Friday, July 12, 2019

#MeToo Fallout

We all know now that #MeToo has produced some unintended consequences. Among them, men in executive positions are far less likely to mentor young women, to invite young women to go out for lunch or drinks, to hold one-on-one meetings with young women or to go on business trips with young women. #MeToo made young women radioactive, and many businessmen have acted accordingly. 

Obviously, something had to be done about the sexual harassment that was rife in the workplace. Some men had certainly earned their pink slips. But, can we solve the problem with threats, intimidation and contempt?

Once #MeToo became a movement, once activist women took to the airways to denounce toxic males, to threaten them, to tell them that the revolution was coming and that they were going to be its victims, a social problem became part of a movement to overthrow the patriarchy. Thus, the stakes were amped up for all men.

One understands that most of the rhetorical extremes were exaggerated for effect. And yet, many people took them literally. Among those who did were the wives of male executives. No one mentions this point, especially when men are such a tempting target, but the impetus for marginalizing young women in the workplace often came from wives who told their executive husbands never, ever to mentor a young woman.

It’s not about trust. It’s not about who can or cannot contain his or her lust. It’s about risk assessment. These women insisted, often very, very firmly, that they were not going to risk their marriages and their lives on a misunderstanding, or even an indiscretion. I would like to tell you that they were crazy. They were not. Besides, while we do accept, because the evidence sustains it, that sexual harassment is endemic to corporate life, this does not mean that no one has ever been falsely accused. Or that no woman has ever misinterpreted a gesture. Or that no one has ever filed suit over an air kiss. 

I hate to complicate the situation, but the situation is complicated. Reducing it to a simple-minded equation where men are devils and women are angels does no one any good. It aggravates the problem.

Activist women are becoming more aware of the fact that #MeToo is hurting women’s prospects in the workplace. The Washington Post has three-- count ‘em-- columns denouncing a Republic candidate for governor of Mississippi, one Robert Foster, for refusing to be shadowed by a female journalist… because his religion did not permit him to be alone with single females. Foster continued to say that #MeToo was a Communist plot to destroy America, and so on and so forth.

Three columns by three columnists... means that women in the workplace are being hurt by #MeToo. As we will see, the columnists' attitudes are more the problem than the solution.

Foster thus has joined Rev. Billy Graham and Vice President Mike Pence in the world of those men who refuse to expose themselves to temptation. For anyone who is of a secular mindset, these men are relics of a past pre-Enlightenment time. They are worthy of only one thing, something that the three Post columnists are doling out, contempt. Clothed in merciless ridicule, this contempt is hostile and provocative. 

The columnists ooze contempt for the weak and ineffectual Foster. What kind of a man is he, if he cannot control his lust in the presence of a comely young female? Besides, the reporter in question was gay anyway. 

For instance, Alexandra Petri writes this:

No! No! I cannot be alone with a woman! Please! I beg of you!

Nothing will happen, of course. I hope. I pray. But please, let us not test it! My truck, my rules. I took a vow.

You do not know what I will become! You have not seen the horror that I struggle at all times to contain.

If you were in a situation where you had to move a cabbage, a fox, a woman and myself across a river, I would beg you: Take them, take them and go! Leave me alone on the shore, where I can do no harm. Build a tower around me. Let thorny vines grow up all around it, until it is obscured from view. Forget the location of the tower. Burn all maps containing it. Then, only then, can women be truly safe.

Oh, this curse, this curse! I cannot bear it.

Monica Hesse offers her own take:

But rules like these don’t honor your wife. They just presume that your marriage vows are so flimsy that you can’t be trusted to uphold them unless a babysitter monitors you. It’s rather like a thief sanctimoniously announcing that he brings a parole officer every time he goes to the bank to make sure he doesn’t rob it. Good for you, dude, for knowing your own limitations — but it doesn’t make you better than the rest of us, who manage to regularly not steal things even when we’re completely alone.

And Alyssa Rosenberg adds:

Implicit in the concern that spending time alone with a woman could lead to impropriety is the assumption that all men and women are potentially attracted to each other. This is very much not true! It seems unlikely that Robert Foster, or any man, could induce Campbell to change her sexual orientation. And who is to say that there’s not some dreamy gay male reporter out there who could entice a previously heterosexual male politician to contemplate switching teams?

So, the columnists all believe that the best way to deal with the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is to shower men with contempt, to goad them, to ridicule and to mock them. Faced with such hostility, most men know better than to retaliate. But some do not.

Forget about sex for a minute-- I know it’s difficult, but at least try-- and ask yourself whether you, male or female, would want to work with human beings, of either gender, who indulge in such adolescent behavior. That is, who believe that the best way to diminish sexual harassment is to foster a hostile cultural environment where men are treated with contempt. 

Introducing such hostility makes certain people appear to be untrustworthy. It makes them appear to have a cultural agenda, beyond their commitment to the company. If they are demeaning their male colleagues they cannot at the same time be showing themselves willing to work together on projects. Respecting other people precludes treating them with contempt. I hope that this is not the first time you have heard that. The three Post columnists have aggravated the problem; they have not shown us the way to a solution.

Keep in mind, the problem of sexual harassment is not limited to unwanted gestures and even leering looks. Men have been fired for saying the wrong thing. Or for saying something that they would normally say, only to discover that the woman who insisted that she wants to be treated as one of the guys, has taken grievous offense to a remark that was offered in jest. In a world where people are taught to police thought... why take the risk?


Sam L. said...

Some women have shot themselves in the foot, and in other women's feet. Women are now considered suspect, and for good reason, which is self-preservation.

UbuMaccabee said...

I do not have any relations with women at work beyond what is absolutely necessary for the job at hand. All business and no fraternization. Women coworkers are not invited to the events that we men attend after work or at work-related events. I would never mentor a woman under 40. Don’t like it, ladies? Then start your own business. #MeToo is just a victim cult for weak women looking for a payday or some cheap drama. The same women who used to screw their way up the ladder are just playing a new angle. Anyone who attended college after 2000 is not to be trusted.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

#MeToo in the context of the Weinstein trial. Let’s be honest... the women accusing Weinstein would never have said a word if they’d gotten the part.

I know, I know... saying such a thing sounds terrible and cruel, but someone needs to say it.

Sure, Harvey Weinstein is the prototypical creep. But he’s a rich, powerful creep. Which puts him in play.

Is it an abuse of economic power? You’re damn right it might be, and likely is. But these actresses attempted to exert their sexual power in exchange (or over him) to get the result they wanted. This case is a primordial contest. Homo sapiens has sex in private, no matter what the nutjobs at Burning Man say. These Weinstein encounters happened to be private. He said, she said.

I know it’s wicked and awful to say, but these adult women have to have been too stupid, or the man too evil. The results are inconclusive, though perhaps not to an NYC jury. But try this case in Kasper, Missouri, and you might get a different result. Fortunately, the Constitution and most state and municipal law says a jury of one’s peers.

We shall see. There are two sides to every story, no what the media victim narrative may be. Unfortunate things happen in life.

That doesn't excuse Weinstein.

It needn’t excuse her, either.

Unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of one’s peers, it should not deprive a man of his freedom. That’s what we call justice. Unless it’s a self-defense trial in Ohio.