It’s #MeToo, not #MenToo
On Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media right now, there are a flood of stories being told by women from across generations, decades, livelihoods, and political persuasions, about sexual assault under the hashtag #MeToo.
There are also a fair number of men detailing their own experiences with sexual assault. Some of them are well-intentioned allies, trying to show empathy through shared experience. Some are completely missing the point, equating unwelcome gropes from strangers at a bar with the systemic, persistent, career and life-changing threats women are constantly under.
Look: sexual assault happens to men, too. Men in power, whether gay or straight, are capable of abusing that power for sexual gratification. But even in most of the entertainment business, you’re more likely to find straight men in position to further or finish careers. The fact that you’re more likely to find men, of any persuasion, in positions of power, is in no small part because women are disproportionately the target of manipulation, harassment, and assault. Nearly all women are vulnerable, in our current culture, in ways men rarely ever are.
So, fellow men: when women start the hashtag #MeToo to share their experiences, to bring light to the scope of the problem and to make other victims feel less isolated, consider at least asking one whether it would be appropriate to co-opt the moment with your experiences as a man. Your stories should be out there, and should be shared, and we should acknowledge their similarities to those of women. But we should also recognize we’ll never be as systemically subjected to sexual assault, or as disadvantaged in seeking recourse, as women are. In other words: no matter how pure your intent, don’t “all lives matter” sexual assault of women by grabbing this moment, and distorting the conversation.
I remember when #NotAllMen went viral after the Isla Vista shootings. Plenty of clueless, but well-intentioned guys posted the sentiment earnestly. While they may have meant to proclaim their allyship, they were actually diluting women’s voices with a phrase so overused in disingenuous, insincere deflections, it was an object of ridicule.
So share your stories, by all means. But not under the #MeToo hashtag. And not before telling all the courageous women sharing their stories under it:
I believe you.
I support you.
And I want to help.