Beyond the disbelief that women have endured in matters of sexual assault and harassment is an issue deeper than the abuse itself – there is an underlying credibility issue that plagues women. Since the beginning of time, history has painted women as manipulative and deceptive. This has even been supported by the very first story of biblical teachings as Eve tricked Adam into taking a bite of the apple. Thousands of years later, it is this perception of women that has been ingrained into our society and puts our sexual integrity into constant question. This even transcends into the workplace and translates into a broad description that women are emotionally unreliable and subsequently unfit for certain roles. But that is all now changing.
In the era #MeToo more and more people are willing to believe women particularly in scenarios of sexual assault and harassment. Through this movement, we have seen accusations of sexual misconduct sweep across industries and purge notorious abusers from our workforce and in many cases from our society completely. Women have not only gotten the support that we’ve longed for but we have gained an enormous amount of power in a relatively short span of time. I would even venture to say that we have gotten a windfall of power. But that actually concerns me because obtaining too much power too quickly creates a situation ripe for abuse.
With our newly heard voices and a platform designed to protect these voices comes duty and responsibility. Any abuse of this power and misuse of its purpose will only reignite the deceptive stigma that women have been fighting to disparage. We are worthy and deserving but that draws a fine line between entitled. It is important to ensure that this Movement remains pure in its purpose and we do not allow it to be hijacked for personal benefit or vengeance or as we’ve seen in the Kavanaugh hearings, to be used as a political tool. Once that line is crossed, the credibility of both the Movement and of women will be shattered. Regaining trust will be difficult.
Sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace has existed as long as there have been men in power and the #MeToo Movement has removed the inoculation that men once had against the accusations of women. What the Kavanaugh hearings have further demonstrated is that even the most privileged men in our country have to answer for sexual misconduct allegations. We clearly have their attention now, the question is, will we use it for good and to advance social progress or will we use it to seek revenge and retribution for millennia of oppression and abuse?
I for one do not believe that a history of struggle entitles women to sweeping penalties of guilt that slot an entire gender into a perpetrator framework. Just as not all women lie and deceive, not all men are guilty of sexual misconduct. So rather than choosing a side, I will choose truth. Sexual abuse of any kind is a serious offense but so are the allegations themselves. Neither the abuse nor the allegations should be taken lightly and any abuse and misrepresentation of the truth weakens the entire Movement and diminishes its cause.
Unless the standard by which we operate puts truth at the forefront, the Movement will not have a sustainable path forward and may eventually cease to exist. Due process cannot become overshadowed by the power of momentum and destroy everything in its pathway with little consideration given to collateral damage. A cause that is meant for good cannot destroy so many in the process. We have to be better than that and we can be. But in order to do so we cannot lead with anger. Instead we must have open dialogue that includes men in our discussions. And making men the villains of our pain will only hurt us in the end.