#NotMe, a Decent Guy Speaks Up

Part I, by Ramona McKean

Oh, how the arena of power politics has developed as of late, with men in authoritative and/or prestigious positions being brought down by allegations of sexual misconduct. The power of victims is growing, and for the most part I’m glad. A world dominated by patriarchy has been, and continues to be, plain wrong. In the domain of sexual misconduct, women have been collectively shamed, silenced and dismissed for far too long. (Some men too.) Brutal.

Being part of the solution takes conscious effort, honesty and courage.

Being part of the solution takes conscious effort, honesty and courage.

But what about the abuse of “victim power”–claims of wrongdoing being made that are either false or specious (appearing good or right though lacking in real merit)? Tried in the court of public opinion, many have experienced their careers, reputations and very lives destroyed.

Patrick Brown, leader of Ontario’s Conservative Party, was recently forced to resign due to allegations of sexual misconduct. It’s interesting to note the timing, only four months before Ontario’s provincial election.

Ottawa Citizen journalist Andrew Cohen is personally acquainted with one of Patrick Brown’s two accusers. In his article “Patrick Brown Affair Shows We’re Entering a World of Metaphorical Mob Rule,” Cohen comments on “the power of the unchallenged accusation.” I don’t know if I agree with all his expressed views, but I must admit that he’s got me thinking. Some of his other comments:

“Power has shifted to the accuser. The age of the aggrieved is without context, subtlety or nuance. In the court of public opinion, the accused has no chance anymore…Politics has always been cruel; with due process now passé, it is even crueller. All victims are “survivors” and the sins of sexual misbehaviour – the wink, whistle, word or wandering hand – are weighed equally.” [To read the entire article, and in my opinion it’s worth reading, please click here.]

Yesterday a friend of mine named Brian Hawksworth expressed dismay to me and another female friend about the Patrick Brown incident. Feeling vulnerable by virtue of his gender, he asked a question that many men must be asking themselves these days: “Where does this leave me?” I encouraged him to write out his thoughts and offered to publish them here on my website. He did so and asked me, along with his name, to sign him #NotMe.

So, here we have the concerns of a regular, decent, respectful human being. Both he and I would truly like to know what you think. If you have feedback, will you please leave it in the comment section below? (Your honest opinions are welcome, but only those politely expressed will be published. Thank you.)

Part II, by Brian Hawksworth

“Sign Me #NotMe”

Please help me process what you think may be behind the events leading up to the recent resignation of Patrick Brown as leader of Ontario’s Conservative Party.

I am a white, Anglo-saxon, middle class Canadian man and I know it’s popular to slam us these days for all of the injustices we have perpetrated over time to the environment, indigenous groups, women and the poor.

But I need to know more about the motivation of these 2 women who have, behind the veil of anonymity, publicly eviscerated Mr Brown with accusations of sexual misconduct. Yes, there was a miss-step within the dynamics of the work environment – by both Mr Brown AND his accusers – but Mr Brown, in the case of one accuser, did the right thing – he drove her home!! What am I missing here? And as for the other accuser, well, she doesn’t seem too clear on what happened, what words were used, etc.

Given the timing of these allegations – a mere 4 months prior to a provincial election in Ontario – they could have been politically motivated and inspired by any one of the 3 major political parties. I understand that politics can be a very dirty game and I “get it” if the accusers’ motivation was political. Sad, but I get it.

But their action of ousting Mr Brown for events nowhere in the league of the tsunami of sexual misconduct accounts now rolling out for all to witness is, in my view, a dis-service to the many brave women, and some men, who have come forward with their own grievances of sexual harassment and violation.

There are many past examples where decent men have had their lives and careers shredded by false accusations of sexual misconduct. And there will be more to come. Maybe the suffering these men have endured and the suffering others are yet to endure will be the price necessary to tip the balance of abhorrent male sexual behaviour in favour of balance and openness and respect.

These men are not part of the problem, and I am not part of the problem. If you see it differently, help me understand how we are, so I can help to be part of the solution.

Brian Hawksworth
#notme

choosing to be part of the solution

About the Author:

Ramona McKean is creating a "Bridge of Light" (aka “a Bridge of the Heart”) to promote cross-cultural appreciation and awareness. An author and speaker, she lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.

19 Comments

  1. Clarke January 31, 2018 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Hi Ramona (and Brian), thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. It is always good to read what other people are thinking and how they see things from their perspective. This whole wave of consciousness around abuse certainly does make a person stop and think about their past and current behaviour. And hopefully, this profound focus on abuse will inspire, encourage, and empower men and women (human beings) to shift their behaviour in a positive direction. This is a big conversation and no two situations are ever the same. We may only be scratching the surface of the consciousness that will need to shift in this regard.This is only part of the discussion when it comes to human interaction, human behaviour, instinctive behaviour, learned behaviour, parents, children, siblings, friendships, relationships, colleagues, power, society, race, religion…

    Let’s keep the conversation going.

    • Ramona McKean January 31, 2018 at 1:09 pm - Reply

      Clarke, thank you for sharing your insightful perspective. Indeed, it is a “wave of consciousness” happening as regards the topic of abuse. I so liked your comment, by the way, that I couldn’t resist creating and adding this image! Brian mentioned a tsunami. (May it not be that harsh!) Whatever it is, may it keep happening in such a way that no one is left untouched.
      NotMe, a Decent Guy Speaks Up, Ramona McKean, A Bridge of Light

      Victims often (always?) become abusers–if not of others, then of themselves. Abuse, as I see it, is about power, much of it asserted in an attempt to get perceived lack of power back. The answer is education, and this starts with people being willing to take a good look at themselves and to own their own lives and experiences. This kind of “self-education”–knowing thyself–is NOT easy work, as it requires tremendous honesty, strength and courage, and it’s not easy to do alone. It’s much easier to stay small, suffer and blame.

      Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the area of family therapy, estimated that at least 98% of families are dysfunctional. Oh my, I must say that believe her. I recently read an excellent, eye-opening book from the library on co-dependence, something I’d venture to say is a rampant disease. I highly recommend the book, “Codependence and the Power of Detachment, How to Set Boundaries and Make Your Life Your Own,” by Karen Casey. It’s short, easy-to-read and contains lots of stories about regular people and how they were able to turn their lives around.

      Clarke, I like what you wrote: “We may only be scratching the surface of the consciousness that will need to shift in this regard. This is only part of the discussion…Let’s keep the conversation going.” YES, it is a conversation that urgently needs to keep going. Thank you again.

  2. Karen Adam February 1, 2018 at 11:27 am - Reply

    It’s hard to talk of keeping the conversation going if there isn’t truthful dialogue on both sides. No conflict is ever solved if the parties involved do not, as you say Ramona, take a good long look in the mirror. It is indeed a time of victim power. Thanks for these thoughts you two.

    • Ramona McKean February 1, 2018 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      Karen, you are right. A good long look in the mirror, with eyes that are truly willing to see, MUST happen. It seems to be one of the hardest things for people to do. Self-honesty, which means recognizing what seems to be our default of shirking personal responsibility, takes true guts. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Ramona McKean February 1, 2018 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Will Smith has a little YouTube video on taking responsibility (less than 2 minutes). Our health and happiness depend on it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lR7HqaSUZaA. He doesn’t mention blame but he could have. Seems to me that the blame game stinks and gets us nowhere. [There’s smelly BS = blaming self, and then there’s smelly BO = blaming others.]

  4. #metoo February 1, 2018 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with what has been expressed here – both by the author and their friend, Brian Hawksworth.

    Victims of sexual violence have been silenced for far too long and finally have an opportunity to speak out about their experiences. Supporters of the #metoo movement are perfectly aware that not all men are sexual predators. There is no need for #notme because this is something women already know. By perpetuating this, you’re essentially detracting attention from women (finally) being allowed to speak.

    It’s a little ironic that Brian says Patrick Brown has been prematurely “convicted” when we know little about what happened but yet Brian is comfortable villainizing the two women based on the same lack of knowledge.

    There have definitely been instances of false sexual misconduct allegations. However, I think it’s interesting that people never seem to bring false allegations up when discussing any other crime – particularly when sexual assault is not remotely close to being the most falsely reported crime (that would be theft). I assure you that the men whose lives are NOT destroyed by sexual assault allegations (whether false or not) vastly outnumber the lives of men whose lives are destroyed (according to RAINN, for every 1000 rape committed,994 rapists do not go to jail). If you have any trouble believing this, please take a look at who the President of the US is.

    It is not for men (or anyone) to decide where on the spectrum of seriousness someone’s experience of sexual assault/harassment falls. No one is claiming rape is the equivalent to being groped. That’s why there are different sentences for different types of sexual assault. By dismissing events “that are nowhere in the league of the tsunami of sexual misconduct”, Brian is essentially continuing to normalize non-consensual interference with women’s bodily integrity. Interference with your bodily integrity should not be assessed on a spectrum. Women have been forced to tolerate this for far too long by the criminal justice system. That is why Brian is witnessing a “tsunami” of allegations now – because they’re finally being taken seriously.

    Unfortunately, Brian, too, is a part of the problem by interrupting these important conversations that are finally happening with his defensiveness. He has no reason to feel “vulnerable by virtue of your gender”. If you have done something wrong, hold yourself accountable and be better going forward. If you are the “decent guy” you claim to be, then you have nothing to worry about.

    What’s important now is for men to be allies. That means listening, believing and not jumping to baseless conclusions. It is not women’s job to bear a disproportionate burden of sexual assault, be the only ones (for the most part) speaking up about the injustice of it AND have to reassure men that they are “decent”.

    This type of conversation is just not conducive. It’s similar to interrupting a conversation about racism with “I’m not racist, what about me?”

    It’s great that Brian wants to be a part of the solution. The most effective way to do that is to listen.

    • Ramona McKean February 1, 2018 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your in-depth views, expressed in an articulate, powerful way.

  5. 6 of 6 February 1, 2018 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    False accusations are wrong but I think far less false accusations are happening than women reporting their assaults.
    I am proud of the women that spoke up but can also respect the concerns of some men in power that could be wrongly accused for things that never happened as an easy way to get revenge on someone you have an issue with.

    • Ramona McKean February 1, 2018 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      This is an understandably complex and loaded issue. I agree with your comments and thank you for taking the time to respond. Like you, I hope more victims feel emboldened enough to report their assaults. May they do so in appropriate ways. (One may ask, “Is reporting to the media an appropriate way?”) Every person (including abusers and victims) needs to take a good look at themselves and their motives, especially if those motives are twisted. If they are, I sure hope they have a conscience that doesn’t easily leave them alone.

  6. Clarke February 1, 2018 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    So basically the comment above positioning themselves as the “voice” of metoo is telling Brian he is “claiming” to be a decent guy but metoo will be the judge of that, and that he should not be part of the conversation, but instead should shut up and listen. If this is in fact a sample of the representation of the voice of the metoo movement, then there is definitely just as much of a need for notme, and every voice. Men and boys need to be part of this conversation. This isn’t only a time for metoo to speak up, but for everyone to speak up. And it is unfortunate that “metoo” says they are “afraid”. That might be the biggest issue across the board for so many human beings… they are simply afraid to Be who they are and say how they feel. It is good to read the diversity of comments building here.

    • Ramona McKean February 2, 2018 at 11:06 am - Reply

      Clarke, I like the way you are moving this conversation forward. Specifically, I like your comments: “This isn’t only a time for metoo to speak up, but for everyone to speak up…[fear] might be the biggest issue across the board for so many human beings…they are simply afraid to Be who they are and say how they feel.”

      I appreciate metoo for such clearly voiced views in an area that is of obvious major charge for her. (I’m assuming “her.”) And, I admire Brian for having the guts to voice his feelings of vulnerability. His represents the voice of many people “on the sidelines” who are afraid–yes indeed, AFRAID, as you so aptly note–to speak up for fear of being slammed. Is anyone really on the sidelines, though? We’re all living here on planet earth now, and we’re all in this together, whether we think so or not.

      It matters to me to provide a platform that is SAFE for any relevant comment, powerfully expressed or not, as long as it is RESPECTFUL. And yes, “It is good to read the diversity of comments building here,” so thank you.

    • Billy February 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      Saying something like “it’s not only time for metoo to speak up, but everyone to speak up” is so reductive to the conversation about sexual harassment and assault. #metoo represents women and men (but mostly women) who are survivors of egregious conduct that often leaves them feeling lonely, victimized and may impact their self worth. Experiencing something like this silences you and even when you do speak up, you come head to head with a system that has for far too long refused to believe survivors.

      Now, if you are not a part of that group, not a survivor of sexual harassment and assault, it is not your time to speak up. To be worried about your voice being heard at a time like this, is like a white man being worried about making sure his thoughts on police brutality are heard in the midst of #BlackLivesMatter. If it’s something you haven’t experienced, listen to the experts – the ones who are in the best position to talk about these issues because they have had these experiences. Let’s not create a new unfortunate (and blatantly ignorant) hashtag like #AllLivesMatter, which refocuses the splotlight from vulnerable persons (who need and deserve the spotlight) back to those who have always had it.

      If you’re threatened and worried by #metoo, it’s probably a good time to check your privilege.

  7. Ramona McKean February 3, 2018 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    A friend of mine wanted to leave a comment here but said he felt far too uncomfortable to do so. (His being sensitive and fearful doesn’t automatically mean he is one of those guys with something to hide.) He thinks the answer lies in “education of both men and women.”

    He sent me a link, which I am posting here. The content is loaded. It’s an open letter published in Le Monde, written by French actress Catherine Deneuve. Before sharing the link, I want to ask:

    1. Is the letter a legitimate warning, a call to reason to help counter polarization, paranoia and all out war? A call to find a still point between the pendulum’s swinging?

    2. Or overkill? A backlash against the way the eruption is happening–a totally understandable eruption of the rage women, and some men, have been forced to swallow for centuries?

    The CBC article containing this letter is called “Catherine Deneuve says the #MeToo movement has turned into a ‘witch hunt’.” What do you think?
    http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/blog/catherine-deneuve-says-the-metoo-movement-has-turned-into-a-witch-hunt-1.4479273

  8. Lee Chambers February 3, 2018 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    First, I would like to say “Thank-you!” to Ramona and Brian for initiating a civil public discussion about this important issue. These past few years I have come to avoid the “Comments” section of news and social media posts because the discourse turns savage nearly immediately and any middle ground is usually quickly lost. This is a topic where there is an urgent need to find common ground; our intimate personal relationships likely depend on it.

    My take is that throughout western culture for at least the past 150 years, social progress has been sporadic and we usually take 2 steps forward and then quickly take one back. This era is no different. We are at a place where we are all now being asked to take responsibility for our actions. The powerful are beginning to be held accountable for their transgressions and victims (I prefer “recovering survivors”) are learning to find their voices and hopefully, eventually to receive justice. This is not a pretty process. For too long our perceived rights, especially for those of lower social standing and/or physical strength, have not matched our legal rights because of behind-the-scenes influence of those in power. There was always the threat of possibly winning in courtroom but losing in the community or at work. The march to equality for all has been slow and messy and this phase will be no different.

    With regard to those who are now being taken to task for their actions while in power, they have recourse too. Now it is they who can charge slander or libel and meet their accusers in court. Or they can stand firm and dare the supporting networks around them to act. But rather than a rush to judgement, this seems like a wave that has taken many years to gather strength. Accusers seem deliberate and somewhat reluctant to come forward as one who might be approaching quicksand, unsure if the ground is as firm as it appears. We are seeing the very worst abusers taken out, with for the most part very little protest, which would seem to validate the accusations.

    Is it possible that this movement goes too far? Almost certainly. With any trend there is a point where it goes beyond what is reasonable. I’m sure there will be a point where I read about an accusation about a mildly untoward advance and say, “Really…?” Many would agree that the political correctness trend of the past decade has gone too far and some backlash is being felt. This is healthy. It is the sign of a growing, progressive culture. Change & healing.

    • Ramona McKean February 3, 2018 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      Lee, thank you for such a thoughtful contribution to this conversation. I am a person who seems innately to seek balance, especially when I perceive an unleashing of chaos. As a “recovering survivor” myself, I like to see the abusers get their “come-uppance,” so to speak. (Too mildly put.) Perhaps idealistic, but fairness and justice matter to me a lot. The problem, it appears to me, lies in centuries old socialization in patriarchal cultures. There’s “gender” conditioning, boys taught by example how to treat girls and girls being taught how to tolerate the intolerable. On a soul level, both ultimately lose. Male insecurity has unleashed horrors such as the Inquisition and witch-burning. Education is critical, from the cradle onward. We need to be educated about the biological differences that generally exist between males and females. This education must involve males and females learning to really communicate with each other. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary? Growing pains galore, but change and healing are definitely worth working towards. Thank you again for writing.

  9. Rebecca February 4, 2018 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Hush money, does that prove guilt? How many politicians have paid it to keep their seat in office? It’s wrong. Money won’t change the behavior of men and can add to deeper issues for the victim.

    • Ramona McKean February 4, 2018 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      Yes, this kind of thing happens. It represents a whole other level of abuse and also a destructive influence on own’s own integrity–the victim’s and, of course, the abuser’s too, if he had any left to begin with.

  10. Donald February 5, 2018 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    Our world has been out of balance for two millennia. Our deviously-engineered 2,000-year-old patriarchal society needs to be balanced with feminine energy, feminine emotion and good old common sense. When something has been so out of balance for so long, and the pendulum is finally released to swing freely, it invariably swings too far to the other side at first. That’s simply what’s happening now, but it will eventually slip into equilibrium and balance the status quo.

    There are going to be immoral women who abuse the reinstated voice they have now finally and rightfully regained, but the same recourse through the justice system is available to both sides, provided that it is applied fairly, of course. If a man is unfairly accused, then he has recourse through the courts, and false accusers deserve to be held accountable, as are sexual abusers (in theory).

    Men who claim to be aggrieved and hurt by false accusation will now develop an understanding of what woman have experienced for hundreds of years, when their claims of sexual abuse and harassment were ignored or their careers ruined by slut shaming. I detest that phrase, but it does describe what has been done to keep women quiet. Everyone knows that not all men are abusers or disrespect women, so men simply have to accept that men have brought this upon themselves, and we have to suck it up and deal with the rare occasion (by statistics) when a false charge is levelled. I say keep it coming brave women, but do keep it fair and honest, as you don’t want to slump to the level that so many men have stooped to in the past.

    There must always be a balance (dark/light, good/evil) and there always was a Mother God to balance the Father God, until men erased reference to a Mother God from scriptures and created a patriarchal system. Balance must be restored, for the good of our world.

    • Ramona McKean February 5, 2018 at 3:27 pm - Reply

      Donald, thank you for your potent response, all of it! “There must always be a balance (dark/light, good/evil) and there always was a Mother God to balance the Father God, until men erased reference to a Mother God from scriptures and created a patriarchal system. Balance must be restored, for the good of our world.” Amen.

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