Ida Wells Barnett wrote a book in 1892 titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. One of the issues the book exposed was the story of the sexual realities in the south during her time and some of the resulting consequences for black males. She estimated that nearly 1000 black men were hanged after being accused of rape and many of those accusations were false. She tells the stories of numerous white women who were attracted to black men, got involved in a consensual sexual relationship and then when exposed (or fearing exposure) simply claimed it was against their will. So many false accusations. So many dead black men as a result.
Was this the only time this country has experienced multiple false accusations? Far from it. There was the multiple false accusations of child sexual abuse and satanic abuse in Day Care Centers in the late 1980’s and 90’s. The frenzy was so great that one group of parents were anxious enough to use a backhoe to dig up an adjacent school yard playground looking for skeletons of dead pets!
Some say things got started by a step grandmother in California who coached the children into false victimhood. By the time things started to settle down nearly 200 people nationwide had been accused of day care abuses of all sorts and nearly a hundred were convicted. Most were false accusations. Nearly all were eventually exonerated but many went to jail with lengthy sentences. Two died in jail without the truth ever coming forward. The battle cry at the time? Believe the Children! Sound familiar?
And then there is the strange mess called the Salem Witch Trials. That one was started by the false accusations of 8 young girls and grew over the next year to accuse a couple hundred people. Twenty of these were convicted and put to death. 30% of those deaths were men. Merely the accusation was enough to ruin someone. Importantly, history tells us that as the Salem witch hunts grew, those who were disliked in the community were more likely to garner the false accusations. Examples include neighbors who had previous run-ins with the accusers, those who didn’t pay their debt fast enough or even those who protested the integrity of the accusations. Basically those who weren’t liked were more likely to get the lethal accusation. What a mess.
Then of course we can now see our present witch hunt in the #metoo phenomenon. Were some of those accused guilty? I am sure they were. Were some falsely accused? I would bet there were those too but we can’t tell how many because like the other plagues of false accusations there is a strict prohibition against questioning the accuser. Now the call is “believe the woman.” Like the other examples of false accusations men’s lives are ruined simply due to the accusation of a lying woman. It becomes obvious how dangerous this is when you think of the false accusations and our toxic history of allowing that sort of hatred.
People are aware that some men’s lives are destroyed due to these accusations but no one lifts a finger. Not in Salem, the Day Care saga, the lynched black men or in today’s #metoo environment. It seems it is better to let a man rot than to question the veracity of the accuser. This is of course contrary to our legal history of due process and the presumption of innocence.
The sad reality is that false accusations are simply one facet of a much larger problem called relational aggression. Is it more prevalent in girls? Sure seems that way to me. Have a look a the classic research of Ritch Savin Williams who studied boys and girls and their different ways to get what they wanted. It’s a real eye opener. He studied boys and girls at a summer camp and found that the boys were very quick in establishing their hierarchy.. They did it overtly, by pushing, bragging, one upping etc. Open displays of power, physical power at times. But how bout the girls? For the first week they were real sweet as they surveyed the other girls and the lay of the land. But after the first week they started in with their own forms of seeking dominance. Williams tells us that they did this, not with overt displays of power and leadership, no, they used subtle modes that used such things as excluding, ignoring, teasing, gossiping, secrets, backstabbing, lies, false accusations, rumor spreading and hostile body language (i.e., eye-rolling and smirking). This is the beginnings of relational aggression. In fact, researchers have noted that they have observed relational aggression in young girls as early as two years old.
We have spent many years calling out the men and boys for their overt aggression, their physical dominance in all spheres. Boys are now routinely shamed when entering college as freshmen by the mandatory shame fest that tells him what he has been told since he was 2 and what he has learned and practiced the vast majority of the time: Never Hit A Girl.
In relationships boy’s physicality has been globally pathologized. Young men know that they had best avoid any sorts of physical contact with women that could be interpreted as domestic violence.
The worst thing about this? Is that as boys have been shamed, blamed and called out constantly as being the problem, the relationship aggression of women and girls has been ignored. You cant touch it, you can’t call attention to it, you can’t even indirectly point it out. It is forbidden As much as we shame and call out boys for their physical aggression we ignore the relational aggression of women and girls. No one says anything, even to the most egregious false accusers who are working to put innocent men in jail. This is the power of gynocentrism as it puts up an invisible shield around women that deflects holding them accountable. Think back to Crystal Mangum, the woman who falsely accused the Duke Lacrosse players. Remember the support she got? From the student body, the faculty, the administration, the police, the community and on and on. All based on her word which no one would question. This is what we are fighting against.
What would the world be like if overnight women were suddenly held accountable for their actions in the same way we do to men? What would happen? I am guessing that quite a few heads would explode, both male and female.
It is way past time to start calling out women for their relational aggression and holding them accountable. Learning more about how it works is a good start. Here’s a link to a video I did a while back that looks at this.