World View: International #MeToo Movement Generates Backlash Against Women from ‘Mike Pence Rule’

TIME Magazine

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Time Magazine makes international #MeToo movement ‘person of the year’
  • The ‘Mike Pence rule’ shows how the #MeToo backlash will hurt women

Time Magazine makes international #MeToo movement ‘person of the year’

Time Magazine's funereal cover: Person of the Year 2017: the #MeToo Silence Breakers
Time Magazine’s funereal cover: Person of the Year 2017: the #MeToo Silence Breakers

The #MeToo movement has gone international. In the US Congress and businesses, people are being forced out of office by anonymous sources and kangaroo courts. In Europe, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf has warned men to start listening to women, after tens of thousands of Swedish women have shared their stories under the #MeToo hashtag. Female MEPs are talking about their experiences in the European Parliament, and are openly displaying “#MeToo” placards at their desks.

The #MeToo hashtag has also spread to China. In China, the state-run media was forced to retract an article that said that sexual harassment was a Western problem, but “Chinese men are taught to be protective of their women. Behaving inappropriately toward women, including harassing them sexually, contradicts every Chinese traditional value and custom.” The article was taken down after a furious reaction by women on social media. Women in factory positions are frequently abused, and Chinese police don’t investigate domestic violence complaints, claiming that it is a family matter.

Time Magazine has now made it official. What Time used to call “Man of the Year” is now the “Person of the Year,” and the winner this year is “The Silence Breakers,” the female movie stars who broke their silence and openly accused powerful men who harassed and sometimes abused them.

According to Time, this has been a long time coming:

This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.

And there is no end in sight. Any man who said or did something to a woman even decades ago that she finds offensive can now be accused and judged by a kangaroo court to be guilty.

What are the rules? Can a man flirt? Can a man ask a woman he works with out on a date? Can a man tell a woman that she looks good today? Can a man have a sexy picture of his wife on his desk? Can a fireman read Playboy in the firehouse? In the circus atmosphere of today’s he-said/she-said world, any interaction between a man and a woman can be turned into an accusation of sexual harassment.

Female BBC news anchor Katty Kay says that a backlash is already developing:

The next fear is that men will get so nervous that they’re going to be accused of harassment that they will simply stop hiring, meeting or socializing with female colleagues. There are reports this is already happening. We will get shut out of the room where important decisions are made because men fear our presence? How ironic would that be?

As more and more men are forced to face sexual harassment accusations in the current circus atmosphere, it is pretty safe to say that the circus cannot last and that this will pass in a few months.

This will be a big relief to everyone, especially women, who are going to be facing an increasing backlash, the longer that this continues. Time Magazine and Politico (EU) and The Local (Sweden) and BBC and Guardian (London, 17-Oct)

The ‘Mike Pence rule’ shows how the #MeToo backlash will hurt women

People are talking about the current sexual harassment circus as if this is the first time that anything like this ever happened.

Actually, exactly the same thing happened in the 1990s, and the backlash that women felt in the 1990s tells us a great deal about the backlash that women are going to be facing today.

At the beginning of the decade, feminists attacked Clarence Thomas because he had asked Anita Hill out on a date a decade earlier. At the end of the decades, feminists fought bitterly to protect Bill Clinton from seven or more women who credibly accused Clinton of violent forcible rape while he was governor of Arkansas. The entire decade was a circus.

The decade was a disaster for women. The relations between men and women in the workplace were extremely toxic, as was reported by many commentators.

I spent much of the 1990s decade doing research for a book on gender issues called Fraternizing with the Enemy – A book on gender issues for men and for women who care about men. I researched the whole range of gender issues: divorce, domestic violence, rape, teen motherhood, sexual harassment, child abuse, incest, including detailed discussions of the Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton issues. The book was based on thousands of interviews and online conversations, as well as extensive research into such things as “feminist legal theory” and “feminist social theory.”

The book is available as a free PDF, on my download page,

During my research, I spoke to many men who considered talking to any woman in the workplace to be a career risk. Several men told me stories of making some innocent remark and being charged with harassment.

This year, it emerged that Vice President Mike Pence had a policy of never having lunch alone with any woman except his wife, or of drinking alcohol unless his wife was by his side. Since Pence is an evangelical Christian, the mainstream media mocked this as some sort of religious rite. Maybe religion was part of it, but many men who were in the workplace in the 1990s feel the same way. Mike Pence’s policy is what I’ve heard many men describe.

This toxic relationship between men and women in the workplace is growing again today. NBC News quotes labor attorney Nestor Barrero as saying that “many people” have already asked him if they should take “the Mike Pence approach.” He advises against it, but this and other anecdotal evidence indicates that the 1990s are repeating themselves in that men would rather work with men and not with women because working with women is too great a career risk.

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, says that sexual harassment is a serious problem, but says “I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women.” (She adds, hopefully, “Actually, this is why you should.”)

I want to quote some excerpts from my book, Chapter 2, “Real Rape” (the title taken from the title of the book “Real Rape” by Democratic activist Susan Estrich). What I described then is what exactly what’s happening today, except for a few name changes:

The country’s largest feminist organization, NOW (The National Organization of Women), began the 90s by vocally and defiantly screaming harassment at a black man who allegedly told a woman a few dirty jokes, and ended up the decade by defending, condoning and carrying water for a white man who allegedly and credibly is a serial rapist, a man who gropes, flashes, uses and abuses every woman in his life.

If the great, all-powerful male patriarchy had wanted to hatch a plot to cause as much damage and destruction as possible to women and feminists, they could never have done anything so destructive as NOW did to women during the 90s. NOW has damaged men, women, and society so much that it will take years, perhaps decades for the country to recover from it. The only good thing about what happened is that they’ve totally discredited themselves by carrying water for Clinton, arguably the country’s most abusive politician.

Long before the Clinton sex scandals, the policies advocated by NOW and other feminist groups, the relationship between men and women in the marketplace became enormously hostile, and this hostility ended up hurting women.

For example, one man is a friend of mine who runs a professional office with his wife. They had had the practice since the 70s of hiring a married woman college graduate each year to serve as an intern for a year. Many of these women went on to become professionals in their own right. However, following Anita Hill’s testimony, this man changed his policy, and decided he would never hire another woman intern. Since that time, he’s only hired male interns.

Another example: Another friend of mine ran an office where he normally had about a dozen women social workers working for him. He told me, “I don’t dare even tell an employee, ‘You look nice today,’ because I’m afraid she’ll bring sexual harassment charges. The only exception is my secretary — she’s worked for me for ten years, and I can trust her.” In other words, this man could not trust the other women working for him.

Almost every man I spoke to had some story. One man told me that he’d seen a condom machine in a men’s room, and he mentioned briefly to a woman associate how shocked he was to see it; she brought a sexual harassment complaint. He told me, “There’s something wrong with women today. They’re crazy.”

In fact, I’ve tended to call these stories “crazy women stories,” because every man I asked always seemed to have some story, and always seemed to add to it some words like, “These women are crazy.”

One man after another told me they didn’t want to have anything to do with women in the workplace. By extrapolating the examples I heard, I would estimate that literally millions of jobs nationwide suddenly became unavailable to women. And women in the workplace were viewed by men as being unstable, unreliable, or “crazy.” …

It’s easy enough to blame men about all this, and I’m sure any feminist reading this automatically does so, but this catastrophe was brought about by NOW and other feminist organizations encouraging women to act this way.

And did women gain anything from all this turmoil? They didn’t, and for a reason that feminist “theory” didn’t anticipate. When a sexual harassment complaint roils a workplace, a lot of hostility gets generated, and that hostility appears to break half against the alleged victim and half against the alleged perpetrator.

I’ve heard from women who
brought sexual harassment complaints against someone, and it was always disastrous for the accused man, but it also backfired against the accusing woman. These women were treated with hostility by everyone else, including other women.

I saw one occasion like this with my own eyes between two people I knew at work. The man said something dumb to a woman and got her angry. She complained to the HR rep. The HR rep, a woman, called the man into her office and accused him of harassment. He got pissed off, stormed out of her office, and quit, and got another job immediately elsewhere, at higher pay. The company lost a valuable worker, and everyone, especially the women, especially the man’s (female) manager, were pissed off as hell at this woman who brought the sexual harassment complaint and caused so much trouble.

There is a great deal more information in my book, and I recommend that anyone interested in the subject of gender issues should download the PDF and read it.

This is now an international issue, and it really is a circus. Many women feel that “something must be done,” but they can’t figure out what that something is.

Katty Kay, the female BBC news anchor, says:

A backlash now against women would be the worst thing that can happen, it would shove this topic back under the carpet for years. So let’s tread carefully, act soberly and use this moment, with the willing support of our male colleagues, to make our workplaces safer and happier.

She is right. The backlash that developed in the 1990s did shove the topic under the carpet for almost 20 years.

Why should any man take sexual harassment seriously, when feminist organizations and the Democratic establishment protected Bill Clinton from multiple credible forcible rape accusations for years? Susan Estrich was Clinton’s principal supporter after the multiple forcible rape charges. Estrich herself had been raped, and been an active part of the 1990s sexual harassment circus, but then sold herself out as a woman and a rape victim to defend Clinton. Why should any man take sexual harassment seriously after that? Even worse, feminists make wild, irresponsible claims that 25 percent of all female college students are raped, when the actual figure is about 0.1 percent. And no one doubts that feminists and the Democratic establishment are protecting other harassers and rapists today.

The bottom line is this: Men will never take sexual harassment seriously until women do. NBC News and Washington Post (30-March) and Fast Company and Book: Fraternizing with the Enemy (PDF)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, #MeToo, Time Magazine, King Carl XVI Gustaf, Katty Kay, Mike Pence, Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, Susan Estrich, Bill Clinton, Nestor Barrero, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook, National Organization of Women, NOW
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