(This was written in 2018, but feels very relevant today. )
We have been firing a lot of men lately who we have found out have been abusive in their work and/or home lives. Sexual coercion, innuendo, assault; battering wives and girlfriends. It makes sense and is necessary to remove men from positions where they can abuse their coworkers, subordinates, and others. To fire men from their jobs because of what has happened n their personal lives, not so much.
What is gained by firing a man who has battered his wife or molested his child? Will it stop him from doing it again, to her/him or the next wife/girlfriend/partner? No. Will the message be received by other batterers and abusers as “oh I better not do this because I could lose my job!” Most definitely not. Will shaming the men possibly make the situation worse for the victim? Quite likely, yes.
Our society seems to take delight in publicly shaming and punishing the men whose transgressions are discovered and publicly acknowledged.
Sadly, we also seem to think that the mere acts of shaming them and taking away their current means of livelihood will make a difference–cause them, or society, to change. Shaming and taking away a job serve to satisfy a sense of anger and desire for revenge, but beyond that, absolutely nothing, nothing, is accomplished, at least nothing of any value.
What is needed is a sea change. A change in our societal morés and habits and fundamental values and ways of socializing our children, starting in the womb. It requires, in the end, changing the patriarchy that is the bedrock of our society.
Saying this, it seems like an impossible task. It feels like lifting heavy boulders with my bare hands. It looks like it will never happen.
But I know that change is possible and, indeed, does happen. It can’t begin to happen until we acknowledge that there is a problem. I hope that this current spate of revelations of abusers will be the start of a real societal shift. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will be just another false start. But I know that as we keep tearing the cover off what has been kept in the dark, eventually the light will get in and clear the clotted dregs of what is most vile in our society. May it be so.
Note: I am a survivor of long-term trauma and abuse and am in no way condoning the actions of any of the men, and women, who are abusing. I simply think that we don’t currently have adequate and effective ways of dealing with them and the system that supports them.