October 16, 2018

Feminist #MeToo Needed

Nature evolves. Evolution is, in fact, Nature’s defining characteristic. Change that is lasting and meaningful is slow and wise. 

The same goes, not coincidentally, for cultural mores. Sometimes — like the abolishment of slavery — a bombshell change is needed to crack the ice. With time, progress and evolution take over.

Sexual mores needed to evolve. #MeToo cracked the ice. For the first time, survivors of sexual assault felt they could be heard. It has been a triumph for feminism. Soon, though, #MeToo showed signs of straying from sincerely helping to evolve sexual mores to becoming an opportunity to blast men in power. 

The Kavanaugh allegations brought #MeToo to peak overcorrection mode. I think everyone can agree that, in this case, #MeToo became a politicized tool. Indeed, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) made it into a political AK-47.

Whether Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed or not, women have lost. The real victims of sexual assault have lost. Politicians have exploited one of the most evil acts imaginable for political gain. No one will look back on this proudly.

Photo by iStock

So, can we please start over? I offer up these eight feminist correctives:

Listen to all women. Every woman deserves to be listened to. Only through facts, evidence and due process should a woman be believed. Why? Because some women lie — just like some men lie. The ethos of #MeToo was built on the regressive notion that women are perfect — pristine, infallible. We’re not. Feminism freed women from the false veneer of perfection. We have no need to go back there.

An allegation is just an allegation. It is not the truth until it is proven to be the truth. Early feminists fought primarily for one thing: the same legal standards for women as for men. Bring back the presumption of innocence; the burden of proof must remain on the accuser; end trial by Twitter. Just 50 years ago, Black men were still being lynched over false accusations of rape. Is that really where we want to go with this?

Be objective. Not partisan or subjective. We know that many Democrats are unable to look at Kavanaugh fairly because he is white or preppy or whatever. As well, the hearing triggered a lot of survivors of rape. Understandably so. The problem is, these survivors then lost objectivity: They saw their case in this and couldn’t separate the two. In the 19th century, men believed women weren’t able to be objective — that women could view the world only through their subjective experiences. For the past 100 years, we’ve proven men wrong. Let’s not regress.

• Flirting is not sexual harassment. Do we really want to live in a world without flirting? Some of the best relationships and then marriages stem from workplace flirtations. We’re not in kindergarten. We can make these distinctions. And the men (and women) who can’t should be appropriately penalized.

Include abuse. Both emotional and physical. Also include abuse from other women. The stuff women do to one another can be dreadful — and no, it’s not because a “patriarchy” made them do it.

Go to the police. Rape used to be considered a heinous crime. In early American courts, it was punishable by death. Ironically, as sexual assault became more widely discussed, institutions responded by essentially decriminalizing it. Women, especially on college campuses,  have been urged to avoid the law and allow alternative “adjudication” to handle it. The result has been a nightmare, where consequences have often been imposed without due process.

Take responsibility. Leave a situation that’s going sour. Don’t stay to further your career and then shout #MeToo a year later. The personal is not political: being a feminist means being strong and responsible, not weak and victimized.

Choose decency. Using the law to fight sexual crime is decent. Using only the media to “out” men is not; neither is outing men for political reasons. Fabricating stories is the height of indecency. Our feminist forebearers fought for our right to be treated equally by the law, not to be given special privileges. Sexual mores surely needed to change, but as our forebearers intended — through strength, responsibility and decency. We’ve done a great job cracking the ice. Let’s reclaim our values and begin anew.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is the author of “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World” (Doubleday).