IS IT appropriate for a man to offer an opinion on the fall-out from the Harvey Weinstein affair? This has for a while been troubling this average guy in the stalls, so here goes.
As we now know, the plug on the Hollywood swamp was pulled by actress Rose McGowan, and the draining of the scuzzy waters revealed the unappealing contours of film producer Harvey Weinstein, a man accused of sexual assaults in all shades of seriousness.
McGowan alleges that Weinstein raped her, and her accusation began an outpouring from other women in Hollywood, with more than 80 such victims eventually coming forward to accuse Weinstein.
That astonishing tidal wave of accusers put new buoyancy in the #MeToo movement that aims to encourage women who had been sexually abused to speak up through social media.
The positive side to this campaign is that abuse is talked about; and raising the matter so prominently on social media might change attitudes enough to stop men playing power games by sexually abusing women.
It is possible to worry, though, that a movement can become all-encompassing. And what lies behind this revelation of abuse by one man, and the raising of abuses by other men, is the assumption that all men are abusive.
Maybe too many men are abusive; maybe so many men have abused women in the past that there is no longer any ‘free pass’ for the ordinary, non-abusing male; or maybe the ordinary non-abusing male offends in other ways with inappropriate glances or thoughts and is therefore a culprit without exactly understanding the nature of his offence.
But here’s what troubles me: the sweeping assumption that all male sexuality is toxic – as if male sexuality is by its nature toxic, as if it cannot exist without that toxicity. Is this a healthy way to regard men and their sexuality?
Abuse is about power, and the problem is not only that some successful men use and abuse their power – it is also to do with the sort of men who rise to the top.
The most famous/infamous man in the world right now is a self-proclaimed sexual braggart, a vainglorious and perpetually ranting egotist who has boasted of “grabbing women by the pussy” and is alleged to have had his lawyers buy the silence of a porn star he reportedly had an affair with (Stormy Daniels is the unlikely name of the woman in question).
Dorothy Parker, that most quotable of writers, has a great slant on wealth, quipping: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
That wry barb works almost as well with ‘power’ instead of ‘money’. God or someone (or his tycoon father) gave Donald Trump great wealth and power, and he has spent a lifetime abusing those gifts.
Men such as Trump and Weinstein are abhorrent to many women (although millions of women voted for the misogynistic Trump); but they are abhorrent to plenty of men, too. Part of me wants to shout out that these vile men don’t represent me, but another part of me worries that saying anything will be problematic and wrong, just another man going on about things when he should have kept his mouth shut.
Women often say that their path to the top is blocked by men; and while this is no doubt true, many men would say that their path to success had been blocked by the wrong sort of men, the macho types who bully their way to the top.
Trump and Weinstein and other male barbarians are the worst of men but dumping us all in that swamp along with them isn’t reasonable; is it?
Anyway, those are the thoughts of this average guy in the stalls.