The problem with #itwasme
My concern with the #metoo campaign and more notably the #itwasme campaign is that I sense a good natured man will tend to throw himself under the bus preemptively when all they wish to do is to care, to acknowledge abuses and women’s grievances. This is what they care about. But in doing so, they will sacrifice themselves as the perpetrator, take the blame, and wear the crown of thorns, so that they can do what they ultimately care about and provide women with a sense of justice, of retribution, of closure. How can we not when literally every single female in our lives on social media are voicing their pain and anguish? There are many of us men out there who believe we are doing others a favor by shaming ourselves. Who’s knee jerk tendency to say sorry is faster than our ability to actually assess whether or not, #itwasme. We do it all the time. But this knee jerk digital mass admittance of guilt and victimhood feels different, and an unhealthy momentum seems to be building behind it.
Let me be clear, I am not undermining or questioning whether verbal or physical sexual abuse or rape has happened as ubiquitously as the #metoo campaign alludes to. I’ve seen it and I couldn’t be more empathetic and sorry for women, in my life and outside of it, that they have to live in a world where so many men are seemingly blind to their humanity.
What I’m questioning is out of protection for my brothers who’s deep desire to make things right will come at their own expense.
There is a time and a place to be “the bigger man”, when even though you know you have done no wrong, that admitting blame in an attempt to make the situation right and move on is the appropriate move. For many men, I urge that this is not one of those times. To stand in solidarity with injustice like the ubiquity of sexual harassment that is present in our society does not have to equate unequivocally to taking personal blame as a perpetrator. Could we have done more? Yes. Could we have asked more questions about your experiences, your life as a women in our society as to better empathize with you? Absolutely. Could we do a better job treating you as respectfully and with as much dignity as we can treat a person? Most definitely. And for not living our lives in this way, I am sorry. I really am. I need to be a better man. We can do better and we should do better. But if we did not do these things and if we have not lived up to the potential of attentive human relation we are capable of, does that mean #itwasme?
My issue with the #metoo and the #itwasme campaigns is that it gives zero attention to the endless gray area inbetwen these two black and white categories of helpless traumatizing victimization and guilt ridden admission of perpetration; the place where most of LIFE is. I saw a post the other day of a women calling for all men to EITHER post #itwasme admitting guilt as a perpetrator OR post #notme if we think we have been perfectly behaved in our speech and in our actions and in our thoughts toward women our entire life, as if there is no space in between. You are in the category of rapists, or you are an angel. This is a tough place to reside, and the anger building on behalf of those who HAVE been abused, who ARE righteously upset, is unfortunately forcing all men to pick a side of purity or downright sinfulness, and I don’t think that’s right.
Unfortunately, any language like this, the kind that is not perfectly aligned with the ethos of the #metoo and #itwasme campaigns will be seen as defense of perpetration. It is not. This is a defense of men who care so deeply about women and their newfound awareness of what life as a women is like that they will even raise their hand as guilty in order to push things in the right direction. That is not the right direction.
We can be sorry and honor women and ask what we can do to help without having to say that we’ve sexually harassed them. Defending my truth and my dignity as a human does not mean I am apathetic to yours.
I am not perfect. I can do better. I am sorry. If any word out of my mouth or action I have ever taken did not make you, women, feel safer in our world, then I have work to do. But please allow us to stand in solidarity with you without feeling the need to make believe a self hatred for actions that don’t represent us.
It’s not my job to say I’m a rapist in order for me to show that I care. It is not a Muslims job to say they are terrorists in order to voice their concern for Islamic extremism. It is not an American citizens job to call them self a murderer in order to ask for forgiveness for our governments endless imperialistic power hungry wars. Empathy and a commitment to doing better can take place without needing to turn ourselves in for crimes we did not commit.
When I think to myself, I notice, almost to a fault, that one of my biggest fears is having someone else believe I am dismissive of them. At the grocery store, I’m the first to apologize for not being able to find my credit card right away in my pocket. I say thank you too many times. I say please too many times. I say sorry addictively. What I mean is that I’m the kind of guy who wants to say #itwasme in order to make things right. I get it. But as I see my brothers “come out” and “admit” guilt — my kind hearted, thoughtful, caring brothers — I sense what maybe they can’t right now, and that is that what they really want you to know is that we do not dismiss you, and they will admit guilt in order for you to feel that. Anything to make you feel that. Trust me, I would know.
Women, please allow us to care without feeling the need to unnecessarily shame ourselves in the process. Pain often points to resolution, and guilt is painful, and so many men who care will seek out guilt as their cross to bare on the way to resolution. No gender is better at feeling shame than men. Please help us to help you with out it.