Why Don’t ‘Good Men’ Believe Women?
MeToo’s next step isn’t about Bad Men, but about masculinity
For the last year, the #MeToo movement has been, necessarily, focused on calling attention to so-called bad men and the institutions that tolerate them. Virtually no industry has been left untouched. But in the wake of the call-outs, a very specific sort of backlash has set in: the fear of women, specifically the fear that women will lie and destroy men’s reputations, careers, and status. This fear is sometimes being equated to, and prioritized over, actual damage to women’s reputations, careers, status, health, and bodies.
Philosopher Kate Manne has described this tendency toward disparate concern for men as “himpathy.” It depends primarily on two ideas: that masculinity is more important than what women are saying; and that women cannot be believed or trusted.
The mistrust of women breaks down, not unexpectedly, along gender lines. Earlier this week, CNN released the results of a poll that was conducted during the final days of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings. The poll measured responses to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimonies. Fifty-two percent of Americans believed the multiple women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, but that number hides a vital divide: 61 percent of women believe the women, but only 43 percent of men do. These findings are unsurprising: A study of nearly 1 million comments on New York Times stories revealed a remarkably similar gender gap in believing Dylan Farrow’s claims of sexual abuse by her father. Studies repeatedly show that men are more likely to disbelieve women, to endorse rape myths, to blame victims, and to exaggerate claims that women lie.
As we enter the next phase of #MeToo, outing more “bad men” isn’t enough. The urgent question we face in this moment is why half the population persistently refuses to believe the millions of women who say sexual harassment and assault shape our lives, and are maintaining our inequality.
If men are not adequately protecting, if they are not needed to provide, then what does this mean for men as individuals?