Planet Waves | February 2018 | Monthly Forecast | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Planet Waves | February 2018 

Eric Francis's Reflections on #MeToo

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"But understandable and temporary vigilante justice can morph into a culturally solidified lynch-mob habit, in which the available mode of justice is thrown out the window, and extralegal power structures are put into place and maintained. The Cosa Nostra [the Mafia], for instance, began as a resistance to political tyranny."

She got in trouble with internet feminists for writing that.

Frail as Victorian Housewives?

Writing earlier this year in the New York Times, Daphne Merkin published an op-ed called, "Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings."

She wrote, "Perhaps even more troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be—and perceive themselves to be—as frail as Victorian housewives."

She continued, "What happened to women's agency? That's what I find myself wondering as I hear story after story of adult women who helplessly acquiesce to sexual demands. I find it especially curious given that a majority of women I know have been in situations in which men have come on to them—at work or otherwise. They have routinely said, 'I'm not interested' or 'Get your hands off me right now.' And they've taken the risk that comes with it.

"The fact that such unwelcome advances persist, and often in the office, is, yes, evidence of sexism and the abusive power of the patriarchy. But I don't believe that scattershot, life-destroying denunciations are the way to upend it. In our current climate, to be accused is to be convicted. Due process is nowhere to be found."

Among many other excellent points, she asks, "And what exactly are men being accused of? What is the difference between harassment and assault and 'inappropriate conduct'? There is a disturbing lack of clarity about the terms being thrown around and a lack of distinction regarding what the spectrum of objectionable behavior really is."

If this is some foreshadowing of the "the future is female," no thanks—I'll stick to patriarchy. At least there, one has a right to face and question one's accuser.

The shrill, sick irony of this scenario is that we've purged ourselves of a bunch of creepy entertainers and alleged newscasters, the Olympic gymnastics team doctor, and a bunch of other people whose behavior was well known, sometimes for decades. But someone who bragged about committing sexual assault received a majority of white women's votes and is still in power. That deserves a reckoning.

I was gratified that the anti-workplace-harassment movement joined forces with the nationwide protests by women on January 20 and 21. I have read that protest leaders then headed to Las Vegas to organize voter registration in swing states ahead of the 2018 congressional elections. That is called linking the issues.

It should be clear to men that it's time to take a step back and evaluate our ideas about who and what women are, and how to approach women in social and professional situations. It should also be clear that we all need to arrive at a mutually acceptable concept of respect, which can only come through a dialog.

Hashtags, protests, and taking out individual accusers is not structural change—and, moreover, not about personal healing. Those things are much deeper.

Anyone who has experienced sexual transgression and is still in pain needs to speak up where it matters, and get help. The first place that must happen is within their intimate relationships. Anyone who cannot share their history with their partner is not in a safe place.

A trend on the internet is not about actual healing and does not rise to the level of claiming power. Power is not a mood or a feeling. It's a state of being focused in the present, where a situation can be sized up, and necessary decisions made. Power is about commitment. It's about working together, toward tangible, productive goals, including working with one's presumed adversaries.

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