Jonathan Kay: Why a murderer may have a better future than a #MeToo accused

Valid comments, applicable in many spheres, of the need for nuance and greater understanding:

An all-or-nothing process that can mete out exactly one kind of punishment — a lifetime of disgrace, or nothing at all — provides us with a thrilling kind of moral theatre, in which pure villains such as Harvey Weinstein get their due. But in cases where the facts are less damning, this black-and-white, permanent-ink approach doesn’t reflect the way most ordinary men and women judge — and eventually forgive — one another.

Things could be starting to change, however. In response to allegations that actor Aziz Ansari pressured a date to have an unpleasant sexual encounter, Bari Weiss of The New York Times wrote this week: “I am a proud feminist, (but if) you are hanging out naked with a man, it’s safe to assume he is going to try to have sex with you … Aziz Ansari sounds like he was aggressive and selfish and obnoxious that night … And isn’t it enraging that women are socialized to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own? Yes. Yes. Yes. But the solution to these problems does not begin with women torching men for failing to understand their ‘nonverbal cues.’ It is for women to be more verbal.”

One advantage of this approach — of looking for shades of grey, and not casting every moment of sexual friction in the language of moral absolutism — is that it may ultimately induce men to take more responsibility for their actions, not less: When any admission of “selfish and obnoxious” behaviour is seen as tantamount to a rape confession, if punishment is seen as an all-or-nothing affair, there is little motivation for a man to publicly come to terms with his behaviour.

Megan Ganz, a sitcom writer who was mistreated last year by an older boss after she rebuffed his come-ons, took a novel approach on social media. Writing on Twitter two weeks ago, she used open-ended language to coax an admission from her former boss — Dan Harmon — that he’d treated her “like garbage,” and that “I was an awful boss and a selfish baby.”

I have no special insight into Harmon’s thinking. But the tone of their Twitter exchange, and a subsequent podcast by Harmon, suggests that he was responding to Ganz’s decision not to threaten her former tormentor with repercussions, or seek to rally antagonists with hash-tags.

“I think of Dan as a work in progress,” Ganz told The New York Times. “That’s how I think of myself, too. It’s dangerous to think of yourself as a hero and someone else as a villain. It gets in the way of empathy. We should be tearing down walls, not putting them up. Women are not different creatures from men. They don’t need to be extra careful around us. They just need to treat us with the same basic respect and dignity that they show to other men.”

Not all women can be expected to adopt this sort of generous attitude. When men are violent, or engage in full-blown criminal assault, no one should encourage them to turn the other cheek. Sometimes, scorched earth is the only way to go.

But for Ganz, the project of reforming male attitudes comes leavened with a sense of understanding and mercy — the same spirit that, I hope, will inform readers of my friend’s forthcoming book about prison life. As morally urgent as the #MeToo project may feel, it’s important to remember that most of us aren’t pure martyrs or pure monsters, but something in between.

Source: Jonathan Kay: Why a murderer may have a better future than a #MeToo accused

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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