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We need to stop this insanity

May 20, 2018 GMT

Like many women, I’ve watched the #MeToo movement unfold with a complex mixture of emotions. Pride, first, that finally women are standing up after so many years of silence. Anger that it’s necessary to have a “movement” to make it safe to speak out. And lately, an increasing sense of unease at the ugly turn that things have taken, and at the quickness of well-meaning but misguided people to believe every accusation as 100 percent truth without hesitation. The way that #MeToo has morphed into #JustBelieveHer, as if women were not also capable of lies just as men are.

To be clear, I get the need to believe women. To believe that no way would any woman ever lie about sexual harassment, least of all someone who shares our world view. And at this point, it’s certainly easier to #JustBelieveHer — it spares us having to do the work of considering the facts and the discomfort of realizing that women are capable of deception just as men are. And we certainly want to believe that no woman would ever be so unethical as to use the #MeToo movement for political gain.

But it’s time to put our big girl pants on and realize that sort of thing is inevitable when we have created a culture in which people’s guilt or innocence is judged instantly and absolutely — not by the facts, but by people’s DNA, be it gender or race or sexual orientation. If you’re a woman, you are telling the truth. If you are a man, you’re lying. If you’re black, you must have done something wrong. If you’re white, you must be racist. The list gets longer every day.

If you stop a moment and listen to the sick feeling in your gut, you know this already. You know that we’re teetering on the brink of grave injustice.

I’ve read some comments on social media in which women have said it’s OK to sacrifice the reputations and careers of a few innocent men in the name of justice for the men who are guilty. That’s the standard refrain that all persecutors use, no doubt the same thing that Joseph McCarthy told himself and that the judges during the Salem witch trials argued. Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it, and so here we are again.

We need to stop this insanity before we do irreparable damage, not just to the innocent victims of persecution, but to our own consciences. Feminism — real feminism — does not mean that we believe every accusation made, every innuendo whispered, every charge slung (especially in an election year!) without verifying first.

Feminism means recognizing that women are as capable of lying as men are. The most powerful thing we can do as feminists is to be truth seekers — to show that we are capable of discerning reality from lies. But if we believe the lies, we discredit the truth.

But if feminism means checking our sense of justice, our capacity of critical thought and our ability to rise above the desire to punish everyone for the crimes of some, then count me out.

Clara DeMaria worked in Northern New Mexico for more than 35 and is now retired. She is enjoying her grandchildren and gardening.