How the #MeToo Movement Can Be Only a Start—and the Radical Implications For Both Men and Women (a Cultural Maturity “Thought Exercise”)

Since the release of my most recent book On the Future of Intimacy: A Brief Exploration Into the Past, Present, and Future of Gender and Love, numerous people have asked me about the relationship between the #MeToo movement and the like and the concept of Cultural Maturity (the topic of my previous book, Hope and the Future: Confronting Todays Crisis of Purpose). 

If people haven’t read the new book, they may be surprised by my answer. There I make an important distinction. While the #MeToo movement and related efforts make important and timely contributions, the changes they advocate for the most part stop short of the needed new cultural chapter—the “growing up” as a species—I describe with the concept of Cultural Maturity. Rather, with their emphasis on equal rights, equal safety, and equal pay for equal work, they are best thought of as reflecting culminating steps in the previous cultural stage, culture’s modern age, that which brought us the Bill and Rights and all the familiar movements toward greater equality of the centuries since.   

Why is this distinction important? Certainly it doesn’t make current efforts any less significant. Equal empowerment in a modern age sense—whether the focus is gender, ethnicity, economic background, or sexual orientation—is essential to an ultimately healthy society. But it does suggest that the empowerment project as currently conceived is incomplete. 

And there is more. The distinction is important because unless we recognize what more is needed, current efforts, however well intentioned, will not have the effects we might hope. Further steps will be necessary if such efforts are to support the kind of rethinking of identity and relationships between the sexes that will be ultimately important going forward. Indeed, more may be needed simply if the result of current efforts is to be ultimately positive. 

In On the Evolution of Intimacy, I make an observation that puts the implications of the distinction between modern age advances and Cultural Maturity’s contribution into high relief. It concerns the historical battle of the sexes. I note that while one possible outcome of the #MeToo movement and the like could be better communication between men and women, I warn that the opposite could just as easily be the result. We could see growing polarization and an exacerbation of the battle of the sexes not unlike what we see today with so many other social and political issues. I argue that which we see will be a function of the degree efforts reflect the further steps required for culturally mature understanding and relationship.

In previous posts, I’ve introduced two kinds of change that very specifically require at least the beginnings of Cultural Maturity. The first is the possibility—and necessity—of a new chapter in how we think about love, indeed in what makes something love at all. In the post “How Changes Reshaping Love are Much More Fundamental Than We Realize—and Much More Fundamental Than Before We Could Have Realized,” I described how modern age Romeo and Juliet style love is not really love based on individual choice as we have imagined it, but a kind of two-halves-make-a whole connecting where projection plays a central role in the felt experience of magnetism. I also describe how Cultural Maturity’s changes make possible a new, more complete, more Whole-Person kind of love and argue that rewarding love going forward will depend increasingly on realizing it in our lives.  

In the post “The Surprising Key to Rethinking Gender—It Has Never Been What We Thought It Was” I made related observations with regard to our past experience of gender. I described how our thinking in terms of “opposite sexes” is similarly more a product of projection than what has in fact been the case. I offered that in truth we have always been more similar that we might imagine, being careful to distinguish this observation from the common postmodern/academic  claim that any differences we do find must be based only on conditioning. Culturally mature perspective affirms real differences, but it makes clear that these differences are normative and that there is great individual variation. An essential consequence of stepping beyond the past’s polarized picture of gender, is that it makes possible much greater appreciation both for commonalities and the unique challenges that come with being embodied as a man or a woman. 

In On the Evolution of Intimacy, I address how the common tendency with the modern gender conversation to assume that the problem is simply bad behavior on the part of men is not only simplistic, ultimately it gets in the way of needed understanding. Certainly today men have a lot to learn and these new learnings could not be more important. But seen from a culturally mature perspective, the new learnings required of women are just as fundamental. I conclude the book with a chapter that lists “important lessons for men” and “important lesson for women.” Cultural Maturity’s changes challenge men and women equally and the challenges in each case are equally essential.

These observations taken together help clarify why stopping with the modern age goal of equal rights and equal opportunity cannot be enough. It turns out that even if we wholly succeed with the modern age tasks, we are left well short of what is needed for any depth of mutual understanding. Indeed, given that we would then no longer have complementary roles to temper potential conflict, circumstances could easily become even more problematical.

If what I describe is accurate, stepping over the threshold into Cultural Maturity’s more complete world of experience is needed if the gender revolution is to realize its full potential and ultimately serve us.