#METOO Take Two

 

When my children were little, one of the things I struggled to teach them was the idea of cause and effect. Specifically, the idea that when they were the agents of cause, there could be no one other then themselves to blame for the following effect. Leave your favorite toy outside when it rains? You have no one but yourself to blame when it gets wet. It doesn’t matter that you successfully left it outside a hundred times before without it getting rained upon; the lack of rain did not serve as some sort of nonverbal de facto contract between you and the sky whereupon the party of the first part (you) have the clear and inviolate agreement of the party of the second part (the sky) not to let water fall upon your favorite toy.

This also applies to the issue of pretending to “ clean” your room by shoving everything—dirty dishes, clean clothes, (presumably) dead hornets nests, permission slips, one shoe out of every pair of shoes you own—under the bed. Just because your dad never looked under the bed when checking your “work” doesn’t give you some sort of eminent domain over the space underneath the bed, making it a legally grey area where you can hide your assets as if in some sort of tax haven. When you have created a sufficient enough sized disaster in your room that even I notice it, you are the one who needs to clean it. Cause, and effect. In reality, unlike the law, there are no loopholes. The rain (or Mom) is not going to let you off on a technicality.

This notion, that “getting away” with something is the same as getting permission to do it, is, I think, at the very heart of the current backlash against the #metoo movement. As more and more unwelcome behavior is being called out, more and more of the people who previously were “getting away” with those behaviors are reacting with shock and dismay. (“What? It’s not okay to pressure a woman into having sex? Next thing you’ll tell me it’s not okay to hug women who don’t want to be hugged—what?”)

People who complain that “all of the rules are changing now” are ignoring the fact that the rules have not changed; it’s just that they were never playing by the rules in the first place. Rain falling out of the sky isn’t new—the fact that this is the first time it landed on your favorite toy is.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: ignorance is not an acceptable excuse either. Even putting aside the legal fact that “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” the truth is that you were never ignorant in the first place. Are you really going to make “I didn’t realize there was such a thing as rain” the centerpiece of your argument? Or even, “I didn’t know you didn’t want me to put bowls of soup under my bed; you should have told me you didn’t like it.”

Look, no one likes to be called out on bad behavior: the first instinct for everyone, from toddlers all the way up to Presidents and Popes, is to deny, deflect, and defend. I have no idea what the evolutionary purpose behind that kind of reaction is, but nevertheless it seems to be hard wired into our DNA.

So we get it. You got called out for doing something wrong, and now you’d just like for the whole thing to go away. And you’d really like for the rest of us to stop talking about it. Well, we’d like that, too; however, we can’t stop talking about it until you understand that getting caught was never the problem: it was the doing all along. Tired of having your dirty laundry pulled out from under the bed (both literally and figuratively), and the subsequent lectures/tweetstorms that follow? You know the solution.

Stop the cause, and we’ll stop the effect.

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