Recently, a friend of mine posted a status update on Facebook. “I’m glad I’m not a man right now,” it read. And within a second I replied, “I’m not even sure I like being MARRIED to a man right now.”
After the preceding few weeks of the much needed #MeToo campaign, every woman I knew was deep in re-traumatization, with all of our repressed—or otherwise managed—memories of sexual harassment, abuse, assault, rape, and molestation flooding to the surface. Already, my social media feeds were just scrolling stories of flashing, the bruises left after a rape, what it was like to carry the secret of child molestation, or that time your boss told you to show more cleavage, because that’s why you had the job.
It was bad. And worse, was trying to explain it to the men in my life. Even the good, liberal, feminist men in my life. Even the man I married. Because it seemed that the gulf between walking through the world knowing that your body is in danger of sexual violation at all times, and not ever having to do that, is a gulf too wide to scream across. And just when you think a man in your life really gets it, he says something that makes you realize that, no, he really doesn’t.
And I know, it’s not him. It’s the culture we all swim in. It’s the culture he was raised in. It’s rape culture. We live here.
But then the Al Franken allegations dropped. And for some reason, even though that set of allegations was far milder than literally any story from the Weinstein playbook (and let’s not even get into the Roy Moores of the world), that’s the one that went off like a nuclear bomb in our living room. Because Al Franken is, by most accounts, a good, liberal, feminist man. Women who have worked for him say he’s professional and respectful. Colleagues say the same.
And yet. A picture says a thousand words, and that picture made me sick to my stomach.
At that moment, it went from the abstract to the specific. The fact is, all men are complicit. Hell, most women are complicit too. And here I am, married to a man I love, questioning literally everything about the nature of manhood.
Did I know it was this bad? Of course I did. But do I want to believe it is this bad? Of course I don’t.
Luckily for us, we had a trip away from the kids planned, and during a defenses-down conversation over breakfast, I asked a lot of questions. I got some decent answers. I cried.
And you know, exactly nothing was better. But at least I felt like it was more out in the open.
Because as Rebecca Traister wrote on The Cut in her excellent essay on complicity:
As cries of alarm for the ladies pour from the mouths of men we know through experience or plausible rumor to be culprits themselves, it’s easy to feel jaded and apprehensive: One day, my friends and I learn that a man who’s been bemoaning the prevalence of harassment also stuck his hand up a colleague’s skirt when he was her boss. “It feels like Allison Williams with the keys in Get Out,” says my friend Irin Carmon. “Trust no one.”
And I know I’m not alone. Not just because every woman in my life is having similar conversations, but because an APW reader wrote in:
How do you have an intimate relationship with a man right now? I have a long-term male partner, who I love and respect and value, and he gives that right back to me. But the refrain in my head right now is, “I hate men.” I don’t know if that’s healthy, but what can I say. And it can be hard to separate my feelings for men in general with how I feel having an intimate relationship with a man. More and more frequently, I find it difficult to be my non-angry self, to allow myself to be vulnerable with him, to be intimate, to not just say FUCK ALL MEN and go join a commune of only amazing women forever.
Which brings me to you guys. For those of you in intimate relationships with men, how are you engaging on the issue of #MeToo? What hard questions are you asking? What answers are you getting? What answers are you not getting? And for those of you who just have men that you love in your lives, how are you handling the conversation?
And where do we go from here? Because I honestly have no idea.