Although the #Metoo movement seeks to expose the actions of abusive men like Bill Cosby, it often overlooks the complicity of women in our world of sexual violence.
Now, before I go any further, I want to make something clear: This post is not an apologist piece for men's behaviour. I was, myself, raped by men as a child. My first, instinctive reaction to the #Metoo movement was to stand alongside women and burn Hollywood to the ground. Then start on the government.
However, I've begun to understand more about the scale and nature of the problem. And, in talking to friends who have experienced sexual abuse, and in reflecting on my own story, I've come to an awkward discovery: For every male who was sexually abusing a child, there were several women participating in that abuse either directly, or through their silence.
Just as my own mother participated in my father's rapes actively (by beating me unconscious and shaming me) she also participated through her silence. The mothers of other friends I have talked also participated in their abuse and, in some cases, continue to do so.
In short: Women enable the sexual abuse of children in families, and have done so for centuries. It is estimated that more than 1 in 4 families are incestuous and this sexual violence shapes the psyches of the male and female children who are subjected to it. While #Metoo draws our attention to Kevin Spacey or Bill Cosby this is, in my opinion, a risky distraction from the Kevin Spaceys and Bill Cosbys who sit at the table with many families every day, and the women who sit beside them. These men are called 'fathers', these women are called 'mothers'.
Now, before you freak out, I want to make another thing clear: I am not proposing that only women enable the abuse of children, and I do not ignore the fact that mothers are disinclined to speak out because they are already oppressed by patriarchal authorities. However, I believe we have reached a point in human evolution where we are able to recognize, as a species, that men do not abuse women in a vacuum. They abuse within a society that gives them tactit permission to do so. A society in which they are supported by many women.
Is it any wonder then, that millions of genitally mutilated (circumsised), emotionally repressed, angry men come off our cultural production line every year? Then we stand in wonder at their violence against women, their one-dimensional expressions of 'love', their desire for power and recognition to fill an infinite void at the core of their being?
But instead of taking a serious look at the causes of this problem, often the #Metoo movement is tempted only to serve up another public scapegoat for the fury that we, collectively, feel towards our mothers and fathers. The media offers us a string of symbolic fathers like Bill Cosby, where it should be offering us our own parents. Not for the sake of fury, but for the sake of analysis and healing.
Astute psychoanalysts may notice that Bill Cosby is our perfect societal scapegoat: He is the nation's father-figure in symbolic form. And by raging at him, we can rage at our fathers by proxy — but without really challenging anything in our own lives. While I agree that Cosby is deserving of anger and rehabilitation, it would be a horrible mistake to think that deposing him is to depose the millions of mothers and fathers who participated in the largely invisible holocaust of child abuse in the childhood home than underlies most adult sexual-abuse dynamics.
If there is any hope of escape, the #Metoo movement must redirect its focus onto the original source of this problem: The family structure, and a socioeconomic system that rewards all the male behaviours that women otherwise claim to dislike.
I hope that over the next few months, the #Myfamilytoo movement can begin. An honest acknowledgement of where the conditioning experiences that create these 'monsters' begins. A movement that takes a deeper look at the wounded men who rape, and the women who condition them.
Until we look at what happens in the more than 1 in 4 incestuous families, #Metoo remains an exercise in projection. It's definitely a start, and I applaud those rarer individuals, like Dylan Farrow, who have spoken out about the deeper, familiar origins of our society's rape culture.
Of course, when we dig deeper still, the question remains: What happened to the abuser? What happened, for example, to Woody Allen to make him act this way? What happened to my own father? This is not a question asked out of sympathy, but necessity. If we view Woody Allen as one-dimensional, we will keep giving birth to more Woody Allens: More men who simply act out the violence they experienced at the hands of their families.
Not only is this an analytical error, but it actually perpetuates another generation of abuse. This is, obviously, not to ignore the societal structures that put women under great duress not to speak out. But until we, as a society, accept this complicity, and these womens' repetition of their own mother's behaviour, we will not escape this cycle.
We live on planet where many women help men to abuse women. It is only in acknowledging this shared responsibility that we can begin to change things for the better. Thank you for reading.