The Current

Men and #MeToo: 'People shouldn't lose their livelihood over an unpleasant experience'

What role do men play in the #MeToo movement? Our male panel explores the question and looks at how to take ownership of their part in moving this forward.
Albert Schultz resigned from the Soulpepper Theatre company after allegations were made against him. Those allegations have yet to be proven in court. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

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On Tuesday, we heard from three women, from different generations, about a shifting dynamic in the #MeToo movement. Today, we hear from three men.

David Eddie is an advice columnist for the Globe and Mail; he says the revelations have left him "torn." He believes it's time for guilty parties to face consequences.

"Let these bullies get off the stage, you know, because they are ... giving us all a bad name," he says.

On the other hand, Eddie says, it makes him nervous that people are losing their livelihoods.

"We're talking about a person's livelihood, you're talking about their ability to put food on the table," he tells Tremonti. "All of a sudden that vanishes, on the basis of allegations."

I don't think the centre of the conversation should be around these men's livelihoods right now.- Jordon Veira 

'Men's primary role should be to listen'

Jordon Veira, an artist and youth worker based in Toronto, thinks the focus needs to be on the victims.

"I think it's challenging, and quite dangerous to prioritize our safety or the security of our careers over the safety of the women in our communities," he says.

"I think men's primary role should be to listen," he tells Tremonti. "This is an opportunity for us to understand the nuance and specific ways that we can participate in various forms of violence."

Veira acknowledges that, in the past, he was not always a good role model in his behaviour toward women and he incorporates this into his educational work and spoken word, challenging men to reflect on their complicity in rape culture and misogyny.

Eddie thinks men should take a more active role than just listening, and should actively examine their own behaviour.

"I think that men have to sit back and say: 'Well, am I guilty of these kind of micro-aggressions, that make the women in my world feel uncomfortable or bullied?'" he says.

This week the story of a woman who says she went on a bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari raised a lot of discussion about issues around consent. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

This past weekend, allegations made against the comedian Aziz Ansari exposed a faultline in the movement, primarily over what constitutes harassment or abuse, and what amounts to a "bad date".

Neil Boyd is a professor at Simon Fraser University's school of criminology in B.C. While he says the #MeToo is an important moment, it's just as important to stick to the facts, and understand sexual harassment and sexual assault as defined under the law.

"There are some times when we've crossed boundaries," he tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti, "when we've described activities that amount to a bad date, rather than sexual assault or sexual harassment."

Jordon Veira says he's not surprised at the public ambivalence.

"I can understand people saying that they don't understand how the law was broken here," he says. "But if somebody's safety was compromised, if somebody didn't feel their physical safety was secure, then that's an issue."

"It's more than what a person feels," argues Boyd. "There must be some objective reality here."

"People shouldn't lose their livelihood as a consequence of an unpleasant experience," he adds.

"We all have unpleasant things happen to us, but that's the kind of overreaction that could diminish the #MeToo movement."

Demonstrators at the #MeToo Survivors' March, in Los Angeles, Nov. 12, 2017. (David McNew/Getty Images)

'How do we exist in a safer way?'

Boyd says he supports the movement, and hopes we can "actually have conversations in all of our communities about what consent means, and change the nature of the agenda around sexuality."

But he believes there has been an overcorrection.

"As a lawyer I do think it's important to pay attention to what the rules are — unless the rules are terribly wrong. And being upset is not a justification for somebody losing their job."

Veira points to the sexual harassment we aren't hearing about — the millions of aggressive acts that happen to women in all walks of life, every day. In the face of this, he thinks the focus must be on change, rather than protecting livelihoods.

"We need to understand how we can live differently, and that's going to mean for men that we're going to be uncomfortable and we're going to be in a new space."

"But I don't think the centre of the conversation should be around these men's livelihoods right now, although that is extremely important."

"I think it should be around: 'How do we exist in a safer way?'"

Veira's mother is a support worker, who works with young women who have experienced sexual violence. Drawing on her experience, he says that "until we learn how to work together in a process of restorative justice, we won't get healing."

"[We need] to take these conversations of #MeToo, and bring that into our homes, bring that into the streets — figure out how to take this language and not just focus on legality but focus on humanity."

"But I think so long as we're focusing on our careers, or on consequences, we're sort of missing the point here, because it's not about money. It's about safety, it's about humanity."

UPDATED 1/23/2018: This story has been updated to add context to the comments of one of the panelists, Jordon Veira.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Josh Bloch and Amra Pasic.