The Problem With #MeToo
I am sick of talking about sexual harassment and assault. I am more disgusted by how pervasive and universal these experiences are for women* everywhere (*for the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “women” as a general umbrella including trans, non-binary, and other vulnerable groups). But I am tired of us having to be the ones to bring the subject up.
Because guess what? We already know how widespread these issues are. We have spent hours swapping stories about the open misogyny we’ve faced and we are the ones our girlfriends call when they are feeling unsafe in the company of men. Women in Hollywood warned each other against and protected each other from Harvey Weinstein. We need no further education about how often these horrific situations occur. We didn’t need to see more than 12 million women post the hashtag #MeToo to understand the amount of victims there are out in the world.
Therein lies my problem with the #MeToo campaign. Its purpose is to inform, to peel back the curtain and expose the number of women affected by sexual harassment and violence. The problem is: WE KNOW. We’ve been on the front lines for the last few centuries (an understatement) trying to make it easier for the next generation. It is men whose eyes are finally being opened — and only because they’ve chosen to be blind all this time.
“Good” men who have been complacent in the face of their fellow man’s crimes. Men who have looked the other way and not spoken up, because “boys will be boys” and it’s “just locker room talk.” Men who did not intervene when they saw a male friend act inappropriately. Men who let sexist comments slide because there were no women in the room (why were there no women in the room? — a question for another article). Not to mention the evil perpetrators of these acts who behaved that way just because they could. They had no fear of repercussions.
Harvey Weinstein is not the first high-profile man to be take down by his own history of sexual misconduct. This is also not the first time women have taken to social media to demonstrate what it’s like to exist in a patriarchal world (remember #YesAllWomen?). So when do we pass the baton? When does the time finally come that women can look to the perpetrators of abuse and oppression to take responsibility and spearhead change? What will it take for men to recognize toxic behavior before it ruins the lives of countless women?
I don’t understand why it is always on women to bare their souls and reveal some of their most traumatic memories to convince others to take them seriously. Living as a woman already includes not having control over others’ perception of you, can’t we at least have the choice of whether we want to rip open our deepest emotional wounds for the public’s consumption? The women who have come out against men in power and on social media are extremely brave and I am in awe of their resilience and strength. However, I don’t think it is the responsibility of any woman who has experienced sexual assault or harassment to declare it for the world when the purpose is trying to educate men. It is not fair.
The confessions within #MeToo run the gamut of abuse, from microaggressions and verbal attacks to rape. These experiences, while all traumatizing, are too specific and nuanced to be lumped together under two little words. I understand the hashtag was meant to spark a larger discussion — but it is time for men to take up the mantle. It is time for individual stories to have their own spotlight, instead of just being one in several million.
I hope that this moment in history becomes a turning point for change. I understand a social media campaign is one of the best tools we have in this political and technological climate, but it has to go further. We cannot let this conversation die on Twitter with no concrete change to follow.
It is time for men to take a stand. I wonder: if the question posed was how often they witnessed sexist behavior without intervening, how many of them would post #MeToo?