Issue raised in the Evening Standard on Friday26th January 2018 by journalist, David Sexton, … on the topic of #metoo and all the men being implicated, but also on the issue of men who try to join the debate and are then being told to shut up by some women, and to listen instead.

Just a comment:

of course it isn’t all men, but the issues are subtle and we seem to be emerging, rather painfully, from a consciousness of entitlement and power abuse that has been endemic and unquestioned for the most part, certainly for the whole of my life. And as a result of that men are having to struggle with their own issues on the question “is it me? Am I one of them?” To really engage with this does require the men to go deep into themselves and explore this issue as it sits in them, with a willingness not just to say in reaction: “It’s not me”, but to question themselves rather more deeply than they may have in the past.

At the same time, the impulse from some women that men should “shut up and listen instead” also has its deep roots. Women have a very, very long history of not being listened to, being misjudged and shut up, right back even to ancient Greece where the original diagnosis of ‘hysteria’ (for which read ‘trauma’) was applied by men to women as an explanation of what the men didn’t understand, and didn’t want to understand, about women. (reference Judith Herman’s excellent book, Trauma and Recovery and this abstract).

The beginnings of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy with Freud and his fellow students back in the late 19th Century were grounded on the rejection of Freud’s seminal paper, The Aetiology of Hysteria, by his colleagues (I cannot find a copy of this excellent paper online to direct you to… a paper that Judith Herman described in 1992 as one that “… still rivals contemporary clinical descriptions of the effects of childhood sexual abuse.”)

This paper put forward an explanation of trauma as having its roots in childhood sexual manipulation and exploitation by the surrounding adults. This came from the accounts of Freud’s clients, who were at the time mostly, but not all, women.

From there, over a subsequent period of some 30 years Freud withdrew from this perspective to the point where the accounts his (mostly female) clients were giving him were re-interpreted as their childhood sexual fantasies for their father. In an instant the innocent child victim of the adult perpetrator became the accusing perpetrator of the ‘innocent’ adult ‘victim’… and, since most of the clients at the time were women, the honesty and trustworthiness of women were re-affirmed as being in question. In other words women’s accounts of sexual exploitation and abuse as children were discounted as lies.

This perspective has played out over the last century in so many ways, that women are not believed, are treated as having brought things on themselves, find it almost impossible to get legal victory. The legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty” has never really served women… hence the #metoo campaign has had to ignore this principle to get its voice heard.

In my view women have a right to say that men need to, for a while, stop talking and listen. The cockeyed reversal that women have been struggling with for centuries, that makes them the perpetrator and their victimisation an unprovable myth has landed us here in the 21st century, and I for one, as a woman am extremely glad we are here. It’s not easy, and it is bound to be messy, but for far too long we have had to shut up and it seems, with #metoo, that women just aren’t going to take any more!


Further reference: Jeffrey Masson on Freud’s ‘seduction theory‘.

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