Well, the #Me Too movement has made Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. It seems the land of the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy Hearings has done it again. And this time the inquisition is better than ever, for in Salem, there was that needling formality of a trial. How dull, when the good lynching spirit, so inextricable part of our national DNA, is on the line.
The self-important #Me Too “victims,” usually nonentities with aligned menstrual cycles, though sometimes celebrity demagogues, hope to gain their twenty minutes of fame at the expense of the authentically talented. In the past few months, several of the condemned have disappeared from public life, Soviet-style. Everyone is vulnerable, for the Bacchic frenzy does not discriminate between a gruesome groping yesterday, and a lusty comment made forty years back at Studio 54.
Naturally, the accusers are always described as brave. Apparently, no one bothers to recall the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig’s distinction between “individual courage” and “mass courage.” The latter is courage that “comes of being of a herd” and is caused by a variety of elements including “a great deal of vanity, a great deal of recklessness and even boredom… and fear of taking a stand against the mass enthusiasms of one’s fellows.” So, this much needs be said ab initio: most of these suddenly lion-hearted accusers were lily-livered for decades, until they could join other silly creatures like themselves.
Now, when I first heard about the “movement,” for some reason I decided to read the French papers, I guess because I figured the French at least could take a properly derisive tone about this puritanical American nonsense. However, I was initially disappointed, for I learned that the French have their own version called “#BalanceTonPorc,” or ‘squeal on your pig’. Apparently, there are versions in Italy, Russia, even the Basque country.
Yet after a little digging, I was not disappointed with the French. I soon discovered that the actress Catherine Deneuve signed an open letter denouncing ‘Me Too’ Movement as ‘Witch-Hunt’ and that the French cinema icon said that the it was stymieing sexual freedom. “Rape is a crime,” the letter in Le Monde read. “But flirting insistently or clumsily isn’t a crime, and chivalry is not a machismo aggression.” The letter further claims that men should have the “indispensable freedom to offend and bother” women as they please.
The letter, signed by 100 female French writers and academics accused the #MeToo movement of creating an environment that is unfair to men, “who are sanctioned in their work, pushed to resign, etc., when their only wrongdoing was to touch a knee, try to steal a kiss, speak about intimate things during a professional dinner or send messages that are sexually loaded to a woman who wasn’t attracted to them.”
“What began as freeing women up to speak has today turned into the opposite – we intimidate people into speaking ‘correctly,’ shout down those who don’t fall into line, and those women who refused to bend are regarded as complicit and traitors,” the letter states, adding that men should be “free to hit on” women.
Recently, Ms. Deneuve said, “What’s next, squeal on your whore?”
Speaking of the French, I remember a scene in the novel Count d’Orgel, by Raymond Radiquet, that is telling. The Princess d’Austerlitiz’s car has broken down in front of a seedy crowd. The crowd is obnoxious and insolent. The Princess gets out of the car and starts directing repairs and talks to the mob. She was “magnificent under the gas lamp which suited her better than the brilliance of the electric light. She showed up well among the roughs, as much at ease as if she had always lived in their company.” However, one of the toughs did venture to speak offensively to the Princess. And what did she do? She barked, “Here you surely brute, why don’t you give a hand instead of standing there swaggering.” The man, though cursing – which proved he was carrying out a duty- “pushed his way through the crowd, slipped under the car and put it right.
An example of that “individual courage” we were talking about. Anyways, that is how the Princess d’Austerlitiz handled a pig. O Lady, nurs’d in pomp and pleasure! Whence learn’d you that heroic measure?
How paltry these #Me Too wenches by comparison. Many behave like strumpets and are then astounded if not treated with the punctilio of courtesy. But ask any real lady what she would do if she were ever harassed. Do you know what she will say? She would say that no man would ever dare harass her. Indeed, men are rarely discourteous to true ladies. Even the grubbiest roughneck guesses pretty good how he can treat who.
Or recall, say, Kitty in The Painted Veil. She was seduced by the tall and powerful Assistant Colonial Secretary, Charlie Townsend. After the affair, Kitty feels used and abused. However, after she follows her husband Walter to the cholera-infested mainland of China, she gets strong. When she sees Charlie-boy again, she sends him to hell, Princess d’Austerlitiz-style. Guess what? He scurries off, tail between his legs. That is how it is done, ladies, if mother hasn’t taught you.
Another troubling thing is that #Me Too is not confined to what happens on the swivel chair of an office or tin desk at a government bureau. You can get denounced for what you do at the disco-tech, bait and tackle store, mushroom hunting, anywhere. Still, your job can get you for it all the same. “If an employer can address the concerns in a #MeToo posting, it could save itself a lot of money in litigation costs,” according to Paul Patten, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Chicago. So, are we headed toward a puritanical culture where a fellow will need to obtain written consent every step of the way? “Can I hold your hand? Can I kiss you? Please sign here. I’d like to grab your rump now, please confirm. Is that what most women really want?
Folks: there is a difference between the unwanted pinch on the butt at the bar and a lecherous tongue kiss by someone with power over your job. Similarly, there is a difference between a clumsy pickup line and attempted or actual rape. To blur the distinction diminishes the latter. Yet at a congressional hearing on campus rape, Representative Jared Polis of Colorado strongly hinted that anyone accused of sexual misconduct should be dismissed without any fact-finding at all! “If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” he said. “We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty.”
What really upsets me, though, is that they have now gone after Gene Simmons, the bassist for the band KISS – the one with the long tongue. I dressed like him for Halloween one year long ago. I admired his seven-inch leather heels. Simmons allegedly grabbed an interviewer’s hand and “commented with a cooing sound” about how soft it was. He also reportedly turned her interview questions into sexual innuendos. Unlike many of the condemned, frightened for their jobs, whimpering for mercy, Mr. Simmons refuses to apologize, preferring to deal with it with Miltonian scorn.
Well, at least there’s one less reason to want to be a rock star, if you can’t even make cooing sounds at a little hussy. Great job girls!©
Mark Mantel lives in Virginia