This is for the sisters out here pushing the #MeToo moment and to be clear that’s my Tarana Burk sisters and my Alyssa Milano sisters alike. I am a man and I am on your side. I’m down with y’all like four flat tires when it comes to advocating for all causes related to gender equity. I support and contribute to candidates and organizations that champion these issues in every election. I’m not the enemy. But you need to dig the fact that the way that #MeToo is evolving is sending me the message that you see me that way. It seems like y’all are turning on me just for being me. And by “being me” I mean being a man who has always noticed and appreciated women wherever I might see them and never feeling like being a gentlemen meant pretending that I don’t have a d*ck.
I am letting you know now that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a man having a naturally aggressive predisposition. Or a competitive edge to his character. Or with being persistent in the pursuit of what he wants. Or with being territorial. And last but certainly not least, there ain’t a damn thing wrong with a man being excited or heightened by the presence of women that he finds appealing. Most of us are wired that way by The Creator himself and far more often than not those natural reflexes help to support a healthy social ecology that works quite well for a great many of us. Men have to learn how to manage and channel all of that as we evolve and mature. Just like women have to learn not to run up behind certain types of men as they evolve and mature. We can all struggle with these things at any age and deserve a fair chance to correct ourselves.
None of those characteristics should be identified as elements of “toxic masculinity” and trained or counseled out of men so they don’t catch a #MeToo case. You don’t come at a real man like that anyway if you really want a constructive outcome. Define your terms properly so that you can really diagnose what is wrong and cure it. “Toxic masculinity” is a bullshit term because there is room for all types of personalities in this world and what is toxic to one woman, may set another woman ablaze with desire. (I call that one the Groupie Rule- feel free to use that one where it fits.) What we all agree we don’t want is “predatory masculinity.” That is a clear and accurate description of what we need to get rid of and finally we are dealing with it. That needs to be the sole focus if this #MeToo moment will develop into a full-blown movement.
I have written in this space recently that as men (who are into women) “We are all Al Franken.” Because a lot of people didn’t get the message I was sending I’ll give it to you again and again until I give it to you right.
How’s this: a man may say or do something toward a woman that is offensive and he truly meant no harm. His error needs to be dealt with, but not the same way that you deal with the guy who tries to coerce a woman to give him a blow job to keep her career afloat. I’ll bet you my check that every man that I have ever known is guilty of the former and almost none are guilty of the latter. In a civilized society you don’t punish thoughtlessness the same way that you punish treachery. When you start doing that, you make enemies out of friends.
And the other way to make adversaries out of allies is by telling them who they need to be- and how they need to be who they are. I chose my man Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson as the visual representative for this piece to illustrate how many men view themselves. His popularity at the box office is proof that traditional concepts of masculinity still hold a lot of sway socially. But it seems like we are headed for an environment where men should not see ourselves as our own version of The Rock, but instead see ourselves like this guy:
This young man has been dubbed “pajama boy” in internet memes for years. Whether it is fair or unfair, he has come to symbolize the neutering of American men in the new millennium of the gender equity ideal. People who are generally hostile to anything that could make women’s lives easier or better or more equal point to this guy as a warning of what men are going to become if we bend to the evil will of “feme-nazis.”
I have reflexively rejected that warning as a part of the bullshit conservative white-male-victimization narrative that has made stars out of useless assholes like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. But I have to tell you that the public purging of so many high-profile men in the #MeToo moment has given me pause. Some of the allegations that are costing men their livelihoods sound like nothing more than a man behaving like a man. While that may not always be cool, it certainly shouldn’t be actionable beyond social consequences. We have a comprehensive set of laws that govern the interactions between people but the bottom line is it is not illegal to act like an asshole. If it were, pussy-grabbing Donald Trump would be on death row. Instead he won the votes of more white women than Hilary did.
I’m going to keep banging this drum until my banging turns into a rhythm that everybody can dance to. #MeToo is both constructive and instructive in this moment in American cultural evolution but it can very easily be misused and for that reason it is going to backfire. It is not going to backfire because its intentions are bad- like when you bought the pistol you keep under your bed in case an intruder enters your home in the middle of the night. It is going to backfire because your 6 year old niece found it there and shot herself playing with it. It is all about the unintended and potentially tragic result of mishandling that power.
Clearly there was no intent there but that object hidden under your bed was very alluring to your niece. At a glance she could see that it was different than the other toys she plays with- it was heavier, shinier and it just LOOKED like it had so much power.
But that gun was not a toy because that gun was designed to alter or end lives when put to use. And so it is with the powerful and consequential accusations and allegations that follow against men as #MeToo teeters on the brink of becoming a movement rather than merely a moment. We need a shot of sobriety in these heady days of overthrowing the male-dominant culture for one reflecting authentic gender equity.
Spend a little time objectively reading the details of the allegations against some of the well known men felled by a report of “sexual misconduct” (whatever the f*ck that means) and you will likely find yourself wondering if there was an actual injury to the victim in some cases. (Specifically look at Mark Halperin and Tavis Smiley.) I’m talking about injury, not merely offense. If a woman stating that she “fears for her job” is the standard that is applied for an employer to justifiably end or derail a man’s career, then we need to be at peace with that standard when it comes to fatal shootings that often erupt into protests. A white man shoots and kills an unarmed black man because he “feared for his life” and we are ready to take to the streets- justifiably so. We do not hesitate to doubt something that we are really in no position to know: how the shooter felt in the moment he pulled the trigger. But we don’t hesitate because we don’t give a damn. We care about the damage that he did- damage that didn’t have to be done for him to get out of danger. We have a perfectly subjective standard in both instances but we accept a polar opposite deployment.
So if a man has been reported for instances of “sexual misconduct” and he has been formally investigated and punished by his employer, does he have to lose his livelihood for the victim’s fear to subside? He now has a big red target on his back and will likely be ruined if he re-offends and gets fired. So unless he’s crazy he is pretty well neutralized. Or is this really about revenge? Are we settling scores or fixing our society? I need you ladies to let me know- because how you answer that question is going to determine how I support the cause going forward. One thing is for sure, it is not going to change the kind of man I decide to be. No disrespect to my man in the pajamas, but that just ain’t me.