As a man, it is not appropriate for me to post #Me Too, as this hashtag is designated for women only; however, I do wholeheartedly support the movement of women to bring this issue out into the open and to educate the whole population, women and men, as to the extent of the problem. My friend, Susan Stanton, suggested that men post “I will” as in:
#I will speak out against harassment, sexual or otherwise.
#I will educate others to respect women.
#I will discuss issues of male violence with my peers.
I have done those things that Susan asked of us, but perhaps not enough. I will pledge to do more, and particularly in the book I am now writing called Sacred Politics, for sexual politics is a part of the book, because it was such a large part of the last election. (And I am not only referring to the tape that captured our current president bragging about his own sexual predation).
During the Trump administration, we are living in apocalyptic times in the original sense of the word: an unveiling or revelation. This is why certain issues that have heretofore remained in the shadows (such as male abuse of power) are now coming into the open. I have been moved by how many women are coming forward, women I have known as friends or relatives but had no knowledge of their experience. But sexism and misogyny is only one issue that is being revealed along with a whole host of shadow issues in America: racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and much more. At the core of all these issues is a desire by those who have power to consolidate and retain power. Those that seek to control tend to objectify and make “other” whatever serves their need to dominate.
Sexual politics haven’t changed as much as we might imagine since Simone de Beauvoir identified the core problem in The Second Sex over fifty years ago: men and masculinity are a given, but women and femininity have been defined in relation to men. (I am just citing de Beauvoir here, so please don’t throw me in to the same category). I think de Beauvoir was right, and the leading edge of feminism is still women breaking this pattern by defining and charting their own path – just as men must also be free to define themselves in ways that are true to their own self even if this may not always be stereotypically masculine. My dear friend, Carole Hart, was on to this years ago, with her brilliant co-production of Free to Be You and Me with Marlo Thomas and her late husband, Bruce Hart.
The whole issue of sexual dynamics and sexual power is, of course, more complicated than just men holding power over women. There are women who use their sexuality to get what they want from men because they are in a position of power over men, in the workplace, or wherever. There are also women who use their sexuality to get what they want from men they perceive to be powerful because they are willing to play that game. But the men who abuse their power by harassing, assaulting, or otherwise taking advantage of women is all too common, and needs to come out into the open so that is is stopped, or at least not accepted or ignored.
I sense that the #Me Too campaign is a powerful wave that will help account for how widespread the problem is of men being sexual predators or otherwise abusing their position of power over women. At some point, however, we need to engage in a larger discussion about the abuse of power in all its forms. We need to not only harmonize relationships between people; we need to harmonize relationships between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, and all of nature, because, ultimately, the way we treat nature is inextricably tied to how we treat each other. Every person, every species, every plant and every animal, has the right to be who they are and not to be objectified, abused, or dominated. We must learn to respectively get along with all people and all of the natural world if we are to survive as a species.