Set against the backdrop of recent sexual assault allegations leveled at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, what do our columnists think of an inflammatory tweet from Vox-contributor Eve Foster?
Sexual assault has become a large, very controversial and touchy subject over the past couple of years. Refusing to hire anyone who’s sexually assaulted someone is an interesting idea. Saying that, by doing this, we would have no male workers or any male leaders is indeed very revealing and leaves a lot of questions. What does this say about our systems? Will this truly change anything? What about female leaders? What about women who have sexually assaulted someone? What about those who falsely accuse someone of sexual assault? It is mind boggling to think about the number of sexual assaults that have happened, which is why this tweet exists at all. But I think singling out men and saying we’d have no male leaders is offensive in all aspects.
If you ask me, this tweet is too black and white to make as much of an impact as I think the author was hoping. It implies that all men who were voted in democratically have sexually assaulted a woman in their lifetime. That’s not to say the despicable men who have raped a woman shouldn’t be named and shamed, they absolutely should. Once these men’s deeds have been made public, it is our responsibility to vote them out of office, not sit apathetically and continually allow these men to represent our country.
It absolutely reveals a lot about our society that someone feels like we would not have any leaders if people refuse to hire men who have sexually assaulted someone else. That implies that sexual assault is tolerated. In the light of current events, the tweet is quite embarrassing. Also, every 98 seconds an American is sexual assaulted.
It is unacceptable for any predator to be allowed to oversee or lead a group of people. Leadership requires integrity. If a man or woman is making someone uncomfortable and/or is committing sexual assault then that person has no right to have such a position. America needs to understand the value and weight that being a leader entails. Once that is understood, as a society we will stop tolerating sexual assault and we will put people in power who are actually suitable for the job.
The assumption that all of our men in government have in some way participated in predatory behavior or sexual harassment and that we are, as a result, better off not addressing the topic entirely is not only an intensely defeatist statement, it is also extremely ridiculous and a strangely sexist one. First of all, saying that because a problem is so widespread and endemic it is impossible to fight is the exact opposite of a solution. We don’t look at a house with termites and just say “oh well, guess we just have to live with a parasite eating at the home we know and love until it destroys it all.” Instead, we hire an exterminator.
Second, that all male leaders in our entire nation are compulsive sexual abusers is a baseless and fact-denying accusation. It assumes that men are naturally predatory and that there is nothing out there to stop them from acting like wild animals. This does nothing to solve the problem: there is a distinct and powerful environment that encourages this kind of behavior among the powerful and the trusted in our society. They do not act like this because they are men, they act like this because we have cultivated an atmosphere that condones such actions and defends them. The only way to fight this development is to address the question openly and vigorously. Chalking it up to any natural aspect of masculine nature is degrading and only barely touches the greater issue, that we have a system that has defended sexual assault for centuries.
This tweet, while it definitely exaggerates and simplifies the issue, has too much truth in it to be comfortable. We have a list of leaders and role models accused of sexual misconduct hundreds of people long. On this list are people that I admired when I was younger, like Morgan Freeman, Matt Lauer, George HW Bush, Clarence Thomas and Stan Lee. At every accusation, a little bit of what we thought was the truth dies. I see where Eve Forster is coming from. This list begs the questions: Who else? How many? Who can we actually look up to?
This heart-wrenching time of learning the real truth and learning about the sheer number of victims is crushing, though, I think it also shows that we’re entering a new era of new expectations of our leaders. We are not going to end up with no leaders, but better leaders, leaders we can trust.
“If we refuse to hire men who’ve sexually assaulted someone, we won’t have any leaders.” I’ll just jump right into this and come clean as someone who draws a line between good leaders and sexually abusive men as well as the notion as they are causal. Controversial opinion, I know. Sarcasm aside, I have a few things to say about the tweet itself and more importantly the mindset it speaks to. First, leadership is commitment, respect, empathy, proper assertiveness and collaboration. Demeaning behavior, lack of remorse, lack of self-awareness, recklessness and violence are not exclusive traits of an effective leader. These qualities, let alone having had committed a sexual assault, is an oversimplification of the highest order. Have good leaders sexually assaulted people? Unfortunately, yes. Were they good leaders because they allowed themselves to behave in this way? No. The sentiment is understood, but, frankly, it’s wrong. It really isn’t too much to ask for a leader who is competent and understands consent.
Second, this tweet is a very revealing example of the direction in which many Americans have begun thinking about the way our society works or ought to work. Recently, in the wake of social movements and politically correct ideals some fringe-thinkers have begun to adopt a strange romanticized version of old-school understanding of society, particularly regarding gender roles. Commentators like Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren and, to a certain extent, entertainers like Joe Rogan are some of the main engines of this way of thinking. Simply, toxic masculinity is an issue and work environments safe from sexual assault can only help us.
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