The #MeToo campaign revealed a toxic culture that stretched far beyond the film industry. In the resulting outrage is an opportunity to bring about change to benefit us all, writes Jamie Catto
Recent revelations about how women have been harassed, or worse, by men, have been brought to the fore by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. But they are the tiniest tip of the iceberg. I’m talking not just about the entertainment industry, but about the earliest raping and pillaging of our barbaric beginnings, to the violent and sophisticated forms of it today.
Generations of women have shown immense courage in both enduring and sharing such traumatic episodes. Alongside empathy for women, and challenging men’s complicity and denial, something deeper needs to be talked about. We need to look further than the knee-jerk condemnation of men. It may be an important stage but it won’t stop the toxic pattern.
It’s not just because men are ‘bad’. I do think, though, that we may be addicted. Nothing I write is to excuse or condone any harassment of women anywhere by any man, ever. But to fully deal with the issue, we need to consider how heterosexual men are addicted to women and femininity in a way that women are not addicted to men and to masculinity.
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It’s clear that among the three or so billion men in the world, there is a wide spectrum; from those who would never harass a woman, all the way through to those who are weak, ignorant and would even boast with a proud sense of entitlement about grabbing women’s genitals.
But looking at us humans as an alien might see our species, I would have to conclude that on this planet, the men as a whole seem significantly more affected, moved, spellbound, touched, even driven madly into addiction by women’s sensuality, form, and sexuality than women are, generally, by men’s. Is that too far-out to say?
Evidently, a huge number of the men of this planet are untrained and ill-equipped for this degree of all-consuming attraction or desire. Many men need to gorge on pornography or fantasy to temporarily tame that desperate feeling of needing and wanting sensual, sexual and intimate contact with the feminine.
Evidently, a huge number of the men of this planet are untrained and ill-equipped for this degree of all-consuming attraction or desire
This is exacerbated by consumer culture, which backs up the belief that women’s sexuality is a commodity. It promotes an attitude that all a woman really is is something to be bought, sold or simply taken. Look how much of the mainstream media and advertising is blatantly and unapologetically exploiting this same ‘weakness’ or ‘tendency’ in men to be so hooked in and captivated, even bewitched, by women. Not to mention the staggering percentage of daily internet traffic that is to porn sites.
If men are subject to a bigger challenge to keep their addictive compulsion under control, then let’s break the taboo and educate the men to deal with this properly, without shame, as they are growing up. Is our culture ready to do this?
I see a new wave of men who are not so blinkered when it comes to respecting who a woman really is, in her entirety. Men less disempowered by the traumatised impotency of their fathers and grandfathers. But they seem, to me, to be far from the majority.
When a man feels powerless – and especially disempowered, as so many men do – his ego can react by compensating elsewhere to readdress that felt imbalance. He may begin to abuse and disempower someone or something else. Women have been dehumanised for centuries.
If we want a culture where men have any hope of getting this Niagara of desire and disrespect under control for themselves (and for women) then let’s begin by stopping feeding it so much. Let’s stop using the power of it to sell things to men. Let’s stop using it to manipulate men or women, either in our media and culture, or in person. Let’s never use it to get what we want from men. Let’s not, through repeating this toxic abuse of men’s ‘addiction’, educate men that they’ll get more of their fix if they part with their money, buy this product, or do what you want.
If men are subject to a bigger challenge to keep their addictive compulsion under control, then let’s break the taboo
How can men and women forgive the past and step forward with our whole hearts together? Do we need to do a reparations-type process like at the end of apartheid in South Africa, or as seen post-genocide in Rwanda? What would be enough for men and women to move forward as partners and team-mates in this ultra-challenging subject area of attraction and desire?
It’s time for a new chapter of compassion and collaboration. We can all teach each other and our children to understand and work with ‘what is’; being open and non-judgemental about the unique predicament that both men and women have to deal with. I’d love us to melt the taboo and start now.
Featured image: Tim Gouw