I simply cannot fathom the stories and images that are being cast our way—of men sending lewd pictures of themselves; initiating unwanted contact with women or forcing women to touch them; of placing women in a demeaning and uncomfortable position of having to reject unwanted advances; of masturbating in front of an unwilling audience. It’s not just vile; I simply don’t manage to understand how, or why, a man does those things.
After Danielle Berrin confronted Ari Shavit’s sexual misconduct in the fall of 2016, well before this latest wave of revelations of sexual harassment, I offered a confession that bears repeating: I should know better than to be surprised. I should not ask, #YouToo? with disbelief. #YouToo?, Louis C.K. #YouToo?, Roy Moore? #YouToo?, Al Franken? #YouToo?, Larry Nassar? #YouToo?, Harvey Weinstein? #YouToo?, Dustin Hoffman?
And yet: though the surprise is long gone, the disappointment of #YouToo? looms large. What’s more, the scope and persistence of the latest wave of revelations lead to a very real quandary: how am I to manage in a world in which so many men—many of whom I held in esteem, or whose work has been significant in my life—have acted so deplorably towards women?
To be sure, the continuing pain of those who have been subject to these abuses endures. But in this piece, I want to focus on how both we as individuals (especially men) and society as a whole can do a serious accounting of our varying levels of complicity in this rampant abuse.