The #MeToo moment: another disaster for the Democrats?

The #MeToo flood of stories of women who feel abused by men – ranging from lurid stares to straightforward rape – seems like a disaster to me for the Democrats. Not because of the stories themselves, but because of how the progressive media and commentators have reacted to it. It has turned into open man-bashing which will cost the Democrats both votes and funding, whilst buying precious few female votes.

Let’s talk about the man-bashing first.

How did the Huffington Post, that bastion of progressivity, report the issue? It ran with a story by an editor that said

“Women can turn the whole internet into a list of “Me toos,” but it won’t make a difference until men ― all men ― acknowledge how they perpetuate misogyny and commit to making a change.”

This is textbook sexism: ‘all men … perpetuate misogyny’? I should be fired within ten minutes if I asserted that ‘all women’ were guilty of something that bad, but instead of this editor being instantly fired and then derided by senior Democrats, this openly sexist man-bashing has gone unpunished. It’s not too late, you know, this editor could still be fired tomorrow or next week. But it’s not going to happen and that is poisonous for the Democrats. This is their issue and their newspaper, and an editor of it openly advocates male-hatred of the kind that is illegal in many countries. The fact that half of white women voted for Trump despite him being the groper-in-chief tells you not many women change their vote on this issue, but white men have deserted the Democrats in drove and this open hatred of them will keep them away.

Am I over-reacting, picking on an isolated case of zealotry? Nope, the Huffington Post piece was a common reaction amongst the progressive commentariat. Leah Fessle in Quartz thus got away with saying that “our culture raises all men with toxic ideals about masculinity.”

Again, textbook sexism. If she were a man saying similar things about ‘all women’ in the same newspaper, instant unemployment and public humiliation would have been his fate. Again, it’s not too late to fire her next week, but it won’t happen.

The alt-right is having field day with the reactions in the progressive media to the #MeToo revelations. The Us National Review makes the simple head-line ‘metoo train wreck calls all women victims all men toxic abusers’. They have a point, but I think the problem is not the stories of the #MeToo women, which are varied and thus can be read in many different ways. The problem is the open anti-male hatred that supposedly progressive media have subsequently engaged in. Here is an example of the more elaborate points made on an alt-right site:

“The following Guardian listicle, titled “Men, you want to treat women better? Here’s a list to start with,” is a good example of the aforementioned problem.

  • Don’t expect women to be “nice” or “cute” and don’t get upset when they aren’t those things.
  • Do you feel that any woman on earth owes you something? She doesn’t. Even if you’re like, “Hm, but what about basic respect?” ask yourself if you’ve shown her the same.
  • Involve women in your creative projects, then let them have equal part in them.

That’s right, ladies! Don’t ever bother being pleasant, respectful, or even displaying that you care about basic personal hygiene to your colleagues and the people you meet throughout the day, but everyone, especially men, should nearly wet themselves in enthusiasm upon meeting you, and include you in all their business-related projects and discussion panels. And in case you poor gullible men were expecting a simple show of gratitude or at least a smile in return — sorry to ruin your hopes, but the author includes the following demand:

  • If you do the right thing, don’t expect praise or payment or a pat on the back or even a “thank you” from that woman. Congratulations, you were baseline decent.

In the great progressive West, the job of men is to be the unappreciated servants of frigid and entitled women brainwashed by the Amy Schumer school of How To Be A Fat Empowered Slut. ”

You see my point? What is amazing is not this alt-right response, which of course is over-the-top itself, but more that newspapers like the Huffington Post, the Quarts, and the Guardian (which I am a subscriber of) indeed publishes male-bashing stuff. Just think about how misogynistic and sexist the phrase ‘Do you feel that any woman on earth owes you something? She doesn’t. Even if you’re like, “Hm, but what about basic respect?” ask yourself if you’ve shown her the same.’ truly is. The author should, of course, be fired tomorrow, but she won’t be.

The open anti-male hatred currently tolerated in supposedly progressive newspapers does a lot of damage to the progressive brand. This open sexism is not just against the ideals of the progressive movement, it is also electorally short sighted. Men don’t like being openly abused and most women don’t truly hate men either, so you lose with both genders.

The progressive Dutch newspaper that I read (‘de Volkskrant’) thus looked on in bemusement at the American reactions to the #MeToo moment, with a commentator calling it ‘humourless one-dimensional puritanism’.

One even reads harsher assessments of the sentiments involved, such as by a self-styled philosopher on twitter saying “The #metoo campaign is just the dialectical guilt response of 150 million neurotic women for having read #Fiftyshadesofgrey. With pleasure.”

The open male-bashing is a huge loss for the Democrats and the alt-right is having a field day on that score.

But there is also a funding loss looming, I think. Weinstein was a rich lefty who gave the Democrats a million. Did he get any support from top Democrats in his hour of need? Nope, they let him drop like a stone. No testimonials about how he was such a good guy previously and that he would now surely see the error of his ways. No statements about the things he funded and the convictions he showed on other important issues. At least, none that I saw.

Of course, you might say he got it coming. Me, I will wait for courts to decide the issue because I do not trust trial-by-media on this topic.

But from a Democrat funding perspective, it’s a train wreck. What do you think other male millionaires, who outnumber the female variety by a huge multiple, are going to think? Do you think they will like the Democrats more, feeling looked after and amongst loyal friends who believe in innocent-till-proven-guilty? Or do you think they will feel that they are suspect for being powerful males, rapists until proven otherwise?

What should senior Democrats have done then? Show sympathy to the women of #MeToo, of course. Formulate where they want communication in possible sexual encounters to move towards. And leadership by speaking up for men in general, openly and massively decrying anti male-sexism in progressive newspapers.

What is the positive message? I think they should have seized the opportunity to talk about the need for men and women to be clear about when they want sex and when they don’t. “No is no, yes is yes, and don’t mess with maybe” should be the mantra. That would lure the Republicans into the mistake of saying “Just say ‘no’” (which is of course what the evangelicals have said): the Democrats should win on the issue of sex.

It’s not too late, they can still unite and show leadership, but don’t hold your breath.

The mishandling of the #MeToo moment by the progressive forces thus shows both a lack of leadership amongst the Democrats and a lack of ideas in that movement. There is a total failure to recognise that their narrative should be inclusive and emotionally warm, not exclusive and puritanical. They are going down a road with few votes and fewer sponsors. Trump’s re-election has just gotten a big boost.

 

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18 Responses to The #MeToo moment: another disaster for the Democrats?

  1. John Goss says:

    I agree Paul with what you say about the sexist anti-male statements by a number of women writing on this issue, and that is unhelpful. But Harvey Weinstein is a poor example of someone who should be defended. His behavior with regard to many women was criminal and, by all reports, he was also a bastard and bully to almost all people who worked for him or with him. His behavior should not be tolerated, and that sort of behavior by men or women is unacceptable. His behavior is typical of the rich elite (male and female) who bully their way to the top and steal resources from the masses with the connivance of governments – as you have so ably demonstrated in your book ‘Game of Mates- How Favours bleed the nation’.

  2. Moz of Yarramulla says:

    Paul, you’re right that people do vote emotionally, and politics needs to take account of that. But it’s perhaps worth looking at your reaction above as a political statement too, and asking “what is Paul trying to achieve here”. Validation from other men, sure, and you’re getting that. But is that all?

    But politically? You seem intent on reinforcing the view that there’s no place for self-respecting women in politics. The right knows women’s place and that’s definitely not in charge. But apparently on the left there’s never a place for women to talk unless men are the primary focus. Sometimes, Paul, it’s not just about you.

    Have you heard of “Schrodinger’s Rapist” – the idea that you can’t know whether someone is a rapist without giving them the chance to rape you? I find it a useful way to think about the context women already live in. Simple explanation: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger%27s_Rapist

    • Paul Frijters says:

      what I am trying to achieve is that the progressive movement starts to take its own ideals seriously. The ease with which anti-male hatred is now deemed acceptable is poisonous for progressives.

      Of course the picture painted about Weinstein is terrible. He sounds like a guy I hate. But trial by media is not the way to go.

      • Moz of Yarramulla says:

        The “anti-male hatred” you’re upset about has a surprisingly low death toll unless you accept the liberal feminist position that patriarchy hurts men too. So your complaint is based on a false equivalence (or a truly horrible attitude on your part).

        There’s a whole lot of history behind what’s happening, but you’re either unaware of that (but you’re an academic) or choose to disregard it. Would you accept either from a student?

        “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Margaret Atwood

        The complaint you’re responding to is that men murder hundreds of women in the USA every year, mostly women they know but have been denied control over. So they kill them. Then there’s rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment and what the law calls a “hostile environment”. Women responding by saying “stop doing that” is quite justifiable.

      • Moz of Yarramulla says:

        One approach to making “the progressive movement” live up to your definition of progressive would be to work within it to produce the change you want. It’s what a lot of activists do, and it can be surprisingly effective and fulfilling. I admit that that is my history so I obviously prefer that approach.

        Your approach doesn’t seem justifiable to me. At best you’re sitting on the sidelines criticising those doing the work, but realistically you’re working to maintain the hostile environment. You ignore all the stuff you (hopefully) support in favour of publicising your complaints about part of one campaign.

        If you do the right thing … Congratulations, you were baseline decent.

        You see that as too much to ask, and you’re affronted that any woman would dare to do so. Paul, that’s on you.

        • Paul Frijters says:

          I suggest you look a bit harder at some of the work I actually do, Moz. You judge without knowing.

          I see your argument above as openly accepting anti-male hatred and sexism as something that is ok, not something to condemn. I am sorry Moz, but that is just not right. You are part of the problem.

          • Moz of Yarramulla says:

            Here’s a rich straight white man writing about his take on this. Hopefully you find it more palatable than my version.

            https://whatever.scalzi.com/2017/11/12/a-qa-for-the-post-weinstein-era/

            If you don’t see fit to mention “the work you actually do” I think it’s quite reasonable to focus on your fear of being called out on your behaviour. You’re right, I don’t know who you are or what you do, and had to look you up before accusing you of being able to do basic research.

            You could have written a very different piece, for example about how your experience working in a university to bring about a change it attitudes and approaches to unacceptable behaviour has led you to think the #metoo campaign is not well directed. Instead you produced the above collection of hurt feelings and catchphrases from the men’s rights movement. That locates you in a particular part of this debate, and as I pointed out, it’s not the progressive side.

            This is the thing: if your actions in private contradict your actions in public, don’t be surprised if you’re judged by the public ones. Or, as the #metoo campaign points out, private actions that others make public.

            If it’s any consolation, I suspect I dislike anti-male hatred as much as you do. But I don’t see being asked to treat others with basic human decency as anti-male hatred. If it really is the case that most men don’t or can’t do that (which underlies your point), then hating them for that is silly. I agree with you there. But … I don’t accept the premise. I think men as a group, and the overwhelming majority of individual men *can* treat women decently. Sadly, too many of them don’t. Changing that is what this is all about.

            My experience, FWIW, is that it’s hard work to do that. Not just for the people trying to make the change, but it’s a big ask for the men doing the changing. I found it hard, and my leap was probably smaller than for many – I was brought up mostly with emotional abuse rather than physical, and it was made clear to me early on that actual rape was bad. Not all men have those advantages. But then, not all men grow up being abused at all… who can tell, playing hierarchy of oppression has never been very useful except with the worst strawmen-weilding idiots (like the ones claiming men are oppressed as a class by the threat of being held to account for harassing women)

          • Moz of Yarramulla says:

            I suggest you look a bit harder at some of the work I actually do, Moz. You judge without knowing.

            Viz, “citation needed”. I assume from your comment that there are public records of your activism on this issue. Can you please provide some links?

            For example, a search for your name and sexual harassment or activism turns up nothing useful. https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%2B%22paul+fritjers%22+sexual+harassment&t=ffsb&ia=web

  3. R. N. England says:

    Hollywood profits handsomely by charging the masses a small amount each to attend peep shows of the most sexually attractive people they can find. I’m not sure why people are outraged when it has its fair share of Harvey Weinsteins.

    Of course, the capitalist “news” media use a similar algorithm. The story that gets the most hits is the one that keeps popping up ad nauseam. Moral outrage and titillation combine well as yet another money spinner. It is shallow and silly to hold an individual responsible for an abuse that is endemic to Hollywood, but that’s not the point. The moral outrage makes money and grows the economy. Solving the problem comes nowhere.

  4. John Goss says:

    Nick
    I was reacting against the below comment by Paul on Weinstein. I think Paul’s good point was obscured by this comment which implied the Democrats should have supported Weinstein ‘ in his hour of need’. Clearly there is some irony in this statement, but overall it comes across (particularly to our North American cousins) as defending Weinstein.
    John G

    ‘Did he get any support from top Democrats in his hour of need? Nope, they let him drop like a stone. No testimonials about how he was such a good guy previously and that he would now surely see the error of his ways. No statements about the things he funded and the convictions he showed on other important issues. At least, none that I saw. Of course, you might say he got it coming. Me, I will wait for courts to decide the issue because I do not trust trial-by-media on this topic.’.

    • Paul Frijters says:

      I think they should have been nuanced about it to show their appreciation (and complicity!) for having accepted his money and his patronage for years. Of course they should mainly be on the side of the accusing women, but not to the point of trial by media. That is not such a difficult balancing act. They could for instance have said that ‘we were all guilty for pretending not to see’. Or they could say that ‘abuse of power comes from great inequality. We must tackle inequality for the sake of all men and woman’. Plenty of other angles for the Democrats to take that pushes the right policies but does not make them seem like fair-weather friends. Different senior democrats could make different noises to achieve this balance.

      It is also simple politics: the Democrats have the women’s lib vote anyway so in this kind of situation they should take the opportunity to gain other constituents and sponsors.

  5. Jason says:

    This is appalling. You’ve missed the point – the powerful abusing the less powerful – and are showing every sign of being reactive rather than rational.

    Framing this as being about the Democrats vote share rather than your own sense of entitlement coming under attack seems like a shocking case of Mauvaise foi.

    You betray your feelings most vividly here:

    “In the great progressive West, the job of men is to be the unappreciated servants of frigid and entitled women brainwashed by the Amy Schumer school of How To Be A Fat Empowered Slut.”

    Okay, in a few places men are described rudely. But if the most important issue you can find in all this is that, you’re being wilfully blind to the main point.

  6. derrida derider says:

    Err Jason, Paul was quoting an alt-right source there, and quoting it to criticise it.

    I think Paul is quite off base in this post – after all “humourless one-dimensional puritanism” exactly characterises American political culture on all sides (personally I blame the Mayflower pilgrims). Yankee peculiarities do not discredit either feminism or progressives everywhere. And I think your point about Democrats’ vote share being the least of the problems with their sexism is a good one. But you don’t need to assume mauvaise foi in Paul because he quoted someone else who has mauvaise foi.

    • paul frijters says:

      ” Yankee peculiarities do not discredit either feminism or progressives everywhere. ”

      of course not, which is why the post title talks about Democrats. But the problem addressed of supposedly progressive newspapers engaging in open anti-male sexism goes beyond the US. You might want to check if that Guardian piece I quote made it into the Australian version. I think its in the UK version.

  7. James says:

    Sexism is unfortunately rife among people who congratulate themselves for being progressive. These are people who supposedly care about sexual or family violence, but don’t give a second thought to the 32 per cent of infant boys who, against their will, have their genitals permanently mutilated by circumcision in Australia. Or who supposedly care about people being killed, but ignore the vast majority of homicide victims because they are men rather than women. And after making it clear that they don’t value the lives of men as much as they value the lives of women, wonder why men value their own lives less than women do, as reflected in the huge gender inequality in suicide rates. The sexism of these people – anti-male sexism in this case – is blatant and should be named for what it is, as Paul has rightfully done here.

  8. Paul ,perhaps you should have put this at the top of the article:

    they should have seized the opportunity to talk about the need for men and women to be clear about when they want sex and when they don’t. “No is no, yes is yes, and don’t mess with maybe” should be the mantra

    Seems to me that the problem with statements along the lines of: all men are ,’ X’, is that it distracts-confuses us away from what kinds of, deeds are wrong.

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