Important- How to respond when good men and women tell you the #metoo movement is doing bad5 min read

Have you been dreading this conversation with someone close to you? A man you believe is not a chauvinist but deep down feared he will be skeptical when this topic comes up? I have.

How to face the skepticism.

The #metoo movement and the surge of accusations of sexual harassment, rape, abuse… have triggered all sorts of reactions and sparked discourse about the utility of these movements. They have revealed divides not only between men and women, but within groups who believe in the prevailing problem but dispute the ways to handle it. Even among women.

Opinion columns and global figures across the world and from many walks of life are speaking out about their opinion on the matter.

Have you ever dreaded that conversation with someone you respect but secretly suspect that he/she will be on the wrong side of the debate? It happened to me on several occasions. I find myself overcome by my disappointment of what I feared and finally happened. I had these frustrating situations not only with men, but with some women too.

As the story of Kavanaugh surfaced recently, and the topic of the metoo campaign came to the foreground again, I was reminded of this strange situation where I feel stripped of all my arguing powers because I feel at a disadvantage somehow.

I have, however, learnt to brush away the hurt when it comes from someone you thought understood; someone who was different from the others and above being a real sexist.

I have learnt to face it.

I asked myself, are there problems with the outcome of the movement? For sure.

Are some men falsely accused? Absolutely.

Have some accusations stretched it a bit? Yes.

But what does this mean to the big problem?

If someone (especially if a man) comes at me with all these arguments, I start by asking,

“Do you believe women are more sexually harassed than men (even if we don’t agree to the scale or numbers)?”

“Are more women or more men raped by the other sex?”

“Are men more often than women in positions of power?”

If the answers are the obvious ones regardless of the agreement on the scale and scope of the gender gap, then I continue and discuss what alternatives are there to tackle this problem.

In one conversation, a man started by explaining the repercussions of this outburst of accusations, and gave me the example of sexual harassment courses in the U.S., where men are explicitly advised to step out of an elevator if a woman walks in and they would be alone. They are actively encouraged to avoid the situation due to the risk of her accusing him later of harassment – against which, his word would be questionable. The danger, men are told that they face, of their reputation, their careers and homes being destroyed because of one woman’s unsubstantiated accusations, is insane.

I responded that this is perhaps an American problem… that the problematic lies in what we perceive as an American approach to problems, by circumventing them.

But he was quick to point out that it has already reaped consequences and rippled outward from the U.S. to Europe and other parts of the world; That eventually, which has already started to happen, men will not choose a woman for jobs, simply to avoid running into all the trouble. Because of course, it is mostly men, who are in those positions to hire.

I said, while that is true, isn’t it also true that this is part of the problem? That men feel at liberty to do that?  Unless we make it the case that the price of not hiring a woman is higher than the risk of hiring her. Or – if you turn it around – unless the benefits of hiring a woman far outweigh the risks.

Which should  be part of the overall strategy of the women movement – the overarching goal.

Speaking up, revealing old and new cases of rape and/or abuse is only part of the fight. It is not the end goal.

The ultimate goal, whose journey is long, is to have society change fundamentally. To change gender power balance altogether, where men don’t have the upper hand categorically as they do now.  That they do not overwhelmingly occupy the positions of power in businesses, enterprises, political office, military ranks……

I wondered long and hard why some of these men I had discussions with were suddenly so engaged in that topic- especially since I know most of them are not the  sex offender types.

Because it makes them uncomfortable.

And they are so unused to it. Watching what they do, and say….around women all the time for fear of being misunderstood, being at the mercy of the twisted minds  of some strange women, making sure their words and actions cannot be misconstrued one way or the other(what we have been doing practically all our lives), is not their normal.

Now they have to watch out, avoid situations they never needed to pay attention to, and tread carefully around tricky situations or in general.  And that is sooo unusual for them. They never had to worry so much before.

They are losing their privileged existence.

So when someone tells you the problem with the #metoo campaign is that it is harming more than helping, agree first that there are some unwanted consequences for both men and women. Collaterals.

Then address them. The repercussion on women is that they will be less desired in jobs by men who will avoid hiring women. Well that is a problem until we succeed in shifting power and making the consequences of losing qualified and competent women in leadership positions and in all ranks a serious matter. Making it too high a price. As for innocent men who will suffer the negative prejudices, well, as with all the good catholic priests who do not molest little children, there is nothing we can do except encourage them to continue being good. And just like we will certainly not ask the little children to suck it in and stop complaining, we will not ask women to be silent so as not to shake the reputations of the majority of decent men.

And finally ask, what is the alternative?

What would you do?

If you know all you know now, would you simply tell a woman, to swallow it and move on- because it harms the many good men who did not rape her?

Or do not make a big deal out of it because, in the future, women will lose opportunities to get good positions because men will not hire them?

What should women do?

What would you do?


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