I have been resisting #MeToo. I have.
For starters, I am generally pretty unenthusiastic about hashtag campaigns. Most of the time, they are just slacktivism – ie., the false belief that posting something on social media is enough. It isn’t. Ever.
And, most of the male responses I have seen have been completely idiotic. Stuff like: I have daughters, and now I understand, etc. Or: Sure, but don’t blame me, etc. Or: here’s my own hashtag!
But mostly, I have resisted writing or saying anything about #MeToo because I felt men should just shut the fuck up and listen, for once.
My wife, however, reminded me that I have four million visitors to this web site every year, and that I write columns and books, and that I shouldn’t be silent simply because I despise my gender (more on that in a minute), or because I don’t know what to say that has a fraction of the significance of #MeToo.
After some reflection, I decided she is right. As usual.
I have carefully studied many of the #MeToo posts that have been going up – written by my wife, by other women I know and knew. In many cases, I simply did not know that they had been harassed, or assaulted, or raped by men. I did not know.
I spoke to my Mom about it, as I do every single day. She is in her eighties, and she was raised by a single feminist powerhouse, along with six brothers and sisters. She told me things that happened to her when she was young and working at Eaton’s in Montreal. I did not know those things, either.
To those women, I say: I will not insult you by offering an apology, or by saying I have two amazing daughters and have seen the light, or whatever. I say: the main reason I resisted responding to #MeToo was because I did not know what I could say, or should say, that would be in any way useful to you. What could I say to the women who have written searing, disturbing #MeToo stories? An apology? A post about how it makes me, a man, feel? That’s pathetic (and, yet, here I am).
Just as important: what should I say to the men who are supposed to be learning and changing after #MeToo? What I can I say to them that will change anything? Can they change? Nurture, nature, blah blah blah.
And: what can I say, I remarked to my wife more than once, that does not sound like a man’s typical bullshit response to what women tell us about our behaviour – ie., self-interested, self-justifying, self-centred, self-indulgent, utterly selfish? What can I say that does not sound like an excuse?
My wife is a known and active feminist. She gets death and rape threats for that on a regular basis. (I think she – and not yet another did-nothing, do-nothing NDP guy – should run in Ward 32, but that’s a story for another day.) She knows part of my reluctance to say anything, too, relates to this: as noted above, I think my gender is responsible for most of the misery in the world.
It is, boys. Most criminals are we men. The FBI keeps statistics. They say that:
- Males constituted 98.9% of those arrested for forcible rape
- Males constituted 87.9% of those arrested for robbery
- Males constituted 85.0% of those arrested for burglary
- Males constituted 83.0% of those arrested for arson.
- Males constituted 81.7% of those arrested for vandalism.
- Males constituted 81.5% of those arrested for motor-vehicle theft.
- Males constituted 79.7% of those arrested for offenses against family and children.
- Males constituted 77.8% of those arrested for aggravated assault
Why have I come to so dislike my gender? Those statistics, above, are partly why. Those, and the fact that men are the ones who commit 91 per cent of the murders. And the fact that men are ten times more likely to be inmates. And this fact: men start wars, much more than women do. (I don’t have statistics on that one, but anyone who would dispute the historical evidence is an idiot.)
I have written before about why I think it is inadvisable for any man to declare himself a feminist, like Justin Trudeau does so often, hashtaggy. Become a better man, first. Become a better father or son or brother. Only then should your application to be promoted to “feminist” be considered.
And, even after the hashtag hordes have moved on to other causes, #MeToo still tugs at me. It won’t let me go. It haunts. Lisa, too: she sent me this list of things I can do, and it’s a pretty good list. You should read it, too. Better yet: act on it.
I wanted to conclude this with the typical columnist’s flourish: a pithy, punchy, perceptive O. Henry-style ending. (I love the challenge of those.) Something that captures the near-bottomless depth of my shame and self-loathing, and my simultaneous pledge to learn and do better. Something that ties it all together.
But I don’t have anything. Men are going to move on from Weinstein, just like they moved on from Ghomeshi, just like they moved on from whatever came before him. Something else will come up. And I will dislike my gender ever more.
Here, however, is a promise: I will try and guide my sons to be better men. I will confront manifestations of gender-based hate, on whatever platform I possess. And I will endeavour to do better, and be better, until my last day.
That’s not #MeToo, but it’s #MeDo.
(For men who are interested, it’s #WeDo, too.)