Like every other American male, I have been trying to come to grips with the #MeToo movement and striving to grasp its boundless revelations and implications. My initial instinct has been to follow the advice of the movement's leaders and shut up and listen.
I have been and will continue to do the second part of that, but I'm done with the "shut up" part, mostly because I think the discussion, moving forward, requires the input of the victimizer class, i.e. men. I understand the reluctance to hear from us, but after the past few months, there seems to no longer be any danger that we will drown out the victims.
I began my own reflections by trying to think whether I had ever victimized women in the way Harry Weinstein and Donald Trump, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, and too many others have done. I have been a boss and had female subordinates. I don't think I behaved offensively.
But merely because we men believe our actions were aboveboard doesn't make it so, I'm learning. That's one of the key elements in the current discussions: men's cluelessness.
The breadth of the opprobrious behavior is the second astonishing (to me, anyway) revelation. There have been times in the past few months when I have wondered if every woman has been victimized, and whether this behavior went back to the first caveman and cavewoman. Every woman I know has a #MeToo tale.
I am also knocked on my heels by the depth of rage women are expressing.
I suspect some women, if they've read this far, are thinking: "This clown and his fellow perpetrators shouldn't be surprised by any of this. If they're gobsmacked then it's because they didn't want to know."
All I can do is try to be honest. I didn't know these things. I do now, and I'm still learning.
Although it is long overdue, the way the #MeToo movement is playing out contains troubling elements that need to be discussed, even though those who mention them are accused of siding with the victimizers.
Chief among them is the abandonment of core American principles by people I thought held them dear.
I'm talking about principles like presumption of innocence, the right to a hearing, all that stuff in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. They are being treated as annoyances, impediments to justice for victims. Accusation is guilt, and the accused/guilty should be sentenced to summary career execution.
This is disturbing on too many levels to list here. And yet, I understand the sentiment. Far, far too many times have the victims been disbelieved.
There has to be a way to find justice for the victims without throwing out basic principles.
Also troubling is a lack of nuance in treating the crimes.
Some behavior that has been outed is not subject to discussion. You don't drop your drawers in front of other people, let alone try to dazzle them with your equipment. You don't answer the door in an untied bathrobe while wearing no underwear. You don't lock the door behind your female visitor. You don't pull a Bill Cosby and drug her.
But it's not always that inarguable. Are Weinstein's offenses, or Cosby's, or Trump's, or Roy Moore's on a par with say, Al Franken's or (insert name here; it could be anyone between the time I write this and the day it is published).
Is a hand on the posterior, though inexcusable, as bad as masturbating in front of your victim?
I understand: The one thing all these acts have in common is that they make women feel powerless, attacked, victimized. And none is excusable. But I'm asking: Are there gradations?
If you want to look at the unforeseen consequences of this "they're all the same" attitude, think about this: Al Franken is leaving the United States Senate, while Roy Moore came close to joining it and still has defenders. Is that good for the women (and teenage girls) of America?
Decency and regret are causing some good people to leave public life. Meanwhile, some not-so-decent people, like the Molester-In-Chief, continue to blame their accusers, and thrive. I can't shake the feeling that misogynists and molesters are laughing their asses off at the rest of us, and taking off their bathrobes so we can see their chuckling posteriors.
Well, these are merely observations in a discussion that will now never cease, I hope. I'm heading back to my rounds of holiday get-togethers. When I run into female friends I haven't seen in a while I may or may not give them the hug I've given them every year. If I learn that a female colleague has earned a promotion, I'll shake her hand, I won't embrace her: You can teach an old dog some new tricks. Δ
Bob Cuddy is an award-winning columnist, now retired and living in Arroyo Grande. New Times is trying to figure out who the new contributor to the progressive side of things will be for Rhetoric & Reason. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.