Monday, January 8, 2018

The #MeToo Moment Has Now Morphed Into a Moral Panic That Poses as Much Danger to Women as it Does to Men

I might or might not blog about the epic Hollywood hypocrisy of the Golden Globes last night.

In the meantime, here's Claire Berlinski, at the American Interest, "The Warlock Hunt":

Recently I saw a friend—a man—pilloried on Facebook for asking if #metoo is going too far. “No,” said his female interlocutors. “Women have endured far too many years of harassment, humiliation, and injustice. We’ll tell you when it’s gone too far.” But I’m part of that “we,” and I say it is going too far. Mass hysteria has set in. It has become a classic moral panic, one that is ultimately as dangerous to women as to men.

If you are reading this, it means I have found an outlet that has not just fired an editor for sexual harassment. This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?

But speak I must. It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

In recent weeks, one after another prominent voice, many of them political voices, have been silenced by sexual harassment charges. Not one of these cases has yet been adjudicated in a court of law. Leon Wieseltier, David Corn, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, Al Franken, Ken Baker, Rick Najera, Andy Signore, Jeff Hoover, Matt Lauer, even Garrison Keillor—all have received the professional death sentence. Some of the charges sound deadly serious. But others—as reported anyway—make no sense. I can’t say whether the charges against these men are true; I wasn’t under the bed. But even if true, some have been accused of offenses that aren’t offensive, or offenses that are only mildly so—and do not warrant total professional and personal destruction.

The things men and women naturally do—flirt, play, lewdly joke, desire, seduce, tease—now become harassment only by virtue of the words that follow the description of the act, one of the generic form: “I froze. I was terrified.” It doesn’t matter how the man felt about it. The onus to understand the interaction and its emotional subtleties falls entirely on him. But why? Perhaps she should have understood his behavior to be harmless—clumsy, sweet but misdirected, maladroit, or tacky—but lacking in malice sufficient to cost him such arduous punishment?

In recent weeks, I’ve acquired new powers. I have cast my mind over the ways I could use them. I could now, on a whim, destroy the career of an Oxford don who at a drunken Christmas party danced with me, grabbed a handful of my bum, and slurred, “I’ve been dying to do this to Berlinski all term!” That is precisely what happened. I am telling the truth. I will be believed—as I should be.

But here is the thing. I did not freeze, nor was I terrified. I was amused and flattered and thought little of it. I knew full well he’d been dying to do that. Our tutorials—which took place one-on-one, with no chaperones—were livelier intellectually for that sublimated undercurrent. He was an Oxford don and so had power over me, sensu stricto. I was a 20-year-old undergraduate. But I also had power over him — power sufficient to cause a venerable don to make a perfect fool of himself at a Christmas party. Unsurprisingly, I loved having that power. But now I have too much power. I have the power to destroy someone whose tutorials were invaluable to me and shaped my entire intellectual life much for the better. This is a power I do not want and should not have.

Over the course of my academic and professional career, many men who in some way held a position of power over me have made lewd jokes in my presence, or reminisced drunkenly of past lovers, or confessed sexual fantasies. They have hugged me, flirted with me, on occasion propositioned me. For the most part, this male attention has amused me and given me reason to look forward to otherwise dreary days at work. I dread the day I lose my power over men, which I have used to coax them to confide to me on the record secrets they would never have vouchsafed to a male journalist. I did not feel “demeaned” by the realization that some men esteemed my cleavage more than my talent; I felt damned lucky to have enough talent to exploit my cleavage.

But what if I now feel differently? What if—perhaps moved by the testimony of the many women who have come forward in recent weeks—I were to realize that the ambient sexual culture I meekly accepted as “amusing” was in fact repulsive and loathsome? What if I now realize it did me great emotional damage, harm so profound that only now do I recognize it?

Apparently, some women feel precisely this way. Natalie Portman, for example, has re-examined her life in light of the recent news...
She's a great writer.

Hard to pin down ideologically, though, interestingly. She's been a pretty vocal critic of President Trump but on many issues you'd think she was a neocon culture warrior.

Smart lady. And a knockout with that blonde hairdo!

Keep reading.