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#MeToo – Or, How Many Hashtags Will It Take?

Yesterday, Alby posted a comment saying, “Nothing on #metoo?” It was a valid comment. Usually I write about these issues, but…

I’m exhausted, and this topic is deeply personal to me. Yes, I am saying, “Me too.” So many times “Me too.”

As I’ve read through the comments on Twitter and articles about the hashtag it strikes me that nothing I read is new. The women’s stories are familiar, many resonate on a deeply personal level for me. Know what else is familiar? The way a group of men feel the need to weigh in on a post/article about women’s experience with:

#notallmen
#Hey, women are awful to men too!
#Men are assaulted too!
#Why aren’t there shelters for men?
#Are you sure you didn’t do something (fill in the blank with whatever victim-blaming excuse moves you)
#Consent is soooo complicated
#Women lie about these things
#An accusation of sexual assault/rape is just as bad – if not worse! – as sexual assault/rape

There’s more, of course, but I can’t even. However, I will point out (for the gazillionth time) that it’s mostly feminists writing about how toxic masculinity hurts men, how men need to be made comfortable is speaking out, how men can be sexually assaulted and how they’re shamed into not reporting it, etc.. Not to mention that most men are sexually assaulted by other men which plays into the shame. I’ll also point out that every one of the above hashtags is about deflection and a way to silence the discussion at hand. (We get this when delacrat writes a comment.)

Jessica Valenti asks the question:

Why have a list of victims when a list of perpetrators could be so much more useful?

After all, there was a reason men in media circles were shaking in their Vans last week: an anonymously created spreadsheet was being passed around, listing “Shitty Media Men” accused of everything from sending creepy direct messages to violent sexual assault.

It was an extension of the existing whisper network we’ve heard so much about in the wake of the Weinstein scandal – women warning each other about potentially skeezy or dangerous men.

Some suggested that creating a list where men couldn’t respond to accusations, or where sexual propositions were listed alongside rape, was irresponsible. Those people missed the point entirely.

Of course the list wasn’t a perfect solution to sexual harassment and assault – because it wasn’t meant to be a solution at all. This list – private until its existence was outed by Buzzfeed – was triage. It was an emergency measure; harm reduction for a community of people who felt they had no other recourse.

Newsflash: That list of men has always existed (and is constantly growing). At work, on college campuses, at churches, in bars, etc. women have always warned other women about these men. And yes, we name names. If a man is worried he’s on the list, chances are he deserves to be.

But what strikes me most about all these hashtags is how every woman knows someone who’s been sexually harassed, but no man seems to know any harasser?

Granted, some of this behavior is deliberately done without an audience, but a lot of it isn’t. And it’s those public incidents where we need men (yes, men) to start calling this behavior out. We need allies. We need men to tell the guy who brags about how drunk the women he took home (so drunk! “like she was dead!” – actual quote, btw) or the woman he’s scoping out to approach at a party because “she’s so out of it” to cut that sh*t out. We need men to call out co-workers who objectify women, or make comments about how everyone knows how she got that promotion. We need men to report what they see/overhear to HR. It doesn’t have to be the women reporting. See something – say something. Silence on these issues is speaking.

Because here’s the truth: All of this behavior isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a men’s issue. And we really need to start treating it that way. We need to stop making victims responsible for the actions of their abusers. We need to stop pretending that there’s something women can do differently, (dress differently, not drink, not walk alone, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.) when that’s the biggest lie out there, and focus on what men can do to change what’s happening. Because I’m not sure I can handle another hashtag.

22 comments on “#MeToo – Or, How Many Hashtags Will It Take?

  1. I have a couple of hashtags of my own:

    #Hey Men, shut up and listen.
    #If you are defensive, why are you defensive?
    #Could it be that you feel you have done some harrassing things towards women in the past?
    #I think you doth protest too much
    #So shut up, listen, and learn.

    And finally, as a man, I say to all women that I am #withyou.

    • Thank you, DD. It means a lot.

      One of the things I noticed whenever I wrote posts like this was how so many progressive men didn’t comment on my post. That silence from them spoke volumes.

      • Well, there are two sides of that coin: of progressive men not speaking up. Some don’t want to address the issue. But others, like me, don’t comment as much because, honestly, I don’t want to speak on an issue that I have no experience with. I am man, so I have no idea what harassment is like. I have not been sexually harassed, or endure the same day to day sexist struggles that women do. So I listen, and try to adjust my behavior if I find what I do or say is seen as harassment or sexist. That is really what all men should do. Because while some men, like Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump are easily identifiable as overt sexual harassers, all of us, even if we are raised right by feminist baby boomers (like myself) may still possess some sexist behaviors. So we should listen instead of getting defensive and offering excuses.

        • I agree with DD (for once) Just because I didnt feel the need to be yet another male chiming in on previous posts, doesnt mean I didnt read or agree with them. I truthfully was, being quiet and listening.
          (shocker) I usually only comment in such a forum to debate/argue. Had there been a “like” button (a passive, quiet and unassuming way to agree) You’d have seen one from me on all of those posts. I debated even making THIS comment as none of this should be about me, however, there it is.

          • Wanted you guys to know (and Alby) that I wasn’t talking about you. Just typing out that you hear us/are with us goes a long way – probably because we can feel like some men just tune us out.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this. They are always helpful in spreading awareness.

    It’s easy to think the uproar surrounding every new outing of a longtime sexual predator is having no effect, but this isn’t like the gun issue, where one side has put a wheelbarrow full of cash on the scales. Men aren’t going to see themselves quickly or easily as beneficiaries, let alone enablers and perpetrators, of millenia of male privilege.

    It’s like banging a drum. Hitting it once is attention-getting, but it’s the repetition that produces the effect.

  3. cassandram

    I saw a piece a day or two back where someone conducted two sets of interviews — a group of men and a group of women — asking them how do they avoid sexual harassment. The men had a difficult time with the question, finally deciding that they could avoid it by not being sent to prison. The women had long lists of preventative behaviors that they rely on the try to keep themselves safe. What was most remarkable to me is that these women could be the wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends of these men. And these women have to armour themselves up every single day to try to make some safe space for themselves. While these men presume they are always safe — unless they go to prison.

    #metoo feels like a quick glimpse into the conversations women have among themselves every day. Except this time making it plain the astonishing ubiquity of sexual harassment. It isn’t the entertainment industry or certain groups of women — it is just everywhere. #metoo should be a mirror for all men, asking them to think about themselves and to start taking responsibility for better behavior.

    • Agreed, and I think it’s working in exactly that way.

      To hear people today tell it, all Americans nodded in agreement when Dr. King said he had a dream. I was alive then, and they didn’t. It took time for them to drop their biases and defensiveness and admit he spoke the simple truth.

      It’s taking even longer to do something about it, but that’s a different story.

      • cassandram

        It’s gonna take a long time — lots of social media response has been like this.

        But you are right, though, lots of people embraced King’s aspiration long after the heavy lifting was done. And plenty of them still invoke King as an example of the *right* way to protest when none of them have any real knowledge of the man or his thoughts on protesting.

    • In my daughter’s freshman orientation they did something like this. First, they asked the young men in the room to share what their parents told them about safety before they left them at the dorm. The list was only a few things, that revolved around binge drinking. When the young women were asked the same the list hit over 130 different safety tips before the moderator moved on.

  4. RabCNesbitt

    “Monica Lewinsky raised eyebrows over the weekend when she tweeted the hashtag #MeToo, marking herself as a victim of sexual harassment or assault.” – MSN

    • She was a victim. No matter how you view it, the power dynamic made her a victim – as did, imo, the age difference. Also, most women have far more than one #MeToo experience. No raised eyebrow here.

  5. I’m not sure what you think you proved with that, but lots of us condemned Bill Clinton for his behavior. A predator is a predator. Your problem is that Republican men are just as susceptible to this behavior.

    • RabCNesbitt

      Glad you asked, it was sort of aimed at you. You claimed that Slick Willie wasn’t relevant anymore, and that he shouldn’t be included in these modern day groups of wolves.
      The guy is still totally relevant. He runs a large foundation (Chelsea was there), and he is in the news practically every day, not to mention that he almost ended up in the White House again just this past year….And don’t forget that his wife, who vigorously defended him and trashed the woman who accused him, is hobbling (broken toe?) around Europe comparing the current president to Harvey Weinstein, like she thinks no one remembers what she did, which was to head off the “Bimbo Eruptions”.

      • Wow. Do you even realize how you blamed Chelsea and Hillary for Bill’s behavior. Tells me so much.

      • I claimed that he wasn’t in a picture on a publication’s cover because he’s not part of the current conversation, no more. YOu are the one inferring that liberals let this pass among their own — forgetting, apparently, that Cosby and Weinstein are more liberal than conservative.

        You’re trying to play the hypocrisy card, and I’m telling you it’s out of bounds. Nobody here apologized for Clinton’s behavior. But to concentrate on a cast from that long ago while ignoring the current president demonstrates that you’re not interested in justice, you’re just trying to score points for your team.

        Grow up if you want to hang at the adult table.

  6. RabCNesbitt

    Oh, please. “Chelsea was there”, in parentheses is a long running joke in my comments, and as far as Hillary goes, you understand what an enabler is, right? You do know that it is well documented how Hillary trashed Bill’s accusers.

  7. snewton929

    Your point about what men need to do with respect to seeing situations of sexual misconduct (just to use that as a general term) makes me think of the categorization of people during the Holocaust that most historians now use pretty generally. Basically, everyone in that sense falls into one of these categories: victim, predator, bystander, or rescuer. You can move from category to category depending on the situation (a woman who has previously been a victim can, in another situation, become a rescuer–or a bystander).

    The usefulness of this paradigm is that there is a similarity in terms of Jews and women in this schema. Yes, there were other victims of the Holocaust (gypsies, Poles, gays, etc.) but the Holocaust focused on Jews the way that sexual misconduct focuses on women.

    And for men it makes the choice pretty stark: there is a situation you see–do you want to be a predator, a bystander, or a rescuer? (Granting that “rescuer” could perhaps be better replaced with “ally” or something else–but I think you get the category point.)

    This leads to a second area of separation–witness versus audience. In this sense I mean that I am a “witness” when such behavior occurs around me, where I can reasonably see or hear or know about what is going on in real time. The process of judging for myself whether acts are consensual, whether the woman is in a condition to give consent, is rendered easier by having direct evidence in front of me. (Leaving out “bros before hos” peer pressure.)

    If I am an “audience” my knowledge of the event is second-hand. I have been told that this occurred. This places me in several potentially different situations. I will most likely never meet the woman or never confront the man directly (I may not even know their identities). More often than not I will deal with the situation in terms of encountering the situation through media or conversation, at which point my obligation as rescuer is not directly toward the woman who was attacked, but toward the women left at greater risk to be attacked because the evilness of the event is minimized (or even celebrated). I may see these women at the fringes of the conversation, trying not to draw attention to themselves, or I may never know the impact I had in some apartment later tonight when a guy goes home and thinks twice about what he’s going to do because somebody he knows didn’t approve of his attitude.

    In many ways it is easier (and feels more heroic) to be a “witness rescuer” than an “audience rescuer,” but it is actually–play the numbers–more critical overall to be the second. The first saves individual women (and I am not demeaning that at all), but the second changes the conditions of society over time.

    One of the things we know from modern Holocaust scholarship is that even in Nazi Germany the men who refused to murder people were rarely if ever subject to any penalty. They could refuse and walk away. It happened. Nobody was actually forced to commit the murders. The Holocaust depended on willing obedience. But the people who obeyed and became predators, and the people who stood by and became bystanders promulgated the myth that to do otherwise would have been dangerous. Therefore, they argued, this reduced the standard for them as moral actors because acting morally would have been at risk to themselves. This has repeatedly been shown to be bullshit.

    So too, today. Men who push back against sexual misconduct don’t actually pay a price for doing so–at least not in a statistical sense. There’s no evidence that they suffer loss of status in family, job, society, etc. But the rationalizing myth that they will be labeled some kind of feminist wimp is a comfortable way to avoid taking action–especially when there are no women around.

    I think of a racist joke that a Black friend told me thirty years ago. Q: When does a Black man become a nigger? A: When he leaves the room.

    Q: When does a woman become a c*nt?

    The answer is the same.

    • Excellent comment, Steve. The breakdown of victim, predator, bystander, or rescuer shows us where we’re standing in those moments. Using these terms, one of the hardest things I’ve encountered is how often a predator doesn’t see themselves as one and will hide behind saying things like “It was a joke! Get a sense of humor!” “It was a compliment! Sheesh, learn how to accept a compliment” and how often the bystander agrees with the predator. Which is why…

      … I 100% agree with this: “In many ways it is easier (and feels more heroic) to be a “witness rescuer” than an “audience rescuer,” but it is actually–play the numbers–more critical overall to be the second. The first saves individual women (and I am not demeaning that at all), but the second changes the conditions of society over time.”

  8. How does anyone even know if Monica Lewinsky was referring to Bill Clinton? And, of course Hillary lashed out! What wife wouldn’t? She then decided to continue her marriage which was her decision, not the public’s. That is just more blaming the woman for the man’s actions.

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