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In the U2 song "All Because of You" off of their 2004 album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" there is a lyric that goes, "I'm not broke, but you can see the cracks". That lyric kept popping into my head over the last few weeks as I followed the cavalcade of developments with the #MeToo movement.
As my long time readers know, I have written extensively on the subject of #MeToo since the Weinstein story broke in early October ( link, link, link, link, link, link, link ). Early on in the story, I wrote what I considered to be a warning to the #MeToo adherents that their movement was destined to self-destruct because it was built on the sand of emotion and not a sturdy foundation of reason. Sadly, for my efforts I was routinely called lots of charming names like misogynist and rape apologist by readers who disagreed with my diagnosis. The following months though have proven my insights to be correct. If you have read my article, "Phases of a Sex Panic", you would be able to recognize that we are now deep into Phase Three of this current sex panic, with all the warning signs of #MeToo's decline due to decadence coming to fruition which will no doubt be followed by a backlash.
THE HIT ON AZIZ ANSARI
There have been a plethora of big #MeToo stories recently and they back up my predictions and hypothesis of #MeToo and its future. One big story was the Babe.com article which claimed comedian Aziz Ansari had "sexually assaulted" a young woman, Grace, with whom he went on a date. The reaction to the Babe article highlighted a gigantic rift in the #MeToo movement between generations. Younger women saw the Babe story as a tale of sexual assault while older generations saw it as "revenge porn" for a bad date. Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic wrote two Ansari articles (link, link) that were insightful and eloquent. Her takedown of the Ansari story is mandatory reading. Bari Weiss of The New York Times also wrote an Op-ed taking the Babe article and the claims that Ansari sexually assaulted his date to task.
Flanagan and Weiss join Daphne Merkin (New York Times) and Meghan Daum (LA Times) as women who have written worthwhile pieces that challenge #MeToo and spotlight its very apparent shortcomings. Not to break my arm patting myself on the back (or to quote Bono from the song above, "I like the sound of my own voice, I didn't give anyone else a choice") but, I wrote pieces with remarkably similar themes regarding #MeToo months before these women ever considered writing their articles. I am glad my once lonely voice in the wilderness clamoring for reason and rationalism has now become a mini-chorus that includes other thoughtful writers, particularly females ones, because the topic of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment is too important to be left to the emotionalist and reactionary warlock hunters of #MeToo.
VIVE LA FRANCE
Recently, actress Catherine Deneuve and a group of French women wrote an open letter challenging #MeToo, and were joined by French film star Brigitte Bardot, who called the movement "ridiculous and hypocritical". In addition, French actress Juliette Binoche said something in a recent speech that I thought was incredibly important but received scant attention. Ms. Binoche said in relation to #MeToo that she WANTED to hear men's thoughts. This is is stark contrast to Minnie Driver and Alyssa Milano and the rest of the #MeToo mob that has consistently shouted men like Matt Damon down when they voiced their opinion on the subject.
The argument made by #MeToo and many neo-feminists is that men have no right to talk about the subject, whereas Ms. Binoche's argument is that men are as deeply involved in this issue as women, and so their perspective is equally valuable. The reason #MeToo wants to keep men quiet is because men might not say what they want to hear…like when Liam Neeson echoed my thoughts and called the movement a bit of a "witch hunt". I appreciate Ms. Binoche speaking up and out because I am constantly told by hectoring readers, or now former readers, that I should keep my mouth shut on #MeToo issues (and all issues really) because I am a straight, White, male. I have always found this line of attack to be so transparently infantile and foolish as to be absurd, but it seems to be the favorite fall back position for people who are entirely incapable of formulating and articulating a coherent logical argument.
JAMES FRANCO IN THE CROSS HAIRS
Another big story were the charges of sexual misconduct against actor James Franco by his former girlfriend and some of his acting students. The charges against Franco and Aziz Ansari are so typical of Phase Three of a Sex Panic that it is remarkable. One of the claims against Franco was that while he was in a romantic relationship with a woman, Violet Paley, he allegedly took out his penis while they sat in a parked car together and motioned for her to perform fellatio upon him. The woman claimed she didn't want to do it but did because she "didn't want Franco to hate her".
The Ansari situation was a date where the two people got naked, performed sex acts on each other and then Ansari kept asking for intercourse and the woman declined and so the date ended. Later, both Franco's companion Ms. Paley and Ansari's date Grace, claimed they were "sexually assaulted". It is objectively obvious that what happened to these woman may have been uncomfortable for them, but it was not sexual assault. In hindsight, these women regretted what they did and they used the #MeToo movement to turn their regret into revenge upon the famous men they felt treated them poorly.
What the Franco and Ansari cases highlight is one of the things that disturbs me and the previously mentioned female writers Flanagan, Weiss, Merkin and Daum, and that is the embrace of victimhood and the reinforcing of a learned helplessness on the part of the women involved. As Caitlin Flanagan writes in her piece about Ansari's date Grace who was uncomfortable but didn't leave the situation, "have we forgotten how to call a cab?"
The dangerous dynamic being set up by #MeToo is that women are delicate, fragile flowers who have no agency and who need special protection. To me that is the exact opposite of what is required to change the predatory paradigm under which the sexual harassment and misconduct that #MeToo has so nobly highlighted once prospered.
If women, like Grace and Ms. Paley, make bad decisions they must take responsibility for them, not use #MeToo to turn their regret into revenge because all that does is muddy the waters revolving around the issue of rape and sexual assault. For Ansari's date Grace to claim what happened that night was sexual assault is so outrageous as to be obscene, and is extremely disrespectful to women (and men) who truly have been sexually assaulted.
Both Ansari's date Grace and James Franco's former companion Ms. Paley strike me as women who fall into a particular category of person that is all too common in the entertainment industry. The Rolling Stones aptly named these type of people as "star fuckers" (see video below). I fully acknowledge that is an unkind term, but that doesn't make it any less descriptively accurate. In the cases of Ms. Paley and Grace, these women were interested in these men because of their fame and wanted to use that fame to their social advantage. When that didn't happen, their infatuation turned into affliction and they sought their pound of public flesh.
THE SIREN'S CALL OF VICTIMHOOD
The Ansari/Grace story has highlighted the notion that the Siren's call of victimhood seems to intoxicate younger women much more than it does older ones, probably because older ones fought so hard to not be victims, while younger ones have grown up with victim status being exalted.
I have written previously about how tempting it is to turn any sexual interaction into a claim of sexual assault or misconduct when the payoff for that is unchallenged acceptance and identification with the archetypal energy of the victim. This approach may be emotionally satisfying in the short term for the individual, but is a death knell for the #MeToo movement in the long term.
Women won't become safer from predatory men, or be more empowered with the #MeToo embrace of victimhood, but will only empower predators more. And by stifling male voices, and taking away female agency, women are inadvertently generating a dynamic that ultimately will increase the chances of harassment and assault happening, not reduce them.
Women do not need to be protected because they are emotionally slight and psychologically weak, they need to be empowered by acknowledging and celebrating their innate mental, physical, spiritual and emotional toughness and resilience. Women need to be taught from as early an age as possible that it is ok to be hated, that way when they grow up, they won't feel "coerced" into blowing a guy when they don't want to all to avoid being "hated". Women also need to learn that their self-worth should not be determined by the fame of the man with whom they sleep. They also need to learn that their bodies are theirs to do with as they please and that they are responsible for the choices they make and the consequences that come with them. All of these things are things that women in the #MeToo movement and modern feminists would say they want for women as well, but their actions thus far do not support this long term outcome, in fact, they guarantee the exact opposite.
LITTLE BILL MAHER MAKES A POINT!!
This past Friday I forced myself to watch Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. Maher is a vapid thinker and an insipid comedian, but I feel it is my duty to watch him so you don't have to. This week, something remarkable happened…I actually agreed with Little Bill Maher. I know, I know, I am just as shocked and horrified as you are. After having spent the last few years referring to him as "Little Bill" and claiming he enjoyed performing fellatio on members of the intelligence community establishment, here I was nodding in agreement with what that silly-putty faced douche bag was saying. I was so startled by this turn of events I sat for hours pondering if my thinking was wrong because Maher thought I was right.
I agreed with Maher because in his "New Rules" segment to close the show, he did a lengthy bit on the #MeToo movement. Maher went through his argument and basically made the case that while he believes sexual misconduct is abhorrent and should be stopped, the #MeToo movement is damaging to that cause because it is emotionalist and anti-reason.
Upon further review I realized that the reason I liked Maher's bit and agreed with it so much is because I wrote the same exact thing many times over. In fact, it seems very clear to me that either Maher, or more likely, someone on his writing staff, had read my RT piece on the subject that coincidentally came out during his show's recent hiatus. The reason I conclude this? Because Maher uses the same argument, structure and the examples in his New Rules segment as I did in my RT piece and its recent update. Read my piece and then watch the segment below to see what I am talking about.
Look, I am glad people are finally coming around and listening to me, but if Bill Maher wanted to be ahead of the curve for once, he could simply throw me a couple bucks and I'd happily consult for his stupid show. Ok…to be honest it would take considerably more than a "couple bucks", and even then I wouldn't do it "happily", but I would do it….maybe…but I'd still call him Little Bill.
In conclusion, things are happening fast and furious with #MeToo. Stories break on the subject everyday, from Woody Allen to Michael Douglas to David Copperfield, there is always a new charge and a new headline. We are knee deep in Phase Three of this current sex panic and the cracks in the veneer of the movement are showing and growing. The Aziz Ansari story is NOT the "have you no shame" - McCarthyism stopping moment, but it is an important moment none the less because it reveals the deep foundational rifts within the #MeToo movement. Phase four and the inevitable backlash is a ways off, but it is definitely coming, especially with #MeToo adherents choosing reactionary emotionalism over nuance and self reflection. These are strange times, and they will no doubt only get stranger.