What about the collateral damage of the #MeToo movement, someone asked me the other day? I replied, well, women have been collateral damage for centuries. They still are.  Women continue to be collateral damage.

With the spate of #MeToo that has flooded our timelines, our media and our conversation, I realise that there is real and collateral damage that we often miss, that of the families of the men being called out, who have often to confront the fact that their husbands, fathers, brothers have behaved in a manner that has been unacceptable. That no matter how wonderful, nurturing, kind and loving they have been with them, there is a woman or more out there who can speak out and say unequivocally that she was harassed. Or worse.

There is shock, there is betrayal, there is hurt and there is the utter humiliation that the wives would have to deal with. I often wonder what I would have done in their place, I feel terrible for the cross they must bear, not of their creation. Theirs is the standing on the sidelines, watching their worlds collapse through actions they are not responsible for in the first place.

I feel terrible for the cross they must bear, not of their creation.

The betrayal is one at multiple levels, at one level there is the real and immediate pain of betrayal by an intimate partner, the second is the betrayal as a woman by a man you have as an integral part of your life, a man you’ve possibly had children with, built a home together with, a man you thought you knew, for years. The hurt is manifold.

The natural immediate reaction is to lash out. Something that is completely understandable. There is also the tendency to pin the blame on the other woman for the incident, in some way. The need to pin it on the other, somehow seems to absolve the man of responsibility for his actions. It makes it a little more palatable to the self, the man isn’t like this, it was this woman who tempted him, this woman who caused it, this woman who made him pursue her. Never mind that there are women who do pursue men, married or otherwise, and the issue here is not about consensual relationships, but that of appropriateness, power equations and shockingly, sexual violence, which to my mind is completely indefensible, no matter how much one tries to find a justification which lets the man off easier.

It makes it a little more palatable to the self, the man isn’t like this, it was this woman who tempted him, this woman who caused it, this woman who made him pursue her.

When the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination controversy was underway, President Trump at a rally speech in Mississippi spoke about how women could find their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers accused unjustly and how these accusations could derail their homes. This speech appealed to the women as caregivers, as the ones who hold together their families, telling them that by failing to speak up for their men, they were failing as wives, mothers, daughters. This is a manipulative device that the patriarchy has always used, and an effective one at that. This enables men to get absolution while the women in their lives speak out to protect them from the consequences of their actions. This is the narrative that is worrying, that of women being held to account for the conduct of the men in their lives and speaking up on behalf of the men, defence that the men should be offering, if any.

Stand by your man is a narrative most women have internalised. It probably stems from way back, when Adam’s fall from grace was blamed on Eve.

Stand by your man is a narrative most women have internalised. It probably stems from way back, when Adam’s fall from grace was blamed on Eve. Ashley Kavanaugh stood by her husband in a television interview. Many years ago, Hillary Clinton sat next to her husband, accused of an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and famously said, “I’m not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him and I respect him.” Not much seems to have changed from the time of the Bill Clinton scandal to the Kavanaugh. Women stood by their men. Georgina Chapman too stood by Harvey Weinstein “100 per cent” until she decided she had had quite enough and left him. Her career suffered by association.

Women continue to be defined by their husbands, their moral compass tends to be inextricably and unfairly linked with their husbands’  and the women face a difficult choice.

Women used as a first line of defence by their husbands, often get the flak of being one who defends the indefensible.  To be fair, women in such situations are often in the uncomfortable situation of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The fact remains that women continue to be defined by their husbands, their moral compass tends to be inextricably and unfairly linked with their husbands’ and the women face a difficult choice. Do they stand by their men and open themselves up to the rage that will inevitably come their way from the victims. Or do they not speak up, and thus imply they concede the allegations against their husbands are true and that they are aware of this behaviour and therefore be labelled complicit by their silence. Which brings us to the moot point, why should a woman bear the shame of her man’s actions. It is a question that we need to think about the ramifications of, and examine closely in this #MeToo era.

Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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