The Hidden Ramifications of the #MeToo Movement and the “Funnel of Male Response”
Yesterday, Rob Porter, a top White House aid, resigned from his position due to allegations that he abused his former wives. So far, Chief of Staff John Kelly has mistakenly thrown his political clout into defending Porter, and conservatives are starting to feel the negative effects of having stood behind an abusive person for so long (and even after discovering the revelation of abuse). What’s interesting to me is what no one seems to have really noticed: The response has been the same response we’ve always gotten, but the results are turning out to be completely different.
That needs a bit of unpacking, specifically to explain what it is I’m talking about. The reason for that is people want so badly to turn this into a partisan issue because it looks so good as one to people who might benefit. But in reality, it’s anything but a partisan issue. It’s one of gender.
And that’s something that a lot of men don’t really want to talk about. So, let me explain.
In the past, when allegations come forward about a man abusing a woman, it’s had to make its way through a really weird news cycle I like to call “the Funnel of Male Response.” Men have historically held the reins of power in both government and news media, so when a woman made a claim of abuse, there was always a male decision maker who either had to decide whether or not to run with the story, or to respond to it legally or politically. Whether through backroom deals, collusion, or straight out incompetence, the issue was often ignored or given so little attention that it was like there wasn’t a complaint made in the first place.
In a really interesting tweet from Emma Evans, she points out that her mother needed her father’s permission to open a checking account and his permission to keep her checking account after they were married, even though she actually worked at a bank herself. So, just one generation ago, a spouse of a man pretty much had no permission to conduct business in society without the direction of a patriarchal figure.
Fast-forward to today, and you start to see why a woman being abused by her husband is probably getting very little attention from a very male-dominated media and male-dominated political environment. Using that “Funnel of Male Response”, think about how practically every political issue involving violence against women has been handled in local, state and national government. First, there’s a claim of a male having done something abhorrent to or towards a woman. And then the male response is almost always one coaxed in the blanket of how it affects that specific male rather than the woman who made the claim. How many times did we hear a male politician say something like, “I have daughters, so I wouldn’t want that sort of thing to happen to them”, “I would never want to see that happen to a woman I love,” or “As a father or husband, we must enact this legislation to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen to women.” Basically, the commiseration in most of these cases or types is that a male patriarchal figure is responding as a male effected because of his proximity or relations to women.
This is why when we hear a response from John Kelly, stating “I can’t say enough good things about him” and urged Porter to remain in his position, we’re hearing the kind of response we typically hear about these types of circumstances. Senator Orin Hatch kind of sums up the problem by his own responses to this story in which he started out defending Porter (and calling the accusers “character assassins”) before realizing the political ramifications of being on the wrong side of this issue and then started talking about how such behavior is not acceptable, if it happened.
And that sums up the majority of the responses we’ve been getting from most other political allies of Porter. After the “#MeToo” movement, there was a call to believe female complainers and to support them going forward, but as expected, the response has been to go the direction we’ve always gone, and that’s to play the “they need to prove their accusations” before we’re willing to state any sense of belief. And then, as if by script, once enough evidence is given, the powers that be will “accept” the punishment that comes and almost always there’s no approach to somehow change the environment so such a circumstance never happens again.
Which brings me back to pointing out why this problem is pervasive and almost immutable. Our society has not evolved enough to push beyond the rationalization that men still think the world revolves around them. Hell, I’m a guy, and even I realize that sometimes I fall into that sense without even realizing I have. One thing that has been so wonderful about the #MeToo movement is that it is sometimes silencing the male response and even eliminating the Funnel of Male Response in such a way that the usual mechanism of schema that men tend to rely upon don’t even get the opportunity to interject into a conversation. So, instead of a male directed approach of dealing with how Harvey Weinstein is just a symptom of a bigger problem, a wave of firings happened instead, so that Weinstein has been completely powerless in his ability to respond, which is EXACTLY the opposite of the circumstances that he used to “allegedly” cause the problems he did that ruined his life and career. What the #MeToo movement has done is provide rapid speed in responding to allegations that used to have a filter that could never be removed.
And yes, it’s going to cause problems for a lot of men who will probably get swept up in the movement to provide a new sense of accountability. But hopefully, once the first wave of this has run its course, a correction will take place, and then through punctuated equilibrium, we will achieve a new, level playing field where such atrocities against women are ever allowed to take place. For me, that is what I hope will be the true ramifications. Unfortunately, I suspect the actual ramifications will be male blow back where things sort of go back to the previous status quo again because people who have the power aren’t usually all that generous in giving it up, even if it is exactly the right thing to do.