Taking Care With #MeToo

Taking Care With #MeToo


Leonard Zwelling

The revelations surrounding the awful behavior of Harvey Weinstein along with similar boorishness by James Toback, Bill Cosby, Mark Halperin and Kevin Spacey, have in turn led to an outpouring of complaints about the bad behavior of men toward women in the workplace and elsewhere all over the country. As dreadful as listening to this is to endure, and, more importantly, as dreadful as it was for the victims to have to endure the aggression, I think we need to keep our eyes on the ball—on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

First, this furor is not about sex. It’s about the abuse of power. It is about what occurs when one person (usually a man) abuses his position to get what he wants from another person (usually a woman and often sex). The aggressor is in a position of power over the victim and the victim often feels obliged to give in to the aggression to maintain something she needs—like a job.

This simply is not tolerable in any of its manifestations.

I am going to go out on a limb and say this is way more common than even the recent news would suggest as people (often men) use their positions of power in an organization to bully others (often women). Nonetheless, let’s not assume that the aggressor is always a man or that the victim is always a woman. A woman supervisor can bully a male subordinate just as easily as a man can bully a woman. Let’s stay aware of the fact that this controversy is not just about sex or gender. It’s about power, its use and its abuse.

Second, let’s also be aware that every man is not a rapist. Most men would not use their positions of power to coerce men or women with the threat of bad repercussions if the person with lesser power does not give in to the demands of the person with more power. Every case of alleged abuse must be examined carefully and as objectively as possible to ascertain what happened. This is often difficult as he-said, she-said situations are common in such incidents. I don’t think it is going to be easy to make a criminal case against Harvey Weinstein even though I believe one ought to be made. My guess (from watching Law and Order) is that in any one case, the other cases against the defendant may not be allowed in as evidence. It might be better to convict Weinstein of a pattern of malfeasance under the RICO standards than it will be to convict him of rape against any one woman.

All I suggest is that we all take a deep breath and make sure that if we are accusing anyone of anything, we have a legitimate case and that all other means of resolving the conflict have failed. That being said, if all the gossip about Weinstein, Cosby, Toback and Spacey is really true, perhaps a criminal case against each can be made. If that would serve as a warning to other predators, perhaps some DA might consider trying.

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