NYT : Private misgivings on MeToo

Private misgivings about “MeToo”

You’ve got to read this. Of course, it’s largely only written because some of her cherished figures on the left have been smeared with the accusations. I don’t much care about that, to be honest. You let rapists and killers (Clinton, Kennedy) be the voice of the left while claiming moral high ground, so you don’t get to be outraged or change the rules when forced to live by the inquisition state rules you created for others. I agree that it’s an ugly climate where accusations, regardless of credibility (because you cannot even question credibility of accusers) can kill a career or political aspirations. But since they didn’t kill Bill Clinton’s or Ted Kennedy’s careers, or even bend them a bit, I’m not shedding any tears over Al Franken (besides the fact that I think he actually is a sleaze who gets off on groping women’s backsides when they innocently ask to pose for pictures).
From the article:
“In private it’s a different story. “Grow up, this is real life,” I hear these same feminist friends say. “What ever happened to flirting?” and “What about the women who are the predators?” Some women, including random people I talk to in supermarket lines, have gone so far as to call it an outright witch hunt.”
And this is rich:
“There is an inquisitorial whiff in the air, and my particular fear is that in true American fashion, all subtlety and reflection is being lost.”

Yeah. It’s been that way for a long, long, long time but only used as a weapon by the left against conservatives- Herman Caine, anybody? So I’m a believer in consequences and think it’s only right the left loses a few of their own to the altars on which they have been sacrificing conservatives for decades before we let them change the rules that have thus far been very onesided in their enforcement, and they can bruise their hands against the altars of their own making and sacrifice a few of their own before their tear those altars down. It’s a learning experience, one hopes.

But I had unsettled, dismayed feelings about MeToo before this.

As long time readers know, I could do the “MeToo” thing in spades if I were so inclined, but I didn’t. I have had misgivings from the start and those baby misgivings became rebellious teenagers full of disdain and eye rolls early on.

I figured this was going to quickly become an all men are evil thing rather than accepting of men and boys who have also been damaged by people in power taking sexual advantage of them. And I watched this happen in real time. I also experienced being marginalized and silenced firsthand by a woman who posted about her own ‘metoo’ which actually wasn’t a metoo thing at all, it was something like “Me Too, well, not sexual harassment, but I had a gender equity issue that was actually resolved in my favour, but MeToo because men are jerks.” I tried to politely point out that really wasn’t much like being assaulted by your boss or a family member or ordered to trade your body for a job you wanted or needed, and that men and boys were also victims, and I told stories of 3 I knew of, tragic, horrible stories, heartbreaking stories. I was basically told to shut up, this was about women. I wasn’t surprised, but I did want to vomit, preferably on her living room floor.

What can I say, I have issues stemming from years of experiences far worse than having a gender equity issue at work which was quickly resolved in my favour, and having somebody who only suffered some minor and temporary frustration at work equate the two is offensive. Highly offensive.

I had misgivings because I figured it would all too quickly become a bandwagon thing where women who didn’t actually *have* a me too story at any level would have to chime in because that’s what they do. And I saw that probably by the second or third day- “MeToo, not because I have ever been sexually harassed or victimized in any way, I never have experienced anything like it, but I feel obligated to speak out for those who can’t or couldn’t.”

That one. Oh, my. As somebody who was silenced for decades, who didn’t speak out at all, then did to a scant handful of very select people (over 20 years, fewer than 5) and wasn’t believed, or was dismissed, or told to move on already and forgive and so I shut up and tried to do things that I now think were insane things to attempt- I am not grateful. You did not have my permission to speak for me and you never will.

You see,  when the abuser died I felt like a cork had popped out of a bottle and messy things exploded everywhere and there was no putting a cap back on that… I know being silenced. I know not being able to speak out. And you know what? I did not feel a smidgen of gratitude or appreciation for that “MeToo, not really but I am speaking for hypothetical people who can’t” stance. I felt rage. It’s not hyperbole. I felt my blood rush to my head in a boiling explosion, my vision blurred, and I had to block that person forever and close the laptop and walk away and pound my head against a wall for a few minutes to calm down.

I understand that said person probably meant well. OK, to be honest, I expect people who post things like that tell themselves they mean well, and they might believe it. But from where I sit they really mean to insert themselves into other people’s stories and make themselves feel good about it. It is moral preening, not virtuous standing up for underdogs. It is arrogant. WHO asked you to speak for me? Who appointed you? Who anointed you? How dare you trivialize a movement intended to give silenced women a voice by drowning them out with your own self promotion. You just told YOUR story, not somebody else’s. And you used their pain to pat yourself on the back and make yourself the hero for painlessly and effortlessly throwing of a single social media post of two or three sentences and feeling smug about it. MeToo? NO.  Not you at all, you smug, self aggrandizing, emotionally vapid peacock.

Is there probably some displacement going on in my outrage, some level of my anger at what happened to me and at the people who did it or who didn’t take me seriously when I told them what happened, and now some of that anger is being released and exploding in a bystander’s direction? Sure. Some. Yes. Peacock is probably not fair. But… people who post like that are not really just bystanders anymore, are they? They inserted themselves into the story on purpose by claiming “MeToo” and claimed it was on my behalf and on behalf of people like me. NO, thanks, you’re not a hero. You’re not noble. I get to choose my own advocates, and primadonnas who fool themselves into believing they are being good people by stealing my right to choose my own advocates will never be among those selected.

How dare you trivialize real victims by claiming their mantle and in the same breath saying ‘not me, but let’s make it all about me after all.’

If you want to call attention to people who are not able to speak for themselves you can do that without calling attention to yourself. Just say “I’m guessing that there are many who could be posting “MeToo” but aren’t able to. I want to remember them, too.”

Another way to frame it: “I am sure I am not alone in the shock/outrage/heartbreak/dismay reaction to reading all these MeToo stories. I am so sorry that people have been through these awful experiences If any of my friends are in this group and want to share with me privately, I want to be there for you. If somebody has some good articles on how to respond and help, please share. For every story we read, there are probably three or four more we are not reading because those victims are not yet ready to tell their stories. :(”

These examples are not perfect, either. Everything around this topic is messy and fraught with pitfalls. But there is nothing noble about falsely inserting yourself into somebody else’s story. Notice how the kind of framing in the above examples expresses sympathy and concern and yet does not falsely claim “MeToo” or trivialize others by saying “MeToo but not really,” and most importantly, does arrogantly claim the role of ‘speaking out for people’ who never asked you to call yourself one of us or to be our representative.

“MeToo but not really me, I just want to be part of this” is really bait and switch, an emotionally manipulative tactic that many abusers also use.

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2 Comments

  1. Rachel
    Posted January 9, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m not comfortable with “Me Too” either. I don’t remotely appreciate lumping workplace harassment with sexual assault and battery. There is a huge distance between someone behaving inappropriately and rape, and an even bigger distance between an unwelcome advance between adults and pedophilia.

    I’ve also seen far too many cases that are excluded from this newly formulated group outrage. I was harassed in the workplace in my early 20’s, between 10 and 15 years ago. My boss liked to behave and talk in very inappropriate ways, and she allowed customers to take liberties. When I complained to other (older, more experienced) women about the problems I had, I was told that this is just how the workplace is, and I should be grateful that the people doing it were women, not men. When I asked an attorney for advice, because the problem had gotten physical, I was told I had no case, because the person doing it was female. This was on the Left coast, and all the women who told me to fly a kite had been actively involved in women’s lib back in the 70’s.

    I learned from observation and explicit teaching in public school sex ed classes that women have the “right” to say “yes” (that’s what liberation is about, right?), but not the right to say “no”. I strongly suspect that a lot of the women from Hollywood who have published accusations were taught the same thing. But you’re not allowed to suggest that women would be more empowered if they felt truly comfortable refusing unwelcome advances.

    But all of this is a completely different story from my friend who was horrifically abused as a child by the neighbor kid and whose father knew but declined to act. When one of his buddies started groping the girl when she was a teen, her dad didn’t think it was at all problematic. The father also trafficked his daughter for labor, confiscating her wages for himself, and planned to “sell” her into a marriage against her will (sex trafficking). There was documentation of all of it. When the authorities were alerted over it, they also declined to act, because neither the father nor the buddy was worth their time. They wouldn’t even bother to interview the girl. But I don’t hear any of these lipstick liberals talking about trafficking, let alone taking an interest in people who have been abused like that.

    About a year ago, my husband disclosed to me that he had been sexually abused by a male relative as a child. It turns out that the coping mechanisms he developed in response to that abuse have dictated the shape of our lives together, right down to sleeping cycles. This last year, he finally sought counseling. He was diagnosed with PTSD. On the diagnostic scale, his PTSD was worse than that experienced by the average combat vet who receives that diagnosis. But his experience doesn’t count for “Me Too,” because he’s male. In helping him deal with that, I learned that both my father and my father-in-law had similar, albeit less severe experiences as children.

    I also have male relatives who have been falsely accused. I’ve known women who have made false accusations. Again, we can’t talk about that. So, basically, all the people I know who have endured horrific crimes and my own experience of workplace harassment don’t count. We all have to put up and shut up so that the designated martyrs will all fit the designated narrative.

    • Headmistress
      Posted January 9, 2018 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      All I can say is Amen. And I’m sorry.

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