On Friday, author and philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers, otherwise known as "The Factual Feminist," released a video on YouTube in which she speaks about the current wave of sexual harassment and assault stories.
As always, her perspective is nuanced and unique, and well worth checking out. The video can be viewed below the partial transcript:
But there are a few worrisome signs. Remember Vice President Pence's rule about never eating alone with a woman? This was mocked as prissy just a few months ago — but now in the aftermath of the scandals, many think this rule, which was intended to protect women from men, and men from false accusations, they think this rule has been vindicated. But whatever the intention, these rules take us backwards, and everyone loses, especially women.
Young women need the support and mentorship of male supervisors, and in many industries, this means the kind of after-hours collaboration that has always been there for young men.
But calls for instituting the Pence rules aren't the only manifestation of a new puritanism. Christmas parties and happy hours are under a cloud. According to The New York Times, in some workplaces, open bars are being replaced with games zones. Politico Labor Editor Timothy Noah suggests that we could limit sexual harassment by making meetings with anyone behind closed doors a fireable offense. Such suggestions are silly and infantilizing. We need rules to rid us of creeps. We don't need a sex panic.
A quick reality check is in order. There are about 151 million men and women in the U.S. workforce, and despite the recent scandals, most of them appear to be working together in relative harmony. They manage to hold meetings, plan product launches, attend conferences, travel, even attend parties were libations are served, without incident. ...
Now most of the sensational cases in media involved high-profile men working in unusual environments with little or no accountability. Companies with strong leaders who encourage civility and respect are far less likely to have a problem. They do need to have a clear policy against harassment, and a system for reporting bad behavior, but federal laws against sexual harassment were enacted to protect workers from pervasive, severe bullying, coercion, or extortion; they weren't meant as a social purity code. Our current great awakening on harassment could devolve into the great sex panic of 2017.
And speaking of panic, I'm also worried about male bashing, and witch-hunts. Soon after the Weinstein scandal broke, an anonymously-sourced "Shitty Men in Media" list began circulating on social media. This blacklist accused more than 70 male journalists of sexual harassment. But the charges ranged from weird lunches to rape. The informants collapsed important distinctions between criminal predation and unwanted flirtation, and the men couldn't defend themselves, and anyone who tried to defend them could be accused of blaming the victim — even anonymous ones.
The blacklist received criticism, especially from leftists who pointed out the dangers. Such lists can destroy innocent lives, but some prominent feminists dismissed this criticism as backlash. Writer Roxane Gay disparaged what she called "hand-wringing about ... the ethics of anonymous disclosure." Then she suggested that all men confess to how they have hurt women in ways great and small. Now this male-averse feminism is not mainstream, but its influence is growing. Not only is it wrong to tar half of humanity, but condemnation of all men hurts a necessary and worthy cause.
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that a majority of men say they are now likely to speak out if they see sexist mistreatment in the workplace. Let's not squander this moment, which is a profound opportunity for women and men of good will to speak honestly and work together to begin to write the next chapter in the quest for equality and dignity.