'Believe All Women' at Your Peril
We've heard it all before: "start by believing." "Believe survivors." At a recent panel discussion at the Ottawa City Hall, where my wife, Janice Fiamengo, was one of three featured participants, the subject of #MeToo and "Believe All Women" came up during the Q&A. (See 1:35:34 to 1:38:27 of the embedded YouTube video below.) An audience member claimed that it behooved us in most cases to give credence to women bringing forth their stories of sexual abuse. The young woman was skeptical of the court process as a way of resolving issues of sexual violence in women's favor and contended that we need "non-criminal" forms of restorative justice, some form of "healing or accountability."
Janice and her co-panelists, authors Paul Nathanson and David Shackleton, quickly put paid to that notion. Non-legal judgments via social media and public shaming could be as onerous and punitive as legal sentencing, turning men who had not been proven guilty into social lepers and bankrupts. The legal system may be flawed, but, as Shackleton remarked, it is the best we have and is theoretically capable of improvement.
In fact, an argument against #MeToo and the concomitant pursuit of non-legal incrimination is often put forward by the subtler variety of feminists, such as Josephine Mathias in the National Post and Bari Weiss in the New York Times, but for a completely different reason. They maintain that false allegations in the public sphere, such as the Duke Lacrosse and Rolling Stone moments, may discredit the "Believe All Women" movement; in the words of Weiss, such fictions "will tear down all accusers as false prophets." It is not the harm to innocent men that concerns Weiss, but the damage to female credibility. The movement must be maintained.
Here I would indicate that, contrary to the young questioner who distrusted the cumbersome apparatus of the courts, which lead only to "re-victimization," as well as Shackleton's faith in a self-corrective justice system, court judgments in our SJW era tend to favor women – and when they don't, the cry goes up for a quasi-legal system based on the "preponderance of evidence" rather than the "presumption of innocence" model – that is, on whatever narrative the judge or adjudicator tends to believe as more persuasive, evidence be damned. After all, women who lie or collude are only victims too troubled to get their stories straight.
In any event, whether utterly oblivious of the need for reasonable assessment and sober judgment before taking action, as in the example of the young woman in the Q&A session, or arguing against public dissemination of false reports, as the more sophisticated feminists hold, the problem remains. A deep emotional commitment to a cause, scanting the imperative to seek evidence before judgment or refusing to recognize that abuse comes in many forms, including women who trivialize their complaints or are complicit in unsavory acts in order to further their careers, is, to put it bluntly, immoral. What we are observing is an ideological compulsion that militates against reason and fairness.
A case in point: Andrea Dworkin, one of the stoutest pillars of radical feminist theory, claimed in her autobiographical writings that she had been abused and raped from the age of nine and continuing for decades. As Dworkin assured us in her book Intercourse, "[v]iolation is a synonym for intercourse"; again, in Our Blood, that "[u]nder patriarchy, every woman's son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman." It's a bridge too far for most sensible people. Even feminist former columnist for The Globe and Mail Leah McLaren dismisses her stories as "full of inconsistencies and logical gaps." No wonder Dworkin, who said, "There is always one problem for a woman: being believed," is herself unbelievable. Her voluminous deposition is a form of abusing her readers with mainly self-indulgent fables.
Of course, belief in such matters should depend on the search for credible evidence and the objective assessment of facts, but such an approach has been blithely discarded by another radical feminist and collaborator, Catherine MacKinnon. In Feminism Unmodified, she wrote: "Our critique of the objective standpoint as male is a critique of science as a specifically male approach to knowledge. With it, we reject male criteria for verification" (emphasis mine). It follows that truth deriving from objective analysis is a male conspiracy meant to subjugate women. Ergo, women must be believed regardless of evidence, the rule of law, and objective verification, since these are merely patriarchal strategies to enforce the masculine will.
The nonsense brachiates with every passing day, wherever we might look. In a recent profile for Canada's elite left-wing rag The Walrus, Canada's minister of foreign affairs Chrystia Freeland declared: "I'm a woman. I'm a wife. I'm a mother. One hundred years ago, I would've been beaten by my husband. That's what happened to pretty much all women." Judging from her photo, I suspect that Freeland is not 100 years old, but then, I suppose we must give her the benefit of the doubt. She is a high-ranking government apparatchik who must know what she is talking about.
Naturally, feminists will point to statistics showing that men predominate in cases of domestic violence. The category of domestic violence has been a boon for feminists, who argue that IPV (intimate partner violence) is almost entirely one-sided, with women the vast majority of victims. But I know of many innocent men falsely accused by their partners, who have lost everything, including the right to visit their children, and of others who decide to plea-bargain rather than spend years in court. Plea-bargaining obviously swells the number of ostensibly violent men, a welcome datum for the feminist thesis. I have an acquaintance who, insisting on his integrity, refused the plea offer, resulting in a five-year ongoing trauma that has rendered him penniless and now, with a criminal record, effectively unemployable. His life is ruined.
Additionally, many studies have argued that "gender symmetry" in instances of domestic violence actually exists and that "battered husband syndrome" is a fact of life. Erin Pizzey, founder of the first women's shelter in the U.K., discovered to her surprise that over 60%of the women admitted to the center were no less violence-prone than their male partners. The issue is clearly vexed.
As David Horowitz writes in RealClear Politics, "In the hysterical atmosphere created by the #MeToo movement – a by-product of the Women's March and the 'movement' that produced it – mere accusations become tantamount to guilt with chilling results, and ominous implications for a country built on due process, and the defense of individual rights." If, he continues, "elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large." And the culture will suffer for it.
The "Believe All Women" meme is now rooted in our manifold hierarchies of oppression. It will continue to do untold harm to both men and women unless we can return to the approximate sanity of the past, before the absurdly named "Twitter" feeds, the duplicitous and unaccountable intimacy of Facebook, and the Fake News Media came to substitute for investigative justice.