The damnation of #itwasme confessors: a case for amnesty and eros
Some thoughts on blood, birds, your liberal arts education, and the future of courtship post-#metoo/#itwasme
In wake of the cultural watershed catalyzed by the Weinstein scandal and #itwasme/#metoo trending hashtags — the proverbial shit is hitting the fan.
Confessions from the sexually oppressed and violated, as well as sexual offenders and patriarchy perpetrators, have gone viral. Many of these #metoo and #itwasme posts are met by sympathetic audiences, who express gratitude for their contribution. Some, though, seize upon the vulnerability of #itwasme confessors with the intention of watching them burn.
This is not a Stockholm Syndrome case of protecting sexual aggressors. This is a petition to critically analyze how we negotiate peace during this cybercultural catharsis.
1. Not allowing a path of redemption is not peace work
In the spirit of confessions, I’ll say that first, I relate to a lineage of witches — herb-using, anarchist, potion drinkers — who were hunted down and burned alive by the thousands for challenging the patriarchal powers that be. This is where my #metoo story begins. I also have a #metoo story from very early on in this life, that I’m not comfortable expressing publicly because I’m still working with that pain. And like most women, I don’t have enough fingers to count the amount of times I’ve been groped at a club or on the subway.
I have also used my privilege as a woman to hurt men — especially when I have told guys politely asking for a dance to kick rocks. I imagine that is very painful and humiliating for those who have sincerely tried to make contact, and for that I’m really sorry. #itwasme.
Everybody — trans people, queers, women, the animals and plants have been hurt by the patriarchy. Yes, and cis-men too. I think of what a friend of mine, an Israeli soldier, calls the “oppressors trauma.” Young men are thrown into the world, jeered on by the media and older generations to, as President Trump says, “grab ’em by the pussy.” I don’t support this behavior, but I attempt to understand how people can get brainwashed into it.
Everybody deserves to have their story heard — and no, they’re not necessarily trying to justify or be absolved of their actions. This is not the Olympics of vulnerability. Everyone, the oppressors and oppressed, have stories to tell. We’re talking about social media here— people are not competing for air time. I want to hear how people develop behaviors that hurt others, so to learn from their mistakes. So don’t tell them to shut up and go to hell, please.
If our goal here is to heal nasty, sexist dynamics that proliferate and shape our culture, perhaps we ought to offer a path to redemption. Anything else is damnation, and damnation is an old tool of patriarchal oppression. No more.
2. Your liberal arts education privilege is showing
Here we go, I’m gonna say it: chastising people unfamiliar with new and nuanced understandings of gender and agency taught by scholars like Foucault and Butler is a sign of your privilege. Before burning men for referring to women as their “wives, girlfriends and mothers,” ask whether or not they have had the luxury of a 50k liberal arts education to recalibrate their grotesque perceptions of sex and gender.
The other day my taxi driver, a nineteen year old Punjabi guy, tells me he loves and respects women, and that men should take care of them because they are wives, girlfriends, and mothers. Should I have cussed him out and gestured to this Salon article? Please.
Rural and indigenous land-working women I know have no problem being being related to, relationally. The premium on being treated as an individual, untethered to any social relations or responsibility is a bourgeois urban phenomenon that emerges from the neoliberal belief that people are independent actors divorced from their ecosystem.
I’m going to keep relating to men as brothers, fathers, and husbands, because those are the closest kinship ties I, as a human, feel. Post-humans, happy to hear your case.
3. Maybe some cat calling is like bird chirping — and NYC is silent
I like the sound of birds singing from treetops. Ornithologists don’t know the purpose of all of the bird songs — but we can surely say birds sing to woo lovers.
How do humans woo lovers? Well, we also do a little song and dance. Sometimes we actually make sounds — we whistle on the street at someone we think is attractive and would like to mate with. I like to hear the whistles sometimes — they make me feel good about myself. Some whistles turn into boar-like, snotty snorting (i.e. gross sexual suggestions are made and make me feel uncomfortable and scared). I support rehabilitating and correcting humans making that kind of noise. But I love the little bird songs, and the dances too.
The dances happen at bars sometimes, where humans drink alcohol like they have done for centuries to get a little loose and playful. The story goes that the guy starts to inch closer to the girl on the dance floor and tail feathers are shaken. At some point — and this is usually misty, liminal territory, but can be made clear by asking for consent — guy might put his hands around girls waist, and things start to happen. Etc, etc.
Things are a little different in this strange place called New York City. Some say it’s the most liberal and progressive place on earth. It also happens to be a place where everybody is really lonely, and finding a partner is extremely difficult.
No birds are chirping in NYC! And the ones that are, are often those you probably don’t want to sleep with because they aren’t privy to Butler or the PC feminist liberal arts dialectic. Those that are familiar with the liberal arts dialectic are often too scared to sing.
Call me old fashioned, but I am not keen on initiating sexual relations. So where does that leave women like me? Swiping left on a Saturday night.
I want to live in a city where everyone feels safe to show their colors and sing their mating calls without being told to shut up, or scared that they’ll come off as too forward. Eros is life — and if we violently stifle people’s expression of it, we may quite literally be killing ourselves. Liberals, sing your polite and brave songs! Seduce and reproduce!
To wrap it up, I’m both relived by, and worried about the confessions and communication emerging from the #itwasme and #metoo movement.
The oppressed are expressing how they feel, and with social media, have the opportunity to say what they need to make peace. Oppressors too have a platform to air their guilty conscious and attempt to fix shit.
But is it possible there’s an overcorrection happening here?
I’m seeing men go down in flames, and go down fast — and most of them are not Weinsteins. These are men who have historically messed up with micro-aggressions— just like me — and who are working on transmuting childhood experiences and twisted cultural conditioning. They publicly chain themselves to their actions, and like Prometheus laying beneath the sky with an open wound.
Let’s not be vultures and feed off of people’s wounds. There’s a difference between expressing pain and anger, taking your fair share of the liver, and attempting murder.
If people continue to post venomous responses to cis-men’s #itwasme confessions without willing to offer some sort of amnesty, what’s the point? If you’re not in it to make peace, what are you in it for?