I want to ask a question, but I want to first make sure that it isn’t misunderstood or thought of in the wrong context. This is in no way a defense of Justin or anyone who mistreats women (or anyone who abuses power for their own, personal satisfaction in any way, for that matter). I have been thinking a lot about solutions to difficult situations like these, happened to come across your post, and wanted to ask some questions as I’m trying to learn more about everyone’s perspectives these days.
There’s a lot of anger in your post—which you obviously are aware of, and it’s part of the point of it—but the thing I‘ve kept coming back to over the last year or so is that anger is feeding these problems more than anything else. It’s not fair to expect someone who was victimized by someone else to discard those emotions and bear the burden, nor is it fair to expect that of someone empathic like yourself. However, the outward and public expression of anger might feel good but seems to only cause further issues.
Plain and simple, Justin’s behavior was wrong. There ought to be consequences for it because, without them, how will he change? But if he’s surrounded by messages of anger and the urge to exile, are we not making the problem worse? The anger people express over nearly every issue these days is with the full weight of the issue’s category. It’s like with road rage. When someone cuts you off, you’re not mad at them for the one time they cut you off but every time anyone has cut you off. It’s another lash from a group of inconsiderate people you interact with from a distance, with a somewhat significant layer of separation.
This is what concerns me when I read an angry response to anything—regardless of whether or not I agree with it. In this case, I absolutely do. I think your response to him is a completely legitimate and remarkably empathetic reaction to a huge, disturbing problem. To the right people—those who agree and appreciate the support—definitely benefit to some degree from that because they don’t feel alone. It’s clear from the comments that what you’ve said has given that support to people. It also spreads this kind of reaction as an acceptable one, however, and it’s occurring in a public forum which can incite some negative responses from those with conflicting perspectives.
I don’t say this to be critical or to imply that what you wrote was the wrong thing to do. I am really not sure what the right thing to do is and I’m just trying to explore that. I’m hoping you’ll respond to this thoughtfully, because you seem like someone who cares about others quite a bit, which is why I am trying to continually express that I am not trying to be critical of you at all. I’m just trying to figure out the situation we’re in as a society, what we can do to make things better for everyone, and what I can personally do to contribute to that greater good.
Reading what you wrote strikes me as the sort of thing that’s completely justified internally. Externally, however, it has a variety of different consequences—some good and some bad. On a personal level, what I see as the subtext here is that you hate that men like Justin—who are both prominent and powerful—are representatives of the male gender. You see value in equality and respect others. You don’t want your identity manufactured into something that it’s not because people like Justin—who have exhibited behavior patterns that are cruel and abusive towards women (at least)—create the belief that this kind of darkness lies within all men. So, there is the desire to try and kill this kind of idea because it is one that misrepresents who you are. It misrepresents me, and most of the men I know, too. It’s a bad thing, and it needs to stop because we have no hope for equality if one group (women) fears and/or assumes the worst about another (men).
But is anger the way to do it?
I know we have to do something, first for those who have to suffer from negative behavior and second to create a world where we don’t let a small portion of a group define each of its parts, but is it productive to be outwardly angry?
I don’t ask in a manner to imply that it’s not productive. I think, in some cases, it very well may be. I know that forgiveness and understanding have caused plenty of problems for me. I have an unrelenting tolerance for personal hardship, and so I’ll bear the burdens of pretty much anyone and it’s not a good thing. It has caused me an immense amount of trouble, but because I always look for a reason behind their behavior and why it should be forgiven I have just lost the ability to be angry.
Both extremes strike me as problematic. To me, anger and punishment seems highly toxic to society—both on a personal level and as a general observation of people—but it is, in the right ways, an efficient method of expressing a problem with the most noticeable amount of force. On the other side, understanding and forgiveness sounds well and good but it rarely provides motivation to change a behavior because it doesn’t necessarily categorize the behavior as negative.
Lately, in my own life, I’ve tried to switch to a mode of thinking that abstracts negative circumstances so that I’m not designating anything as good or bad but rather looking at the consequences of an action. If I’m 30 minutes late to an appointment, what consequences does that incur for others involved in that causal chain? What else in that chain caused me to be 30 minutes late? Is there an adjustment I can make to ensure I’m on time or, at least, reasonably close. Doing this helped me alter my behavior and identify the source of the problem without beating myself up or blaming other people for it—or, at least, predict when certain negative outcomes are inevitable and prepare for them as best I can. That made me wonder if that context of thought is applicable to larger and broader issues.
I don’t know if it is or isn’t, because it would require extensive effort to pinpoint all the factors that led Justin to do what he did and apologize the way he apologized. Is it a step in the right direction, or is it an attempt to save what’s left of his dignity in the public eye? I imagine it’s a combination of both, to a degree not one of us can measure accurately from a distance, but does that leave us with any productive action or just whatever good our expression can provide?
I spent the time writing and thinking about this issue and what you wrote because of what you said at the end. If I had to summarize your post, I’d put it like this: “I’m really pissed off about Justin’s behavior, and men like him, and I hate that this could deter the many intelligent women in the world from pursuing a career in tech. Not all men are like Justin, just as I am not like Justin, so I want to extend my hand to help more women gain power and equality in an industry sorely lacking their influence.” Hopefully that is a reasonably accurate understanding. It is one of the most caring, thoughtful, and productive actions I’ve seen from a person after an expression of anger on this level.
So I felt I had to ask you what you think about kicking a man who did bad things while he’s down. It feels right, but is it a productive solution to the problem? I think you’ve demonstrated that, to a degree, it is because of how you’re trying to help. But how do help correct the bad behavior people like Justin? It isn’t through pure anger or forgiveness, and it may not be possible at this stage, but it can’t be impossible. I think it’s solvable through changes in environmental influence, but right now I’m more curious what you think.