listen and learn. and then keep listening.
this week i spent a bit more time thinking about the hard turn we seem to be taking on sexual harassment and assault. but i couldn't quite understand a piece of it. so i turned to facebook for some help from any of my woman friends who felt inclined to chime in. and lots of them did! in very helpful ways! you should read through this. and for each and every response, you should stop yourself before forming some knee-jerk response. before immediately forming and sharing your opinion. why? well first, because you should shut up and listen for once, if you're a dude. and second, because in each case, a smart and earnest woman is telling you what it feels like to be a woman! and no matter how you might feel about what's happening: these women are more right than you are. they understand the prevailing dynamic in a way that you simply can't if you're a man.
so instead, ask yourself what it is about the existing (soon-to-be former?) gender and sexual dynamic that led each woman to think the way they do. and then maybe adjust your behavior going forward?
anyway, here's my post:
"i try hard to acknowledge my privilege and my inherent inability to understand the female experience. so i hope this question is interpreted as earnest. and answered earnestly by any one of the many wise women i know. so that i can learn something.
i don't care about matt damon at all. but something just isn't making sense to me here:
what am i missing?
if you read matt damon's interview, it's clear that he's talking about how to punish fairly all types of sexual harassment and assault. and isn't he saying that this shit is all bad? that it's all "under the same umbrella"? that it must all be eradicated?
i understand (though can never perfectly empathize with) a woman's belief that sexual assault doesn't have levels. that is, a woman would feel just as gross and violated and fucking angry if someone slapped her on the ass as she would if someone masturbated in front of her, or worse. and that makes sense when you realize that sexual harassment and assault in all its forms is often (mostly? always?) about power. and as such the ass-slap power move is, in that way, equivalent to the noodle-yank power move. but surely from a legal/ethical standpoint there should be levels, right?
this is to say nothing of the ironic view that men should shut the fuck up and not express their thoughts when it comes to the disgusting, abhorrent behavior of their fellow men. that strikes me, humbly, as way wrong: there are many good men in the world. and they should shout and scream and do everything in their power to fucking help end the behavior that's way more prevalent than some of us [realized] because we were willfully blind. or intellectually cowardly. or for whatever reason, we didn't see what was in front of us. ... [but now,] we should do whatever we can, finally, to crush men like harvey weinstein. and yes. men should shut up *for a stretch*. and listen to women *forever*. and learn. and get the fuck out of the way of the courageous, cool women who are handling this shit. quite. but then those men should take what they learn and do what they can to teach it to the men they know who aren't listening to women. shit, they should shout it just as loudly as their teacher-women shouted it.
at least that's how it feels where i'm sitting. and, as i said, i'm surrounded by lots of smart women. who have all taught me lots about this. but i'm here. on facebook. because i want to make sure there aren't any lessons i'm missing.
can you teach me something more?"
and then a whole bunch of those smart women explained things to me. i'll try mostly to let their voices do the talking.
"Maybe MD said everything right from a "legal/ethical" standpoint but he just sounded like such a dickhead when he said it." - sarah kelley.
tone is fucking important! also: must you fucking rob women of their anger with some bullshit discussion about which men were treated well and which men were treated wrongly for the sexual assault they committed? good point. i think we have other topics to address first.
"I think it just comes down to Damon going on a tangent of mansplaining on this very timely, sensitive subject." - leslie kinsman.
tone again. and framing. here we are again telling versus asking women. dudes have a hard time with that.
"I think what's missing for Matt Damon is the ability to adequately weigh the cumulative effect/universality of incredibly frequent micro aggressions (in addition to the violent, life altering aggressions)." - sara davidson.
really eye-opening. something i wasn't really clued into. i knew what micro-aggressions were. but i didn't think about their accumulation and what effect that would have on their perception of this "spectrum".
"agree with some of the explanations here (mainly Sarah and Leslie) - basically a “read the room” moment, which is not something white men are used to doing because we assume our opinions are always relevant." - michael kiser. not a woman.
insightful. echoes the point about asking women versus telling women. men are always so quick to opine because we assume our opinions are relevant. on the other hand, aren't they? isn't the issue less about our presumption that our opinions are relevant, and more about our presumption that women's opinions aren't? we need a course correction, and as such, men should quiet down a lot. especially because there's only so much air for sound to travel through. but the *right* environment for discussion is one where both genders view the other genders opinions as relevant as their own. and that means dudes need to make room for the opinions that women have been sharing.
"saying the spectrum should be considered is like again taking the power out of the perception of the women and giving it to the action no?" - madelyn ternes.
this ties into a very insightful opinion shared below on male "centering", i.e. finding a way to make every situation mostly relevant to males first, and women, children, animals, whatever second.
"unless he was proposing a major administrative process in Hollywood and forgot to state that was his goal I can see why dipping in to say some assaults aren’t as bad as others seems to be a form of saying some assaults don’t deserve consequences." - olivia st. clair long.
he wasn't. sadly. and yeah. he was, effectively, trying to get people to see his friends' sexual assaults as "less bad". which is a pretty pitiful battle to fight, given the options.
"He didn't raise the various "degrees" of wrong in order to discuss the kind of support we provide to women in order to help them cope with what happens to us as we move trough our day. I don't think anyone could read that and plausibly believe his concern is women. And that is the problem." - natalie kissinger.
very insightful. he's worried about how men are treated. and not how women are treated. even his categories are decided by referencing and comparing one male behavior to another. punishment x is less than punishment y because crime x feels "less" than crime y. but there's no discussion of the effect of crimes x and y on women. even if it wouldn't change the outcome, it's bull shit to approach the problem from this perspective. if i was a woman, i'd be pissed off about it too.
"Maybe that's exactly how Harvey's behavior started with a simple ass slap." - alexandra curatolo.
this idea of harvey weinstein starting off small is very important. i bet every man can picture another man they know slapping some girl in the ass or somewhere close. that was him testing the waters. and you let it go. so... that other man took things further the next time. you can be sure of it.
"By trying to wrap it up nicely, it is also trying to end the emotions and stifle any that may be coming." - meghan jane.
women deserve room to be logical about this. and to lead the discussion on it. and the efforts to fucking fix it. but ... BUT ... they also deserve room to be angry about it. god knows dudes would be angry about a similar injustice. like, say, when their favorite football team loses its star quarterback for the year. ... yeah. that's right. women should be angry about this. and we should let them be angry about it.
there's not a "better time and place for that kind of response than at the christmas dinner table". the best got-damm time and place for a woman's anger about millennia of injustice seems to us to be at the christmas table with her family.
so. listen up.