There is a new story in the Huffington Post that talks about Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood producer, and his alleged history of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment. The headline says “men’s silence is deafening” about the issue. On Twitter there is a flame war about who’s worse, Trump or Weinstein. There is so much to talk about here, so I will expand the topic beyond those two men and deal with related issues, as well.
As a therapist, I see this kind of deflection all the time. “He did it first!” “Yeah? He did it worse!” In politics, as in my office, this kind of shit must stop. [That’s not a polite to say it, I know, but this isn’t a polite subject. Sometimes you have to use the appropriate clinical terms. ] I don’t give a rat’s behind about what some other person did. The person who did whatever it is needs to a) stop doing it; b) apologize for doing it; c) do what they can to fix it and d) realize that the victim and relationship may never be the same; e) cope with that.
The amount of wreckage that comes from sexual assault or sexual harassment is absolutely incredible. The number of people I see in my office that are coping with sexual trauma and the length of time that I have to work with them about it is huge. The effect that this has on relationships of all kinds is staggering. People who have been abused often hate themselves so much for “letting” it happen and spend their entire lives trying to kill themselves, either quickly or slowly. Ways they try to cope: drugs or other addictions, cutting themselves, suicide attempts, banging their heads against walls, developing multiple personalities to wall off their feelings, and the list goes on. If you think about how much of our mental health and justice system is involved with these coping mechanisms, you see just how tragic it is.
In addition to that, there are quite a few people that act out their anger violently, or try to control everything and everyone around them, trying to quell their feelings of powerlessness and being out of control. That takes less of my time as a therapist, but takes up way more of the justice system. All of that comes from sexual abuse. So many of our resources, so many lives destroyed, so many relationships crushed beneath the weight of this thing, that we must address it as a society, not as titillation, but as the disgusting thing it is.
Sexual harassment is harder for guys to understand, because we don’t experience it much (even if, like myself, we know we’re gorgeous. Guffaw. Just kidding). The knowledge that abuse can happen, and does, makes harassment all the more toxic for those who have been abused. But, as I understand it, wolf-whistling, making comments about breasts, butts, legs, is harassing a woman. Putting pictures up in the office of naked women when women work there is considered harassment. Being a boss to someone or in charge of their fate in some way and making sexual advances is harassment. They distract from the day’s work. They’re an irritant, and they simply suck the energy out of the woman being harassed. Don’t do these things.
All of this harassment comes from two ideas 1) the idea that men are more important than women; and 2) men know women better than women themselves do. With those two ideas, men and women can get into all kinds of stupid, horrible stuff. What those two ideas, women can be made to do all kinds of things that they shouldn’t have to — giving up education, giving up birth control, or other reproductive rights, not driving cars, being genitally mutilated, sexual slavery, being raped as the spoils of war, giving up a career to tend to the family because that’s the way it’s supposed to be (versus consciously making that choice), having boob jobs done, or injecting botulism toxin into their foreheads, being forced to wear a certain type of clothes so they don’t get raped, and so on.
Those two ideas make society hell for women around the world and are all feminist issues.
Therefore, we have to have these beliefs if we’re going to change things, decrease trauma and its resultant crime: 1) Women and men have equal value; and 2) Men need to listen to women to find out what they actually think and feel, and take those thoughts and feelings seriously. That is the feminism I believe in. If we think that way, the world will change.
****** Ok, the guy stuff no one else is probably telling you*****
1) Having male genitalia doesn’t mean you hate women. Some guys do, in fact, hate women. We call them “assholes”. Men do not respect a man who beats his wife. We never really have. We think that means that they’re out of control. Men aren’t supposed to be out of control. If you hit a woman, you can’t think of anything else to do. So now, in addition to being out of control, you’re stupid as well. Men aren’t supposed to be stupid.
Actual men think that any kind of mutilation is gross.
Actual men take responsibility for their sexuality. If a man gets a woman pregnant, he is responsible to take care of that child in one way or another. I don’t know of a man alive who doesn’t think getting someone pregnant and abandoning them and the child isn’t being a loser. If a man had sex with a woman, he has promised that he will take care of the woman (whom he loves) and the child that results from sex. A man’s word is his bond.
Yes, men like sex. Yes, that’s a given. But having a woman choose to give herself to you/be intimate with you/have sex with you may well be the best feeling ever. Less than that is much less fun.
2) Women have expectations of men that are too low.
Men are not walking penises. Sometimes, men think with their “little head” rather than their “big head”. They still have a brain. Their brain has to walk their body over to you. Not using your brain makes you an idiot. Sometimes, men are idiots, but it’s not a permanent condition. They’re still responsible for being an idiot.
“Boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls” aren’t particularly helpful ideas. Boys shouldn’t be having sex. Girls shouldn’t be having sex. Only adult men and women should. If a guy isn’t man enough to take responsibility for his actions, he’s just a boy. If he is man enough, he doesn’t like little girls.
Men can do dishes, take out the trash, wash clothes, change the baby, and so on. We’re not crippled. It’s ok to expect that, unless of course we are crippled. Guys hate not being able to impact their environment. We don’t probably have as much experience or training or belief that we should do those things, but it doesn’t mean we can’t. Cut us some slack, but don’t let us off the hook.
3) Men and boys get raped. Yes, and they get raped by men and women. Women rape women. Men rape men. Adults rape children. That’s the thing that throws off the idea that all men have all the power in society, that it’s some conspiracy, that all men want to rape all women. That’s the part of identity politics that no one talks about. It certainly happens less often to men, and harassment far less.
All of the things that I have described about women’s response to sexual trauma, are also true about men’s response to sexual trauma. Anybody can be an asshole. Anyone who chooses to be — or thinks they can’t stop themselves from being one — has stopped being human. They don’t earn respect, and they don’t deserve it. That blows the whole idea that one sex is better than the other. If you can’t control yourself, you’re not better than anyone. If men can’t control themselves, they are not better people than women. They’re just not.
4) Most men don’t think of themselves as “MEN!”. They think of themselves as guys. Guys don’t want to have power over anybody. They want to have power over themselves. Yes, they have genitals, and yes, they have sex drive, but so what. If you’re playing hockey or football, or baseball, or bowling, that’s what you’re thinking about most of the time. Even in competition, the most competitive guy isn’t necessarily the most liked – respected, perhaps, but not liked. Ty Cobb was extremely competitive. He was also an asshole that no one liked.
Guys who want to prove their manhood are just plain weird. Who has to prove what they already are? Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast” is a boor. He’s not Everyman. And every guy there knows it.
I hope this clarifies things. Among other things, it proves that Weinstein and Trump are not men, they’re not guys. They are assholes.
Resisting with Peace,