It has been interesting and discouraging to see the responses to the #MeToo tag. I’m pretty sure that no one who posted that tag has done it for attention. In fact, after I posted #MeToo I received multiple private messages from women I knew who stated that they had been assaulted as well but did not post #MeToo themselves. I’m guessing that some men aren’t quite sure how to respond or how to be supportive because never, would they have considered victimizing a woman in anyway. I’m guessing that some men are learning more and more about harassment and rape culture and are left with some difficult feelings to resolve as they realize they may have done some of the things that women are using as examples and feel bad about it now. Here’s the thing guys, I’m speaking to all the wonderful men out there that I know – we need you now more than ever. We need you to call out your buddies when they are doing some of the things I’m going to talk about below. We know it is uncomfortable. All of us may need to call out people we know who are participating in these acts. It’s tough to be viewed as a fun-hater, a killjoy, a man-hater, etc. when someone you like thinks they are just joking around. But we really NEED you to be a part of the movement to eradicate harassment and rape culture for all of us. Take a look at the responses that victims are getting with the #MeToo tag to better understand what we hear regularly and know how to respond. (I am going to predominantly use the term “women” but do acknowledge that many individuals are affected by harassment and sex crimes).
“Guys get harassed too – it’s not just a woman thing.” – Who is victimized more is not a competition. Furthermore, victims are not some obscure person somewhere that has experienced sexual harassment or assault that you don’t know and therefore have no real emotional investment. It is girls, women and people you know. Females you go to school with or work with, females in your family who are too afraid or ashamed to talk about it. Yes, men get harassed too and it is unacceptable! We need to stand together if this happens to anyone and cry ‘foul’ right along with you. I will support you. What I will not do is take the opportunity to say to you, “Well, I was assaulted too so you really don’t have anything to complain about. Get over it.” A female’s reality is that she has a high probability of being a victim. Statistics vary from a 1 in 3 chance to a 1 in 5 chance while men are around 1 in 30 to 1 in 70 in regards to an attempted or completed rape. Women aren’t saying that men aren’t being assaulted. We aren’t saying that our assaults are worse than a man’s assault. We are simply saying we want to feel safe and not have rape anxiety every time we walk down a dark alley by ourselves. We want the very long legacy of women being victimized to end. Now.
“Why didn’t she report it?” – They are scared to talk about it because they will be traumatized over and over again when they have to report it to the authorities and then raked through the coals by an attorney if it goes to court. They will have to face their perpetrator which is terrifying. It is embarrassing and vulnerable to talk about how someone had power over us to strangers just to get justice. Just getting through the primary trauma is excruciating enough – how many females have the emotional energy or money to take it further and hold their perpetrator accountable when the outcome may be they are accused of lying or not having enough proof? What if the perpetrator was a friend or family member and they fear that they won’t be believed or told not to tell? You know, one of those family skeletons in the closet.
“You are too sensitive!” – For a long time men have been socialized to believe that they must be tough. This mentality weaved its way into everything they did – even the corporate world. It is a concept that is still admired and revered. When women started entering the work force we were belittled for being sensitive and weak. This is misogyny. There are many aspects of the human behavior that can complement the work force and there is no need to be seen as strong. Sexual harassment is about exerting power over someone else. A person is not being “too sensitive” when someone is trying to control them.
“Not all men…” – Yup. There are many amazing men out there who would never dream of exerting power and control over someone by harassing or assaulting them. We know that. We don’t have to really worry about those men do we? Right. That’s why we are talking about the asshats who are involved in harassing and assaulting women. If you are a part of this group then I refer you to my below statement of how you can help.
“He didn’t mean anything by it” – Why did he say it then? What do we say about sarcasm – there is a grain of truth to it if it is being said. There are a billion and one ways to be funny. So why say something degrading to another human? This is why we have “People First” language folks. If someone doesn’t want a term used to describe them then don’t use it. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to show respect to someone. It does say a lot about you if you find it simply too cumbersome to learn an appropriate term.
“It’s harmless locker room talk.” – Nope. ALL THE NOPES. Talking despairingly about women objectifies them and dehumanizes them. This is called “rape culture.” You don’t get to talk about another human being as if they are a thing that is there for your pleasure. Likewise, you don’t get to send pictures, memes, Snapchats, Instagram pics or anything else that shows a woman, man or child in a sexual situation that turns you on or that you find funny. You are participating in deprecating another human being in a sexual way. That is rape culture. Stop sending each other this crap. Be the guy that says, “Dude stop – not funny.”
“No means YES!!” – Can you believe that we STILL hear this? Don’t believe me? I had a friend that participated in the Women’s March with her young daughter in early 2017 and as she walked by a fraternity house the men chanted “No means YES!” Classy. But alas, NO MEANS NO. I could write a whole book on this one but instead I’ll refer you to the meme below on how not to rape a woman. They also yelled, “Grab them by the pussy!” and “KKK” as she and other black people walked past the fraternity house. It also goes without saying that one does not need to be a douche bag racist either.
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) March 21, 2015
“Some women lie.” – I believe you mean, “Some people lie.” Or, is it manipulated to look like they have lied? I’m guessing the liars of the world are a pretty small percentage and likely pales in comparison to those who have never reported because they don’t want to be accused of lying since, you know, it is her word against his.
What would happen if all the amazing guys out there, my friends, my family, my coworkers started a hashtag of #WeCanDoBetter or #HearYou in response to #MeToo? What would happen if all guys out there that have done some of the things mentioned above wrote #IHave? Would our feed be just as filled with the #IHave as the #MeToo? What role do each of us play in correcting this very BIG problem? The #MeToo tag was not created to make men feel bad so when you respond to the tag with one of the above statements you are making it about you. #MeToo was created to bring awareness to a problem and work towards fixing it. So be a part of solving it instead of working against it. I can think of a few analogies that are currently being used to bring awareness to racism and would say the same thing. They are not being created to make people feel badly and to place blame. They are being used as a tool to bring awareness and hopefully, a discussion, of how #WeCanDoBetter.
Disclaimer: I did not create the #IHave #HearYou or #WeCanDoBetter tags. They were tags used by those who commented on different articles I read. I loved them so I used them.