It Goes Without Saying
Let me start off by making a couple of very obvious comments: I am in no way belittling either the tip or the larger under water elements of any incidence of sexual harassment or any aspect at all of the abusive casting couch culture of Hollywood.
Neither am I justifying any chauvinistic or laissez faire attitudes to this awful reality of gender-based derision within society at large, perhaps especially in the ‘innocuous’ playground or changing room contexts of life. Cover-up, silence and fear are entirely inexcusable.
Something is very clearly rotten in the state of Denmark and it’s only right and proper that in this moment in history – a moment of opportunity – we should all take stock and mourn with those who mourn as the epicentre of our corporate outrage and prayer.
However, as late as I may be – and to whatever extent uninvited – I’m now also gatecrashing this joint, turning the music down and asking a few questions about some unhelpful narratives knee-jerking onto the main stages of social media. These narratives concern the so-called complicity of all men to the cultures mentioned above.
I’m especially having this word now because of the Jezebellic reaction of some women (and men) towards good blokes who are uncomfortable with the recent gender slur from some widely-read writers but who are being slapped down for even thinking about using the “Not All Men” hashtag.
I’m one of those blokes and, sorry guys, I will not be shutting up any time soon.
Only really picking up the wider #MeToo #NotAllMen narratives in the last 24 hours, I’ve been completely shocked and, frankly, insulted to read blog/Twitter content from both Christian and non-Christians, male and female, that ‘name and shame’ all men as being fully complicit in cultures of sexual harassment or discriminatory behaviour against women – by default, because they’re men.
One particularly aggressive article against men that I read last night, by John Pavlovitz, was like listening to an unrepentant Mark Driscoll sermon from five years ago at Mars Hill when forms of male bullying were applauded because of the diagnoses of sub-standard male character that they supposedly exposed. Evidently, because there is stuff that needs to be said, Pastor John Pavlovitz claims,
We (all men) are fully complicit in these #MeToo stories, whether we have intentionally acted, contributed unknowingly, nurtured with our silence, multiplied with our laughter, or cosigned with our credit cards… (emphasis mine)
I would like to know from Pastor Pavlovitz how one can be fully complicit and also unknowing at the same time – answers on a postcard, I guess.
I’ve also read other blogs closer to home such as Martin Saunder’s piece on Christian Today in which, of any man resisting a sense of guilt in the knowledge of the sexually predatory behaviour of other men, he says,
…is to practise wilful ignorance of the wider dynamics of our culture…
In other words, if all men don’t embrace and acknowledge a felt sense of guilt over Weinstein et al, they are wilfully ignorant – and blameworthy – of a wider culture of evil that they also, presumably, excuse.
This is bonkers.
Then, in Saunder’s very next paragraph, he lurches from this grossly generalised thought train about casting couches and the complicity of all men to a much wider issue relating to equal rights for men and women in general terms.
We then find ourselves thinking about churchmanship and where each of us might be on the egalitarian/complementarian spectrum, the abuse of conservative theology to excuse abuse (as though the theological positions he respects in the previous sentence were in fact not in step with the Spirit at all).
We’re then thrown back in the deep end of a very tragic story about his friend who was horribly abused as though to underline the point that we’re all, (yes all), guilty and fully complicit in this culture – perhaps more so if you happen to be a Christian man or, God forbid, a evangelically conservative Christian man working on a building site.
She didn’t just encounter one ‘bad apple’, but men, over and over again throughout her life who have believed they’re entitled to treat her like this. Not a tiny minority, but the men everywhere who can’t quite avoid following a young woman’s body as it walks past them as they sit in a coffee shop, let alone a building site.
Isn’t this simply bewildering? The ignorance of such a stereotype is borderline infantile.
I’ve never met John or Martin (and I guess we might get on really well if I did), but, frankly, I feel more than a little insulted by this type of generalised reasoning and, I suspect, that more than a few other blokes on Planet Earth may feel the same.
But this isn’t mainly about me being offended; it’s mainly about finding the solution to these cultures which is never going to be achieved by the small-brained knee-jerk that society is now making.
Both Parlovitz and Saunders fail to see that men can be part of the solution without having been part of the problem. But, for these two guys – and plenty of women – that’s not good enough. For them, the only way for any man to be part of the solution is to accept their full responsibility for something they’ve never thought or done. Here’s Saunders again,
Shaming an entire sex isn’t the answer, I was repeatedly told. I respectfully disagree. I think we should feel some reflected sense of shame, because that not only acknowledges that we’re part of the problem, but also that we could form part of the solution.
Again, this is bonkers on a whole new level of bonkerdom.
I wish to God that John and Martin hadn’t spoken to men, (and encouraged women to as well) as though we are all cave-dwelling reprobates. Instead, I wish they had taken the #NotAllMen trend and written a balanced piece that was both firm and even accusatory, but just not fundamentally sweeping and generalised.
Perhaps then we could have had some quality blogs to read about why and how it is that, actually, #NotAllMen rise to the challenge of being husbands or leaders, brothers or employees as they should do. Just in exactly the same way that not all women become the women that they should be.
Rather than first crippling men who struggle to excel in life in general with this false guilt of a whole bunch of specific stuff they’ve never thought or done, let’s have some blogs that first consider the fact that some men have also experienced the very same distress and anger over abuse of women (and men) as other women have and yet don’t consider themselves to have been fully complicit in the cultures of abuse.
It is the right and proper, God-given, Spirit-led male leadership in both the home and the church (and arguably in all of society) that will only ever more seriously get to the root of this ugly pandemic of the abuse and discrimination of women:
Fathers raising sons to love and respect and prefer their sisters and wives with Christ-like service; leaders speaking boldly to men in church without crippling them and stacking up burdens and expectations that not even Bear Grylls is able to manage; radical social narratives that counter and expose feminism in all of its very ugly and demonic forms that essentially just want men to “shut up and sit down”.
The irony of this new, very sudden ‘all men fully complicit’ narrative is that it is exactly what the devil is hoping for.
I would encourage every single advocate for this narrative spouted by Pavlovitz and Saunders to consider the simple thought that every man being involved in the solution doesn’t require every man being labelled as part of the problem.
If you can’t see the profound difference between these two positions, you are part of the problem!
Finally, I would plead with you, in your passion for seeing these #metoo cultures stopped, that you would first also accept that the henious double-standard in society (the disparity between what is acceptable for women to men cf. men to women) is possibly the biggest root needing axed as part of the process.
And, yes, we should all be involved in that.