Has #MeToo Gone Too Far?

Reminds me of 1960 “leaders” who thought Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was too radical – until SNCC, Rap Brown and Malcolm X showed up. And still racism rules in US. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was thought too radical, until working class woman got involved in women’s rights and sexism still rules in US. If we wonder if #MeToo has gone too far and caution women to chill – wait until the next group shows up, you will be wanting mainstream #MeToo to come back. Racists, sexists, Nazis, Fundamentalists will not go away by being nice. metoo gone too far

metoo gone too farBefore you try to scratch my eyeballs out, please hear me out (and read the entire article before making any judgement). . .

Without a doubt, I condemn in the strongest terms anyone who has sexually harassed, physically attacked, and/or raped any individual. Such people, when found guilty must lose their jobs, pay meaningful restitution, and go to jail! I have no sympathy for them.

I do understand there are women who are in fear of losing their jobs and whose support depends solely on their own income. I empathize with the situation in which they find themselves that seems to offer no viable alternatives. However, I am also very dismayed when women are being depicted as being too weak and too easily intimidated to stand up for themselves. Victims must understand that there are viable alternative actions–silence while waiting for someone else to speak up first is not the answer.

The mere fact that someone feels “uncomfortable” from words, gestures, actions by others ought not be enough to persecute or prosecute. #MeToo is important and is in part helping and teaching women how to confront and/or report their tormenters. Yet I think of the waitress who was cornered in a hallway by a prominent Hollywood producer but never called for help or tried to push past him or fight or kick, of even later file a report. Her job was not on the line; her employment did not depend on pleasing that perverted film mogul. So why didn’t she react differently?

When women today are fighting to be treated as equals; as independent, strong-minded, decisive people, as individuals who can think quickly and be prepared to resolve issues–how can they turn around and claim weakness and inability to act?

What about the actress who has gone on numerous talk shows describing how that same producer pushed her into his hotel bathroom, disrobed her, sat her down on the edge of the tub, and then put his face between her legs? What was she doing all that time? He wasn’t beating her up or threatening her life. She and too many others claim they froze and couldn’t think how to respond and never even filed a report later. She claims her desire to move up in the film world took precedence over defending herself.

When women today are fighting to be treated as equals; as independent, strong-minded, decisive people, as individuals who can think quickly and be prepared to resolve issues–how can they turn around and claim weakness and inability to act?

Put yourself in their shoes, you ask. Well, I have. Have I had to fight off a perpetrator? I have done that as well, so I know of which I speak!

I am outraged when I read about the horrendous actions perpetrated by people who hold high political office or executive positions. At the same time, we seem to overlook the people in less visible positions that are equally guilty of egregious acts against women. Their acts are not being covered (at least to the same extent) even though what they do is far more prevalent than the actions of the rich and famous. We cannot allow that category of perpetrators to get a pass.

In the meantime, what we are also doing is throwing those whose actions and intentions are innocent (though at times misguided and rather juvenile) to be thrown under the bus. We can’t throw out the baby with the bath water. I think of the teacher friend who was accused by a young female student of inappropriate sexual contact. He lost his position until it was learned that the girl resented her failing grade in his class and wanted revenge. His reputation in the school community was never quite repaired.

What about Al Franken? He was open to a full investigation but his fellows were more worried about appearances than getting at the truth. If the Dems wanted Republicans to force out their own members accused of alleged unspeakable crimes against women, the thinking went that the Dems would have to be the first to step up to the plate. I can understand that thinking, but due process should have been part-and-parcel of decision-making. Personally, I don’t think childish pranks where no one has really been harmed (except feelings, perhaps) should lead to a loss of job or reputation.

What about actors like James Franco and Aziz Ansari? The former founded two master-class studios where one offering was how to be nude on camera (not a required course). Wouldn’t you think that if you sign up for such a class, you would be expected to take your top off or be nude altogether? If one is on a date (in Ansari’s case), wouldn’t one expect that at some point there might be a make-out session? This is, after all, the 21st century with 21st century morés (for better or worse). Are we expected to behave like the Ozzi and Harriet stereotype–which was so unrealistic in the first place and set unrealistic expectations and standards? Are we to act on a date like nuns and priests? Aren’t we teaching men that No means No and if that “command” is ignored, he can indeed be accused of a crime.

I am reminded of the movie, Pleasantville, where everything was in stark black and white until people began to be in touch with their true feelings, after which the starkness was replaced with brilliant color. There was initial blowback by many characters who felt threatened and wanted to maintain the status quo? But eventually everyone came to realize that bold color is far preferable to black and white. Such color does not have to lead to ugly behavior.

But I digress. . .

We cannot be co-conspirators in victimizing the innocent without sufficiently castigating the guilty. We must not dilute the worthiness of the #MeToo cause to the point that the general public becomes jaded and believes nothing without pictures and tapes (and might even misinterpret those). It is the Rob Porters of the world and the Donald Trumps who must be forced to resign due to unforgiveable behaviors. We cannot punish some and exonerate others based solely on political loyalties and leanings. We must follow a moral compass equally applied to all but that “all” must be limited to genuine transgressors, not to those who hug too often or joke too frequently.

So we have to ask ourselves, In what direction is the #MeToo campaign headed? Are the guilty and innocent going to be equally swept up without differentiation or a measured approach? Are we going to regret precipitous actions taken on our part? Are we going to be afraid to interact with each other with honest affection and admiration?

As for me, I shall always disdain evil perpetrators of every shape and form. And yet, I shall embrace the hugs of a Bob Hertzberg and the light-hearted flattery of a male friend and the joking banter of a co-worker. Why? Because all those actions are nice and feel good and because I know where my line is, and others know by knowing me just how “comfortable” they can get without crossing it.

I admire the #MeToo Campaign and support it. It should grow in meaningful and productive ways. Yet, like any other movement, we cannot let it get away from its founding purpose. Women and girls must be empowered to stand up for themselves and others, but we must equally keep in mind that all accusations have consequences. For the public to feel empathy and share our rage and demand justice for victims, allegations must be legitimate and serious or we shall lose the ground that has been recently made, causing two steps back instead of two steps forward.

Rosemary Jenkins

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