The below commentary was prompted as an answer to the question “Has the #MeToo gone too far?”
I read about how #MeToo ignored many grown men working in Hollywood who’d been sexually harassed (as adults, as I recall juvenile men and boys received backing from #MeToo), so in some ways it was also treating men as an identity group inadequately. I think the tipping point for #MeToo going too far was the Aziz Ansari incident being used as a flashpoint to retroactively cast all the incidents of sexual harassment and assault #MeToo has left in its wake as being as bad as any other, all equally bad and all the male perpetrators equally deserving of scorn, because they stem from some kind of singular, toxic force at the centre of all male-dominated industries. This is especially true for entertainment industries where the ongoing sexual objectification of women makes it easier to perceive all kinds of sexism women working in those industries face as originating from one root cause.
The one root cause is often simplistically conveyed as “the patriarchy”. Obviously a sophisticated intellectual could come along and give me a nuanced account of what the patriarchy is justifying all the behaviour from social justice activists it provokes. But I don’t think that’s how everyday activists on the internet think about the patriarchy. When I read about it, it feels like a nebulous, spectral entity. A more charitable interpretation is its the mindset of toxic masculinity pervading throughout the minds of all men. Of course everyone can agree there can be toxic male cultures of abuse, but when every masculine social environment is seen as inherently toxic, we can’t tell when the witch hunt will stop. There are definitely radicals in the midst of these movements when they pick up steam which will milk genuine indignation for all its worth to overhaul inter-gender relations to an unnatural degree at an extreme rate humans and cultures haven’t evolved to adapt to. Willingly or not, sexually abusive men are no longer individuals responsible for their own behaviour, but agents of the patriarchy. Toxic masculinity is a mindset they’ve been infected with, but once they’re its active agents they must be stopped at all costs to prevent the virus of toxic masculinity from spreading more.
The problem of thinking of the patriarchy as a systemic mindset infecting all men which can transform any of them into toxic agents through the power of unconscious bias and privilege is it makes every man suspect. Any man could be passively infected with the virus of toxic masculinity, and without him even knowing it, it could activate his unconscious privilege and entitlement, perpetuating the patriarchy and its cycle of oppression. No man can be trusted unless or until he sends the right, genuine signals of acknowledging his always-looming privilege. Of course it’s easy for some sexual predators to fake these signals, so they’re no foolproof way for women to verify if a man’s intentions or character are pure and chaste. Thus radical agitators can hijack the sentiment of a movement to turn its ire on any man on the internet alleged to be an agent of the patriarchy. When any and all men are treated with equal scorn and venom when facing allegations of sexual conduct, regardless of severity, in so public a fashion, it makes society more cynical about all allegations of sexual misconduct.