I totally agree that there needs to be a greater degree of responsibility especially in this day and age, and people speaking out about a problem that’s so pervasive in our culture is long overdue. Everyone should have a right to speak out about their experiences and be listened to and supported.
But a completely different set of standards comes in when a particular person is accused of sexual wrongdoing. Yes, men like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein will get and have gotten the justice they deserve, but much more of #MeToo cases happen in our own lives like the accusation of Aziz Ansari, with lots of gray areas and ambiguities. Our current framework for a strict victim/perpetrator divide does not address those ambiguities, and I can’t see how our current call to vigilantism addresses them either. Justice system protections against highly emotional moments like these aren’t just in the courtroom: the presumption of innocence and benefit of the doubt needs to extend to the culture, because with vastly different accounts of the same event, the burden of being judge/jury/executioner doesn’t lie in our hands, because after all, we weren’t there.
We saw Morgan Freeman say in a CNN interview “don’t chase women, let women chase you” and then accused of sexual harassment and bad behavior, then go on to vehemently deny those accusations. We saw Asia Argento help kick off the #MeToo movement and then be accused of coercing a 17-year-old boy to have sex herself, so she went from hero to perpetrator in that course of a year. And in Louis C.K.’s return, I heard one other comedian say that Louis is in a position where he is now a symbol: when people see him, they see their own personal abuser, and I know it’s an inevitable, but I can’t see how that’s a fair burden for an individual to carry.
But reality rarely works this way, especially in our day to day interactions. As much as we are victims to various degrees, so we are executioners and perpetuators. What about the ways we perpetuate sexism/racism/other forms of injustice? I feel like the only way we can validly call someone out is if we check ourselves first, and say “Hey, I’m so saint either and I’ve done X and X, but what you did was not okay.” Until then I don’t see a difference between call-outs like Herbert and Emily in this case study and overzealous Christians that ostracize someone for having sex before marriage. “Who am I to judge?” is something I have to constantly ask myself when I have that voice in my head to call someone out, and it’s not until I can answer that question that I can follow through with checking someone else.
I agree that the #MeToo movement is off to a great start and is addressing a critical issue. But until accountability and responsibility applies to everyone, and that makes us all realize how harassment and abuse are perpetuated by institutions and systems well above a single individual, then the current from of justice isn’t one that can produce lasting change.