I was invited on Fox this morning to discuss that now infamous Gillette ad. During the course of that brief discussion, I criticized MeToo and said that I learned nothing from the movement because I already knew, and have always known, that it’s not okay to abuse or harrass women. I also pointed out that women would be pretty upset if some company released an advertisement lecturing them for bad stereotypical female behavior like gossipping, nagging, and shopping too much.
These comments were picked up by Media Matters and The Daily Beast, and I have since received a number of messages and emails from angry people — readers of those sites, I assume — who are upset and demand that I apologize. The bit about having learned nothing from Me Too seems to be the biggest sticking point. And it is for all of my comments on this issue, but that one comment in particular, that, after careful reflection, I have decided to officially and formally not apologize. I’m not sorry at all, even slightly.
Indeed, I especially want to convey my absence of remorse to anyone who was offended by what I said. If you are the sort of person who gets twisted into knots when someone articulates a point of view that differs from your own, then you are exactly the sort of person who should never receive an apology for a differing point of view — if I were offering one, which, again, I’m not.
Of course, unfortunately, you do manage to drag apologies out of people all the time. But this does no one any good. The person coerced into apologizing for a sincerely-held belief still probably holds that belief, though silently. And you, though feeling triumphant after having forced another trembling opponent to bow at your feet, will only be made even more close-minded and small-minded, and less capable of critical thought. Nobody wins in the end.
Even if I decided that my opinion were wrong, I still wouldn’t apologize for it. After all, whom would I apologize to? You? No, that’s the last thing you need or deserve. In fact, nobody needs or deserves an apology for an opinion, even a wrong one. But, I must stress yet again, my opinion in this case is not wrong. So that gives me two very good reasons to not apologize. One, my opinion is right. Two, even if my opinion is wrong, I still wouldn’t have done something wrong by expressing it.
As for the opinion itself — that the MeToo movement had nothing at all to teach me — I think I can actually take it further: It’s not just that I learned nothing from MeToo, it’s that nobody learned anything from MeToo. Men who don’t harrass and abuse women already knew that they shouldn’t (which is why they don’t). Men who do or did harass and abuse women also already knew that they shouldn’t. They did it anyway, because, in our flawed human nature, we often do things we know we aren’t supposed to do. Very bad people do very bad things they know they shouldn’t do. Sometimes those things are the worst sorts of things, like rape and murder. Rapists and murderers do not lack information. They are not confused. They are not short on awareness. Rather, they are short on morality and restraint and compassion and humanity and probably a dozen other things that an awareness campaign cannot provide them.
But I can go further still. The MeToo movement wasn’t just ultimately useless. It was, in my opinion, ultimately bad. When the plusses and minuses are weighed, I believe MeToo comes out as a net negative. I’ve already made that case and I won’t rehash it all here. I’ll just summarize:
MeToo lumps every allegation of sexual misdeeds together and does not allow them to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This detracts from the seriousness of the really bad misdeeds and lends undue seriousness to minor misdeeds, and makes it difficult to distinguish between the two. Also, MeToo categorically prohibits any discussion of a woman’s potential role in creating sexually inappropriate situations. Even less does it allow discussion of false allegations, which is a real and serious problem. Also, MeToo simplifies a complex issue, making innocent damsels out of women and cartoonish villains out of men. Sometimes women really are innocent and men really are villains. There can be grey areas, though, and there can be situations where the roles are entirely reversed. MeToo will not acknowledge that fact or make any allowances for it. There are other problems I could highlight, but you get the point.
You might say, “You’re wrong about those opinions, Matt, and that offends me.” Well, once again, no, I’m not. But that aside, how does the second clause follow from the first? Why are you offended by an opinion just because you think it’s wrong? And perhaps the most important question: why should I care that you’re offended? I shouldn’t, is the answer. And I don’t.
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