Ah, this again. Smells like old wine in a new bottle. First it was Bill Cosby, then Harvey Weinstein, then Kevin Spacey, then George Bush Sr., today it is Matt Lauer and horror of horrors, Garrison Keillor. When did this start, when will it stop? For that matter, when has it ever not existed? It is just that it is all coming out now. It took one brave woman to spearhead the movement and tell the tale, and this has resulted in a barrage of confessions from women all over the world with the #MeToo campaign. It is atrocious, it is painful and it is unbelievable. Or is it really? What is it that makes powerful men, important men, men in the spotlight abuse their power and treat women as nothing but sexual objects?
Every day it is a new story, but the same plot. Actor/politician/director/TV personality has a history of abusing women, but it’s all hidden under the carpet. Suddenly there is a deluge of informants and people are being fired left and right. Does that take care of the problem? Perhaps not, but I bet now men are being extra careful before they make a suggestive comment or exhibit shady body language. To the point of overcorrection maybe. But in this case, I say it’s better to err on the side of caution. I do feel sorry for the men who don’t indulge in such activities, but get caught in the crossfire for an innocent act or comment, so I only hope that the women who come forward aren’t crying wolf. I hope I don’t get brickbats for even suggesting such a thing. The fact remains that given a chance, majority of men would not hold themselves back from cheating on their spouse, or let their penis govern their head. So, this is where I have to ask, is this organically in their DNA?
Experts claim that men’s endocrine systems are designed to essentially lust after, or cheat. Monogamy is no longer the normal expectation around the world, even if men hold on to it for an acceptable image in society. We all know that in the animal kingdom, such monogamy and devotion is rare. For most species, once the sexual act is over, so is the so-called “relationship”. So why should it differ for men? Granted that men too may be the object of sexual harassment, but the culprits are often other men. The nature of the action may vary. Gender harassment, where the victims are subject to sexist remarks and behavior, is different than say, sexual advances, or coercion, where the women are forced to perform sexual acts for purposes of getting or holding onto a job. Either way, it can be said that at least half of the working women in America experience one form or the other during their working lives.
During a study of mating behavior in baboons, it was observed that the more aggressive the male baboon was, and the more he bullied the females, then the more were the chances of him mating with the maximum number of females. And well, technically since we are part of the same evolutionary history, this gives rise to the idea that this sort of display of sexual intimidation lies in our genes. Added to which, males are not exactly prone to self-reflection. The response to the #MeToo campaign was the #IHearYou hashtag on twitter from men, or a rambling apology, but as we all know, words fired off in a rush don’t mean much in such circumstances.
Rather than doing or saying something that results in a public show of support, men need to internalize and atone for their behavior by getting to the root of the problem, and move away from the “boys will be boys” mentality. To make sure they aren’t part of the problem, they really need to judge themselves on whether or not they have contributed, even in an infinitesimal way to how women are perceived and treated. Not that this problem by any means is going to disappear – after all it has been prevalent for a long time – but more and more men need to respond with a lot more than just a tweet to make sure, that no one, not even the most powerful man on earth can get away with allegations by saying that it was just “locker-room talk”. The oldest of excuses, rehashed in a million different ways – we’ve heard them all before. But if the last few months have been any indication, we have discovered that tolerance too has a limit, and as a society, we have far outstripped the boundaries of common decency. It remains to be seen if women will continue to stand up against men, and force their hand, or if this movement will die down, like any other news story, buried under men’s weak and righteous self-defenses.