The case of Hollywood screenwriter and recent #MeToo casualty Max Landis highlights the significant expansion of women’s public complaints about powerful men to include “emotional abuse”—i.e. anything a woman decides, even well after the fact, to have been harmful conduct by a man.
What was once a subject of gossip between women is now published as serious journalism, with the expectation that the man’s alleged misbehavior will be publicly recognized and swiftly punished.
To some extent, this is nothing new. In her 1998 book Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism, Daphne Patai provided a harrowing history of what she called the “sexual harassment industry,” arguing that it was a system founded in fear and hatred of men in general and of heterosexual relations in particular. Under its aegis, perfectly legal behaviors have been stigmatized and prohibited, and countless men have lost their jobs, reputations, and even lives without ever intending to do anything wrong.
Of special concern to Patai was the manner in which bureaucrats, pundits, and disciplinary bodies have been happy to ignore due process and the presumption of innocence in order to privilege a woman’s “gut reaction” to male comments or behavior. The result has been an ever-growing punitive apparatus designed to control men’s every word and gesture and to stigmatize even the most subtle–and normal—currents of sexual interest.
Heterophobia recounts, in fascinating and horrifying detail, the manically over-reaching practices and paranoid male-bashing theories at the heart of modern sexual harassment legislation.
None of it would be possible, however, without male compliance. Many men’s natural reaction upon hearing a woman’s complaint about another man is to participate either passively or actively in the man’s public disgrace and punishment. Only when men refuse the rush to judgement—when they stand up for due process and the fair, reasonable treatment of other men—can we hope for a return to social sanity.
Men: say no to heterophobic hysteria!