What Is It About Whataboutism?
Allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault have plastered the top fold of news sites across the web. People of all sorts have been accused, from Hollywood elites to music producers to politicians. It seems every face to ever make it onto the television will be accused of sexual assault or harassment.
With everyone familiar with the news cycle about this topic, it is important to have a discussion about the underlying issues. Obviously, the institutions plagued with these people who have committed such horrible acts need to be reformed and purged of such conduct. That can’t happen without an understanding of what causes the actions and the collective cover-up as well as having a standard of conduct and clear definitions of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The Need To Define Terms
The first part of most debates is simply defining terms so that both parties understand what the other is saying, rather than talking in circles because they do not have a common understanding of the words they are using. This is necessary for this debate as well, especially since these terms can have broad definitions to begin with.
This is done clearly in regards to theft and robbery. Everyone understands the distinctions between shoplifting, petty theft, armed robbery and burglary. They are all a form of stealing another’s property, but in different forms and magnitudes. This type of differentiation must be made in regards to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Sexual harassment is generally used as an all-encompassing term for rude and lewd sexual conduct in settings where that conduct is unwelcomed. This could be comments made by a coworker that offend someone in the office or unwanted touching, but does not generally include direct sexual contact. It can even be extended to include jokes told in an office setting with sexual premises.
Sexual assault is an actual crime. It requires an intent to make sexual contact or serious threats toward someone in regard to imminent, unwanted sexual contact. This can include groping, fondling, threatening or exposure. It is not limited to these actions, however.
Rape is the most severe of these offenses as it goes so far as to force sexual acts. It is not limited to a single type of act, and it is the biggest violation of a person that can occur.
The issue in not defining these terms is that sexual harassment and rape can be conflated into one allegation when they are totally separate crimes. It is the same as putting minor shoplifting on the same level as armed robbery. By doing so, one is elevated to a level of criminality unbefitting it and the other is reduced to a level that does not convey the severity of the action.
How And Why This Happens
There is a simple reason: power. People in Hollywood and Washington have one thing in common, and that is they want power and influence. Both often exhibit sociopathic behaviors in order to gain and maintain power.
It is a logical conclusion that this yearning for power would show itself in the form of one of the most innate human desires. Those who practice restraint in regards to their primal urges often have a control over themselves that leaves them no desire for power over others. It is sociopaths who desire to control others and give in to primal urges because they have not elevated themselves into a state of self-awareness that would cause guilt in the face of such behaviors.
For a deeper understanding of the levers of power and their influence on the elite READ MORE HERE!
But, What About…..?
The problem in the discourse of this topic now is its politicization. It is impossible to condemn someone for sexual assault or rape without their political party lambasting the person condemning them with accusations against the other party’s members.
There needs to be standards of conduct so people can evaluate others’ actions without looking at political party or other factors. It should focus on the accusations and the supporting evidence. If dozens of women accuse a man of sexual assault and the pattern of requests are the same, those are valid and should be treated as such. If a women produces physical evidence of some sort to corroborate their story, that is valid and should be treated as such. If a woman tells her story over and over and the details remain consistent, that is valid and should be treated as such.
Saying “What about Bill Clinton?” or “What about Roy Moore?” to deflect from the damning allegations against either is wrong and proves no point at all. Pointing out that Lena Dunham defended a coworker who was accused of sexual assault, while condemning others for being sexist for not liking her show is a valid way of pointing out inconsistencies. In the 1990’s, Republicans berated the Democrats for defending Bill and Hillary Clinton for their actions against women, and rightfully so, but that does not give them a pass to defend Roy Moore today.
The point of saying “What about…?” should to point out hypocrisy among opponents, not justify one’s own hypocrisy. In order to be consistent, one must condemn both people for committing heinous acts when allegations are verified or very believable. It can be used as a tool to delegitimize the opponent’s argument only when one remains consistent in their condemnation of those with whom they agree.
America needs a set of standards to point to when deciding what is acceptable and unacceptable, and what is simply rude or gross. Once these are defined, people can hold others to the standard consistently and there will be no excuse to defend someone guilty violating the standard of conduct. Only when one adheres to the code of conduct and stays consistent in their condemnation of those who violate it, will one be able to wield the weapon of Whataboutism against their opponent to display their hypocrisy.
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