Thursday, December 7, 2017

So You've Been Accused of Sexual Misconduct...

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, just like everyone else in this country and around the world. And, while I am 100% behind the MeToo Movement--we need to listen to women and take their stories seriously--I don't like the way the movement is moving.

I don't like zero-tolerance positions. I never have. Because, by erasing nuance and context, they too often end up causing more problems than they solve and end up dismantling and unraveling any good they hoped to achieve. 

Look at zero-tolerance policies on guns or bullying in schools. With guns, sure, you banned toy guns at school, which is great because we often can't tell the difference between a toy and a weapon and shouldn't have to make that distinction at a school, putting kids' lives at risk with that decision. But then we started banning finger guns under zero-tolerance policies and began becoming our own parody. It's hard to maintain the moral high ground when your shaky argument sounds irrational because it doesn't stand on sound logic. 

And, with bullying, we banned it from our schools, which is great, only to push it online, where it happens out of our view and out of our control. We solved one symptom of a problem (bad behavior at schools) only to exacerbate the condition (bad behavior in general). We didn't solve anything, didn't fix anything, we just moved it around, like a kid who doesn't want to eat their vegetables.

What we need to do is address the issue. Head-on. Don't manage the symptoms, treat the disease.

Like I said on Twitter, I don't know if Al Franken should resign. He's going to, but I don't know if that actually solves anything or if it just moves a player off the board.

Instead of Franken being the first strike at zero-tolerance, I'd rather see him used as a path to reform. While I don't condone what he did--non-consensual touching of any kind is unacceptable--I don't know if I want him to disappear from the landscape. I don't know if his fading into obscurity, while convenient and psychically satisfying, really serves a greater purpose.

Personally, I think I'd rather see him publicly confront what he's done. I want to see him truly apologize. I want the focus to be on the women he violated while he does. I want him to see him listen to his accusers without making excuses or discussing what this means for him. I want to hear him say that he's sorry. Period. That he behaved badly and wants to do better. That he wants to hear how he can do that from us--particularly the women of Minnesota who he served and let down and especially from the women who he disrespected and violated.

And then I want to hear us provide him with a path to doing better.

Because, if the only solution we can provide to people who have behaved badly is for them to disappear, we are going to create a larger problem than the one we are trying to solve.

Look at race in this country. We thought we were moving forward on racism, that we were past that. We thought we'd scared and shamed the racism out of people. Yet here we are. Turns out, scaring and shaming people isn't a great way to change people's minds. Turns out, it's a fantastic way to silence and isolate people, all while allowing those feelings to fester and grow outside of our knowledge and control. Until the day someone says out loud "what we all were thinking" and we all end up here.

We need a better path than that. Because, I don't know about you, but I am not happy about the one that we're on.

And, sure, I'll be honest, I don't know what path would work. I don't think that problems this complex or pervasive can be solved easily, cleanly, or quickly. That's why both the complacency in either throwing your hands up in the air and saying nothing can be done about this unsolvable problem in human nature or in the contextless crackdown of zero-tolerance is so attractive. It requires little from us, minimal effort and likely even less thought.

I think real culture shifts require more. 

Personally, I would like to see men like Franken, who claim to want to do and be better, be brought into the conversation about consent rather than pushed out. I'd like them listen to what we have to say and figure out where they fit in that. I'd like to know where our past teachings on sex and consent have failed and what could be done better in the future. I want to know, from them, what would have made them think before they acted. I want to know what they would like to tell other people like them to make them think before they act. 

Then I would like to see them work with women-led, sex-educated groups to change how our culture views sex and consent. I'd like to see them advocate for better training for cops, politicians, teachers, faith leaders, doctors, etc. on how to handle and talk about sex and consent. I'd like to see them advocate for better, more practical, more sex-positive, more evidence-based education on sex and consent in schools as well as in communities and work environments. I'd like to see them advocate for better portrayals of sex and consent in media and culture. I'd like to see them advocate for better accessibility to sexual health information and services for everyone. I want to see these people put their actions where their apologies are.

I'd like to see these people, if they are truly committed to change, actually aim for positive societal reform, rather than rot in isolated resentment. I'd like to find ways for them to be part of the solution, rather than write them off as perpetual problems. I think that would help them actually see how they victimized people, rather than view themselves as victims. I would rather have them, if they prove to truly be interested in making the world better, helping us, becoming part of us, rather than ousting and ostracizing them.

Because Franken was the first.

He will not be the last.

And we will HAVE to figure out how we deal with all of them, how they fit within the better world we want to create, or risk them grouping together in their resentful isolation and becoming another outright, alt-right problem.

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