I have some work to do.
That’s clear, although it’s taken weeks to get to this point.
Like Matt Damon, I parsed degrees of sexual misconduct. I’m still parsing. One thing done doesn’t equate to other things done. I rolled that around in my head for a long time after Senator Al Franken was accused of sexual misconduct and then announced his plan to resign.
If Al Franken had put his hand on my ass while we were taking a selfie, I would have laughed about it. Oh, I’d have given him a look but it wouldn’t have been a big deal to me. No harm, no foul. Mulling this over, I realize this says more about my lifetime of self preservation than it does about Franken’s behavior. I have trained myself in the distinctions that I think matter – the distinction between goofy and sexist, between inappropriate and offensive, between safety and danger. And if I were to draw a circle around what has mattered to me these many years, it would be around only that last word – danger. I worry about danger and wave off everything short of that. Everything else I can handle and I figure if I can handle it, it doesn’t matter.
#MeToo advocates say that the degrees of offense between putting one’s hand on someone’s ass and rape are distinctions without a difference and I have had a hard time wrapping my head around this. The legal system has degrees of sexual offense; why wouldn’t our societal norms? I pondered that until I realize it’s my desire to let some people off the hook and also justify my own disregard for these seemingly minor offenses. I have accommodated myself to these things, why hasn’t everyone else? That seems to have been my unconscious question. What’s with all these women that they can’t figure this stuff out?
So I keep hearing “it’s all the same!”and I keep thinking “no, there’s a difference.” And in thinking that I find I am standing in a sea of men like Matt Damon but also other decent men near and far who think the same way. They remember the things they’ve done, things they intended as friendly and meaningless, never really assigning any import to their behavior. Just a guy being friendly, overly friendly, and they don’t think of those things for a minute as what they fundamentally were – exercises of dominance. They did those things because they could.
So I figured this out today. My thinking about Al Franken and other of the lesser offenders is a manifestation of my own accommodation of the behavior of men throughout my life in which I worry only about that which is physically dangerous. Which is crazy. It isn’t all the same but it comes from the same place. Dominance, entitlement, ownership, privilege. Why would I accommodate that? Tolerate it? I wouldn’t. Except I have, but I don’t think I will anymore.
I’m a feminist but not a finished product. Never a finished product. I can evolve with the best of them. Just give me time to think it through.