Stacy Pulice

The Art of Rehumanizing

Men and #MeToo

Where are they?

As a member of the #MeToo reSisters who stand against normalizing sexual harassment and the domination of women, I notice a deafening silence among men both publicly and in private. While I expect it of those men who make a practice of using their power to steal sexual access to women who lack such power, what about the other guys?

I sense for some there is an initial confusion and disbelief — like they are being told the earth is flat. Suddenly a certain shady-but-accepted social norm that once increased their manly credibility has been declared unethical. Rich, powerful men are tumbling quickly in the grossest cases. Women now have a reference point to tell their stories, and many are on social media and at awards shows, much to the chagrin of the many who still cling to denial as a defense.

But why aren’t the good guys speaking up? I was so happy when Matt Damon made an attempt, but felt disappointed when he was publicly slapped by Minnie Driver for his remark on the relative harm between a butt grab and rape. Having been raped as well as having had my butt pinched, I can declare there was a huge difference in the impact of those two experiences on my younger self, at opposite ends of the assault spectrum. I know that neither should have happened, but they are not the same.

What I’m sorry about is that Damon made an attempt at dialogue, and was shut down, and rather than being engaged in a bigger conversation, it was left it hanging. Perhaps he sensed a lynch mob and he didn’t want to further risk his own skin. There are women whose only recourse to misbehavior at any level is to shun and punish the men who have transgressed. But since it includes so many men, can they all be put in the penalty box? We need a Truth and Reconciliation process to move through this moment toward healing and deeper change. Allow a public space for men to speak of their wrongdoing, and demonstrate their regret. Without comment.

I imagine some men may move from disbelief and confusion to shame and horror at their own culpability in hurting women they may have consciously meant no harm. But as though they were blindfolded their entire lives, they suddenly must look at the truth of the situation, and if they are empathetic, caring people, they will necessarily feel terrible about it. That’s okay, because a lot of women have felt terrible or worse, from lost opportunities or reputation, due to their unconsciousness.

Sexual politics are complicated, and as long as any of us can remember, men overtaking women in a thrillingly romantic domination has been seen as hot. It’s time for a major change.