Until now, the #MeToo movement has bothered me more than it inspired me.
It lacked nuance, I thought, failing to distinguish – as some commentators pointed out – between sexual aggressors (who should be in jail), persistent harassers (who should be sacked and blacklisted), and sleazebags of the hand-on-knee variety (who deserve ridicule, but not total destruction).
And the #MeToo movement kept making statements like “after Weinstein, women should be believed”. Some women should be believed, but others shouldn’t, and due process has to be followed rigorously in each harassment case.
And then I got this message:
“Hello E… You have reached the age where the honeypot starts drying up, and lovely breasts start sagging, so ‘use ’em or lose ’em’ as they say! Signed....”
In his heyday, the undersigned – let’s call him Bob – was one of the most powerful chief executives in the world. Now semi-retired, he dabbles in deals (not unsuccessfully), and chases women – with a more disappointing closing rate. Upon rejection, he fires off emails with the above template.
Does this make Bob a harasser? Not in my case. I don’t depend on him professionally, and his email doesn’t contain threats or blackmail.
So what qualifies Bob for the #MeToo inclusion?
The fact that he would never write something like this to a man.
If you google Bob’s name, lawsuits and board room feuds come up aplenty, and I am sure that his communication with the men invariably involved in his sackings also lacked civility and temperance.
But would Bob call his chairman a piece of decay with sagging pecs and a malfunctioning reproductive system (I would’ve loved to use the colloquial expression here, but the high standards of this newspaper won’t allow it)?
No, he wouldn’t, as the chairman might turn around and smash his face in – or else forward the email to the entire staff as a valuable insight into their chief executive’s character.
No woman would resort to violence, Bob clearly thought, perhaps correctly. Crucially, a woman would be so mortified by the scathing remarks about her age and physique that she would retreat in quiet humiliation and hope that no one else sees this message.
Bob miscalculated. His remarks about my looks don’t embarrass me, and I am happy to share them. They also prompted me to propose another category for the inclusion into the #MeToo pantheon – the bitter loser.