Ladies and Gentlemen

Something has been troubling me throughout the #MeToo movement’s ascendancy and I’m sure that I am not alone. That our modern society has a problem in relationships between the sexes is not in question. Neither is the fact that historically there has been a power imbalance that allowed bad men to harm women more easily and frequently than bad women could harm men. This isn’t only a question of social and economic mores but also deals with the reality that, in general, women are physically less strong than men and, of course, are the ones who get pregnant. Despite the attempts of ideologues to deny it, most of us also acknowledge a reality of psychological and, for want of a better word, soul differences between men and women that leave women more vulnerable.

The #MeToo movement has done a service by exposing the extent of despicable treatment towards women that many of us, male and female,  were truly unaware of or dismissed as an unfortunate but unchangeable part of life. I am not speaking here of unquestionable breaches of the law such as putting knock-out drugs in a woman’s drink and then raping her. I’m also not speaking of complaints that are ludicrous like a woman claiming sexual harassment because a co-worker compliments her haircut. When we include those types of extreme instances in a general discussion we miss the opportunity to actually improve society.

What I would like to do today is to react to calls I’ve seen for men to behave respectfully. I am all in favor of respect. However, I do think that addressing men alone misses the complete story. Unless we want to advance the idea that women are helpless, incompetent and passive creatures, we need to demand an accounting on the distaff side as well.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is to view the #MeToo movement as a male/female issue. In my mind, there are and always have been moral men and women who treat each other well and there are and always have been immoral men and women who look to take advantage of members of the opposite sex. (Of course, history up to the present shows that interactions between people of the same gender are frequently less than upright, but that is not today’s prominent issue.) There are both men and women who respect themselves and those who do not.

Anyone who thinks that all men should be accountable for each other (being male, particularly a white male means you are privileged and as such deserving of being punished even if it is an injustice) or that all women are accountable for each other (we must believe all female victims) has to be willing to talk about enablers and manipulators (for the purpose of this Musing, I’m leaving aside liars).

A few months back, I heard an episode of NPR’s This American Life that featured a female reporter interviewing young men in Australia. It seems that it is considered a “game” there for a young man to run into a group of young women near the beach and slap one woman’s backside. The reporter was appalled and tried desperately to explain to a one of these men in particular what was wrong with his behavior.

When he said that the women didn’t object she pointed out that perhaps they were afraid to respond negatively. That was a good point. However, he countered that about 20% of the time, he ended up with a hook-up for that night and that more frequently than that he heard the “chosen” female boast about her attractiveness to her mates.

I have never been to Australia and don’t know the culture there. But this doesn’t seem to me to be a situation for which men bear sole responsibility.  As long as there is a plus side that is delivered by a fair number of “victims,” the responsibility has to be shared. It is perfectly plausible to imagine a responsible male chastising this young man and being accused of being a prude by both the young man and a number of the girls in the vicinity. Perhaps the females sometimes saunter in certain locations to get exactly the response our callow youth is willing and eager to deliver? How is he to learn which women want to be treated like that and which do not?

Shortly after my husband and I were married, he was asked to deliver a speech to a group of women, (not obviously Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist or atheist) on Christmas Eve. Why one would ask a Rabbi to give a talk on Christmas is obvious if one is looking for an available religious leader. But why were these women available?

Their organization – and I kid you not – was composed of women having affairs with married men. They told my husband that Thanksgiving and Christmas were the hardest days of the year for them. Other days each woman might believe that her boyfriend was leaving his family; on holidays they knew that to be a lie. Now, exactly how many men would be having adulterous affairs if no woman allowed herself to get involved with a married man? If women truly cared about other women enough, adultery would just about disappear.

We navigate a complicated world. Women and men are both unique individuals as well as belonging to numerous groups, one of which is dictated by gender.  Each behavior we choose affects others associated with us. This does not mean we should be interchangeable in the eyes of the law (in other words reprisal attacks) nor in other people’s eyes. But it is ludicrous to pretend that in our day and age men and men alone are responsible for women being mistreated, let alone when that word is not clearly defined.

It is not blaming the victim to suggest that if more women acted like ladies, the upside of being a gentleman would be greater.   The responsibility for more respectful discourse and behavior between men and women falls on everyone. If close to 50 years after the debut of Ms. Magazine women feel so victimized, perhaps both genders need to rethink which “reforms” led to a better society and which took us in the opposite direction.

38 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen”

  1. What about abuse by women of men that has not been discussed. Why I wonder if it was considered demeaning to men that they had that happen to them ?
    After a discussion about abuse of women by men in a Church group meeting (women in attendance) Since then I asked 2 women if they saw parents or grandparents being abuse & both said YES .. I know my Franternal Grandmother was emotionally so abusive when my father was growing up that he would throw up at the table during grade school years. He & my mother resolved to NOT be that way at the table when I was growing up. So I did not even hear the “saying” that you HAVE TO CLEAN YOUR PLATE until a college Home Ec class it was talked about.
    SO I want to remind all that abuse by either sex is NOT GOOD.
    nickname when young was J J

  2. Elrita M Ferrera

    This is an excellent article! Many, along with myself, feel the exact same way! Behavior is taught by the parents. I, also, gave each of my children an Emily Post book on proper behavior. Taking into account , that these women have active backgrounds; This issue is getting out of hand! A man should Not lose career because a woman made an accusation! Where is the evidence?! Where is the due process?! Many Blessing To All Those Who Have Or Will Go Through This!

  3. I appreciate you taking this on. You are the first i have seen brave enough to tackle it. May you be the first of many.

    1. Carolyn, while I appreciate the compliment, I think that quite a few women are talking about this. You have to look, though, to find an “old-fashioned” perspective while screaming harridans get front page placement.

  4. Hi Susan
    I don’t really trust anything, in this case a movement that come from Hollywood, it’s well known for ages that to get a part in a movie you have to make favors, in the past we thought that women were the only target but now we know men too. I wonder if this me too movement has being created to cover up the young boys exposure to have sex encounters with male directors of in a position of power? That would expose the gay agenda and pedophiles chains existing in these kind of environment where you become famous fast and earn millions in a blink. It’s hypocritical how these women react now as if they didn’t know what it would happen if you were invited to a Hollywood director of similar house to have a tete a tete. I bet that they dressed up for the occasion very sexy to show their upsets. I’m not saying that is right I am just saying that women are part of the problem, women and men should be treated professionally in an office of work environment but to to parties is part of the Hollywood culture and that will not change, for a while the people in power would be more “careful” but this will be forgotten in a year, it’s very competitive out there and there are a lot of women and men that are willing to pay the price. The matter with minors is more complex because sometimes the same parents of mothers “sell” their children to achieve fame, there are predators there too as many well known actors and a lot of things going on, their culture will not change because it is in its core, everything should be exposed to the Light and a lot of people in power including politicians will fall, and we know that that will not happen, think about Clinton for just name one of hundreds. Hypocrisy 101. Learn from the biggest.

    1. I agree that a movement out of Hollywood, or DC for that matter, is more suspicious than from other places.

  5. Thank you for acknowledging the unique individual. There are times one can be treated like everyone else, and then there is not.

    An organization of women having affairs with married men is no shock. For them to invite some religious leader to speak is no shock at all. What would really be a shock? For someone to see into each individual person in that meeting and root out the actual cause for having no respect, no honor for themselves or others. That would make for a very interesting meeting indeed.

    Same for the situation in Australia described. No shock of what that man said or did. No shock that some women actually like that sort of thing. What would really be a shock? If that woman had punch him out completely. Far better than a good slap on the wrist I say.

    1. Lisa, I have wondered what would happen if a woman turned around and punched, but I do think most women would be scared of escalating into a violent encounter.

  6. I’m in total agreement with what you have to say. I suspect many women believe the same. Women do have a responsibility for their behavior. I have seen some TV shows where the women are seen as victims and yet (in my humble opinion) I can’t figure out why.


    1. One of the saddest parts in my mind, Rebecca, is that by focusing on foolishness, we sometimes look aside when real abuse is taking place.

  7. It’s interesting that after two weeks of being told to “Believe women,” many of us can recall instances when women shouldn’t be believed or trusted. I had a male family member who was bright, had a good personality, and was a devoted family man with two kids. He inherited a female boss, who wanted ALL of those things for herself. She began a campaign to make him another notch on her belt, and did make it clear that if he didn’t avail himself, his job would be in jeopardy. He was smart enough to keep evidence of her behavior (she send lots of suggestive e-mails and texts on the company computer) and made sure never to be alone with her at work. She was eventually fired – for having an affair with HER superior as well as not being all that competent to begin with. The idea that having two X chromosomes precludes a person from behaving badly is as preposterous as the notion that having a Y chromosome automatically makes a person guilty.

  8. Joan Marie Gloss Snyder

    I am from the 60s gen if mad men who cajoled women in the office.i mtself had experiences of sexual predators h owever, it merely made me stronger in saying outright, I AM NOT AVAILABLE, LOOK AWAY! It never failed to discourage a man and bring my own self respect to the front of his intentions. We women need more self respect, confidence and poise as our mothers whether here or from afar would want! We are all created veautiful in her womb and our Fathers would agree. The wars have brought significant demoralization to women and we must stand for love and justice once again. I agree that other women myst leave HANDS OFF married men to bring that about!

    1. Wise words, Joan. We have allowed society to conflate brains and achievement with lessening of morals.

  9. As you wisely say…”responsibility on BOTH sides”…if we add in boundaries, integrity and trust there could be a more positive trend in our society…
    Thank you…!!!

    1. Joanne, the destruction of trust between people is one of the goals of a socialist society. They want you to depend only on the ruling, governing power, not on family, friends, co-workers or community members.

  10. More often than not when women dress modestly, and are not crude in their speech, unwelcome attention disappears

    1. Ruth, in some, but certainly not all, cases that is so and if we removed the situations in which women’s self-respect and comportment could have an effect on men’s activities from the equation, it would be more clear that we need to deal decisively with the egregious, reprehensible situations that remain.

  11. Daniel and Susan, please give me the correct meaning of the name Israel.
    And thank you for your wonderful articles and podcasts. You are teaching me so much.
    Thank you God for commanding victories and deliverances for Israel.

  12. Michael Overstreet

    Susan points well taken. There are many powerful forces working diligently to shape our opinions and perspectives. A case in point, was the recent Supreme Court hearing on Judge Kavanaugh. None of the major news agencies felt it necessary to inform the public of Professor Ford’s status as the Head of the CIA internship program at Standford University. You can bet that the CIA conducted a through investigation of her background and found nothing that would prevent her from serving as a gatekeeper to one of the most powerful arms of the government. Secondly, these forces wish to strip us of our individuality and make us a part of a group. As always, thank you for your brilliant perspective and insight.

    1. Michael, I think you are suggesting that if she was as damaged by the alleged attack as she claimed, she wouldn’t have passed CIA vetting? I have to disagree here. I think we can rise above traumatic instances and act fine in most situations and for years, but the trauma still remains. That doesn’t mean that she was telling the truth or remembering accurately, but I don’t see that position as a proof that nothing happened. If I’m misunderstanding you, my apologies.

  13. Bravo for tackling this difficult subject. Your analysis and the comments I’ve read support that many of us have forgotten two important qualities to the detriment of male-female relationships, in fact all relationships. First is the quality of modesty. This applies to both women and men. All too often girls are taught to dress according to what is popular. This often means too short skirts or short-shorts, sheer and revealing blouses, etc. They thus entice the eyes of young men. Similarly, young men generally are not taught modesty of the eyes. That is, that one should not stare at young women not their wives but direct their eyes at other things so as not to be drawn into sin. The second quality is courtesy, and the related quality of respect for other people. When women view men with respect, men seem to respond by treating the women respectfully and courteously in response. This is a rather simple précis for a complicated issue, but I think it holds up.

    1. Joyce, wouldn’t it be interesting to find the areas where 99.9% of us agree (exposing yourself to someone on the street is wrong; using date-rape drugs is wrong – and both are crimes, I believe. Complimenting a woman’s dress is fine or socially awkward at worst, hiring the best person for the job is fine even if it’s a white male…) and then drill down to where we actually could have a respectful, non-partisan debate on the tougher issues?

  14. Oh, the places a rabbi must go! One would like to have learned the secret rationale, why a society of women seeking out adulterous affairs with men would engage a rabbi on Christmas Eve. Stingings of conscience? Consolation? Justification it certainly was not, for man of the cloth would hardly be sympathetic. But the #MeToo movement, if accurately characterized by the timid little academic creature with her mousey, pitiful little girl voice accusing Judge Kavanaugh of sexual depravity, is destined for abject failure. Such women, in stabbing men in the back or even in the face, are also shooting their fellow women in the foot. Their lot will not improve, for the #MeToo Maneuver will fall into line as just another cheap trick to smear and besmirch any political enemy. It started with Clarence Thomas, continued with Gary Hart, with Herman Cain, now with Brett Kavanaugh. Who’s next? It has become just another last-ditch tactic in the playbook of Saul Alinsky, obvious, transparent and predictable, to destroy one’s opponent.

    The end result? A certain Mediterranean nation demands chaperones between the sexes, for the underlying assumption in that culture is that hormones are more powerful than minds: men are not in control of their desires and demands, and women are too weak and compliant to resist them. The #MeToo imperative will result in a chaperone who is none other than a Big Government that will ruin the chances of women finding decent men as candidates for any kind of partnership. Men will live in peril, certainly. But don’t you think women will lose even worse? The cruel old rule applies: be careful what you ask for. You might get it.

    1. James, I had to pause at reading Gary Hart’s name on your list. Did I miss out on the real story there? I thought it was hubris in that he told reporters they could follow him around and see how wonderful he was and they did so, including his dalliance on a boat with a woman to whom he wasn’t married. In those days, that was enough to derail his campaign. This is long-ago history, but is there more to that story?

      1. No, actually not. One includes him among the others because of the common thread: when the opposition and complicit media wish to derail one’s campaign, disclosing a candidate’s ‘extracurricular’ indiscretions are the great method of choice.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear James–
      They sought me out as as speaker since most Christian clergy would be otherwise occupied on CHristmas Eve. They rightly suspected that I would be available. And there was no way I was going to decline that invitation and the opportunity it represented to learn more about how the world REALLY works.

  15. I totally agree
    Ive been thinking about that very thing
    Im not against #me too
    But women also do not need to show up at parties dressed like they are at their honeymoon, get drunk and flirt
    Dont give the guys the wrong
    And i am sensitive to this because of a personal experience of my own
    Both men and women need to take a step back and learn respect … again

  16. Susan,
    I’ve been a victim of a false accusation of “sexual harassment” and was fired, as a result. I won’t go into details. Suffice to say that when they tried to deny my unemployment claim, the magistrate gave them an education, and I got my money. This was 17 years ago, and things seem to have gotten a lot worse.

    1. Timothy, I’m sure the monetary compensation didn’t repay the anguish of what you went through.

  17. That was convoluted and complex that the only thing I thought back on that was blantently obvious that I witnessed at a VA facility. How a uniformed man in his early 40’s treated so rudely and assuming violating way, to a woman. It angered me and I thought very little of the man. He actually sickened me.

    1. Abuse should sicken us, Debbie. As with so many other things in our society, when we insist on making definitions as broad as possible, we end up neglecting the cases to which we should be paying attention.

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