate concern, it reads like a statement that would make the average woman suspect its speaker will treat her the way she wants to be treated: protecting her from creeps, checking whether she wants his attention and making sure of it before proceeding, and being willing to proactively engage in the dance of romance.
Among the women I know, their chief annoyance about men today is passivity, not a man expressing interest in them.The single ladies I know, and the married ones too, would be afraid they’d died and gone to heaven if they could say: “Oh, he obviously is really into me, we spent a whole hour chatting at the party, and afterward he asked for my number, and we went on a lunch date and he actually showed up and didn’t just try to get sex right away, and afterward he actually responded to my text messages and now he wants to go out to dinner!” Every girlfriend who heard this story would be dead jealous she didn’t meet this guy first.
Essentially all Cavill does in the interview is acknowledge that, while men definitely have gotten romance wrong, sometimes horribly so, the evils and missteps of some men don’t negate the power and desirability of male romantic initiation. It’s also really difficult to create a relationship with someone when you’re worried she might color your behavior exactly opposite to your intentions due to social campaigns that tell her this is justified.
In other words, don’t brand all men rapists just because some want to talk to you. Also, don’t call flirting or noncoercive expressions of interest sexual assault. Not only is that false and idiotic, it’s offensive to sexual assault victims.
Unacceptable, say the same people whose excesses Cavill addressed rather gently to GQ. Soon after the interview published, Cavill apologized. Here’s his statement:
‘Having seen the reaction to an article in particular about my feelings on dating and the #metoo movement, I just wanted to apologize for any confusion and misunderstanding that this may have created,’ he told Page Six in a statement Thursday.
‘Insensitivity was absolutely not my intention. In light of this I would just like to clarify and confirm to all that I have always and will continue to hold women in the highest of regard, no matter the type of relationship, whether it be friendship, professional, or a significant other.
‘Never would I intend to disrespect in any way, shape or form,’ his statement continued. ‘This experience has taught me a valuable lesson as to the context and the nuance of editorial liberties. I look forward to clarifying my position in the future towards a subject that is so vitally important and in which I wholeheartedly support.’
This is ridiculous. It reads like the man has Stockholm syndrome. Unless it comes out — and it has not — that Cavill has actually hurt someone, he has nothing to apologize for. He said entirely reasonable, sensitive, thoughtful, and defensible words. He should not have apologized.
That he did entirely validates his original point. His original observation was along the lines of, “This new social standard creates some problems, like telling men who haven’t done anything wrong to shut up and sit down.” In response, he was told to shut up and sit down. So he did.
All that does is increase MeToo standard-bearers’ power-drunkenness. It’s another scalp for them to brandish in their belt, and not from an enemy, but a noncombatant. It might not mean the end of romance for Cavill, a gorgeous movie star who probably has bodyguards expressly to pick off all the women who would kill to sleep with him. But him falling to his knees for doing nothing wrong is yet another blow to all the normal men who don’t have the legal, social, and romantic insurance offered by stardom.