“A fair trial is one in which the rules of evidence are honoured, the accused has competent counsel, and the judge enforces the proper courtroom procedures – a trial in which every assumption can be challenged”. Harry Browne
I have been hesitating to throw my tuppence-halfpenny-worth into the arena on the #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein conversation. I still hesitate but I do feel drawn to write about the subject because I am concerned that the #MeToo and social media movement is in danger of demonising men without giving them a proper legal process to establish who is guilty and who is innocent.
I also don’t like the fact that women seem to be adopting the role of victims, when they are also capable of creating their own victims, as we have seen with recent rape charges where women misled the courts through false accusations.
The events at the Presidents’ Club dinner have raised these issues again and I guess I would like to bring a little perspective, as I see it, into the conversation.
Let me start by making it clear that I am in no way condoning rapists nor those who harass or abuse their position through force or by blackmailing female – or male – employees with bribes regarding their career or financial position in return for sexual gratification. This is wrong. People who abuse, whether they are Catholic priests, Harvey Weinstein or gymnast doctor Larry Nassar need to be penalized.
But trial by digital media is like rule by a lynch mob. Without a due process we can’t tell where innocence or guilt lie. In the meantime men’s careers and reputations are being trashed by accusations made by one or more women. There seems to be no due process of law or investigation to identify those who have truly behaved abusively and those who have just made a crass approach where they needed to be told firmly to stop.
Reaching a verdict of “beyond reasonable doubt” when it is one person’s statement against the other’s is hard enough even when there is a court case. But here no judge or jury are involved, just accusation. In the world of Twitter people are condemned before they have had a chance to open their mouth.
What I am saying is not intended to diminish any person’s experience. Simply to ensure that both accused and victim are adequately protected, as is the practice of democracy and the law in the UK.
There is certainly a broader problem of macho-dominated cultures to be addressed, both here in the UK and worldwide. Men have ruled and governed countries, religious establishments, businesses and their women, for far too long. They have been given messages by philosophers and religious leaders that men are here to command, women to obey. Women still have to opt out of the words ‘to obey’ in marriage services so we are talking recent history – and let’s accept that some women liked this. Also let’s acknowledge that much of this has already changed and is changing but sadly one can’t alter millennia of beliefs, perceptions and behaviours in the space of sixty years or so.
This latest set of scandals provides a wake-up call for both men and women to adjust their behaviours to one another further. We need to ensure that men, young and old, move out of any sense of entitlement of their right to touch a woman’s (or a man’s) body without overt permission or encouragement. At the same time women need to be absolutely clear about their boundaries, what they find acceptable or unacceptable, and speak up immediately to stop abusive actions and also misunderstanding. But communication between men and women is subtle and easily open to misunderstandings. The dance of relationship is a tricky one. Both in romantic and workplace situations things can be taken the wrong way. I don’t envy young people who fancy one another in today’s world – one wrong move and your reputation is ruined.
With the Presidents Club, it seems to me that merely attending a male-only charitable event that raises considerable money for good charities is not in itself an evil or disrespectful thing to do. Women have women-only events and hen parties, some with rowdy behaviour and male stripagrams. Are we saying the male stripagrammer is being abused, in the same way we are saying the female hostesses at the Presidents Club party were? A male undertaking to strip is being paid and knows what he is in for. The female hostesses were also being paid and, although some behaviour got out of hand, some of those hostesses had apparently been to such events before and nonetheless signed up again. They are not slaves, they are adult and have every right not to accept the job and, if they do, to bat off any wandering hand if they don’t like it.
Whether the Presidents’ Club dinner should have been held at all with these themes is dubious. And this isn’t to excuse the behaviours of such men but to put them in perspective. Again, I am not talking about victims of rapists or abusers where force is used, nor where someone is underage. There is a significant difference between a rapist and a man who gets drunk and aroused and touches someone inappropriately. Something women, when drunk, have been known to do too. Let’s not tar all men with the same brush. Some men behave badly, many don’t.