I think I actually ranted about this before. But one of the key difficulties of MeToo related conversations is that they are two conversations at the same time. On the one hand, we’re talking about re-drawing certain lines in sexual ethics and gender relations, we’re discussing where to draw the new lines, and some people say they’re too far and others say they’re not far enough. On the other hand, we’re processing cases that are very clearly on the wrong side of the line, and if they had been out in the open, most people would have acknowledged that. MeToo involves conversations about the delicate nuances of where flirting becomes indistinguishable from harassment, but most high-profile MeToo accusations have very little nuance, they are about acts that are at best unambiguously shitty, and at worst criminal. And this is already, automatically tangled, but the accused in these high profile cases tend to benefit from obfuscating the difference between the two.
When a random dude worries that after MeToo, his awkward flirting might be misconstrued as harassment, I try to be empathetic about that. The only solution to that problem is to be open and direct in our conversations about where the line is being drawn, while acknowledging that it’s an ongoing norm-change, and thus requires repeated readjustment on all sides, like all forms of gradual social change do. But when an immensely powerful person starts wringing their hands that they are persecuted for mere flirting, think for a moment what they’re actually accused of. There is a particularly clever tactic where instead of denying the charge (of rape or harassment or blackmail, of trading sex for employment), the person complains bitterly about a much lighter accusation. A scrupulous and socially incompetent man worrying he’ll be seen as a sexual predator and a powerful sexual predator who worried that he’ll be seen as the sexual predator he is are really profoundly not having the same problem. I mean it’s possible to unintentionally offend someone by misjudging their boundaries, it’s even possible to hurt them quite seriously. But you can’t unintentionally spend decades on building a power base that you can then exploit to coerce dozens of young women (or men) into sexual favors, outright raping some of them, unintentionally break the career of everyone who says no to you, then unintentionally ensure that they are silent by setting your private operatives to stalk them. Like, this is a whole different problem, not the one you have.
Those are the same problem though. “I might be accused of harrassment, and I’ll have no defense and everybody says to ‘believe the victim’ so I can’t even defend myself”
Obviously one of them deserves to have that problem, but it’s still the same problem.
Idk, for me, “I might be punished for something I’ve done” and “I might be punished for something I haven’t done” are distinct issues. (I guess anyone who has siblings has the experience of being yelled at for something your sibling’s done. It’s not the same as being yelled at for something you’ve done yourself.)
Or maybe I should have phrased it like this: when a person who had committed a crime complains that these days everyone gets accused of that crime, there is a grain of truth in that: it is not impossible to be falsely accused of that crime. But while the average person can be accused of bank robbery, they can be framed or profiled, still they need not live in the same fear as the bank-robber who has their face on the security cameras and a bunch of gold bullions in their freezer.
They need to be more afraid. The bank robber has gold so he can afford to buy food after he’s gotten fired for being accused of bank robbery. The person who hasn’t robbed a bank will starve.
I’m in an awkward position here. I live in a country where I don’t fully trust the police or the legal system, and I see accusations that don’t coincide with reality all the time, from accusing artists of ‘being un-Hungarian nation-traitors’ to accusing rural Romani people of everything from theft to irregular bicycle traffic. At the same time, I see people in power getting away with anything and everything, from financial corruption to sexual assault.
And when someone in power does not fully manage to get away with something, they call on my sympathy, they say, you know what it’s like to be weak and powerless in the hands of an unfair system, you know that it could happen to you too. I think that is manipulative, that’s all. I’m not arrogant enough to assume that I can always tell a false accusation from a true one, but I don’t want to throw my hands up and declare that it is always by definition impossible to tell.
Also, culture clash. Things might be different in the West, but I don’t live in a place where you get fired for accusations of sexual assault. I really don’t.