“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
And with that one sentence, the #MeToo campaign began last week, a deluge of brave and heartbreaking stories of sexual harassment, assault, and violence. And while many courageous women came forward, there was also an unexpected contingent who spoke up: Men.
(Spoiler alert: This is going to be a bumpy ride. Buckle in.)
Some male responses were flippant, as in “#metoo. Because the IRS violates me on a frequent basis.”
But many were likewise as powerful stories of men revealing their experiences. And I applaud that courage.
But here’s the thing.
“#metoo” wasn’t a campaign to bring awareness to “general” sexual harassment as an occurrence or concept. As noted in the post I quoted above–the sentence which sparked the campaign–the point of #metoo was to bring to attention to rape culture and how widespread victimization and intimidation of women is. Yes, some men are victimized too, but it’s about the culture, not just the abuse in and of itself. Men chiming in, IMO, smacked slightly of #alllivesmatter. Yes, police brutality is an overall problem for American society and many civilians needlessly lose lives at the hands of police, but #blacklivesmatter is specifically about the racialized manifestation of police brutality as it applies to African Americans.
The male response to #metoo grated against me in a way that reminded me of a post I read on Facebook over a year ago:
“Here’s the thing: Men get sexually assaulted, men get abused, men have toxic gender stereotypes that they are expected to live up to. This is a problem, and I am more than willing to have discussions about this, and talk about what can/should be done to change these things etc, if you bring it up as its own topic. HOWEVER, if you bring these things up as an attempt to override discussions about women, I will not listen to you. If you really cared about men’s issues you’d bring it up at other times, not only when we’re discussing women. That’s not you caring about men’s issues, that’s you not wanting to talk about women’s issues because you want everything to be about men.”
Now, while many, if not all, of the male voices had no intention of diverting focus away from the unique struggle of women in society, the week of #metoo nonetheless should’ve been about women, and on my public Facebook page, I advocated such:
“Hey guys. Literally guys. I’m seeing a lot of us chiming in on #metoo. A hashtag whose origin is the specific impetus of “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Metoo” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” And yeah men get sexually harassed too, but #metoo was specifically for calling out experiences of WOMEN. So it just seems kinda #alllivesmatter douchey. This moment is their moment. If you really care about lifting abused men’s voices then you can wait next week to tell your experiences with an #alsome tag.”
Expectedly, my post received pushback.
And, admittedly, yes it was a tad sensational, after all there isn’t particularly anything douchey about men coming forward about their experiences with sexual harassment or assault. In fact, it should be encouraged. However, there is a time and place for everything. Like, I’m not gonna start talking about my dead grandmother at someone else’s funeral.
Some women–as is their prerogative, as members of the group the hashtag was aimed for–said they didn’t mind male voices speaking up. Some, bafflingly, said I was silencing women who were abused by other women. And others said I was silencing male voices of victimization and who was I to tell them to wait their turn.
Well for me that’s an easy answer: a male voice of victimization. And, because I’m going for Bingo, it was by a woman.
Sure, I probably shouldn’t have accepted the invite to her party. Or at least noticed when suddenly it was just the two of us left in her apartment. I probably shouldn’t have had that much to drink. Also yichud and tzniut and a bunch of other things a nice Ortho boy like myself should’ve been paying attention to. But making out with her was so much great! Also, that’s as far as I’d wanted it to go. And then it went further. And I didn’t want it to. Not while it was happening, not thinking about it on the train home, not the next day when I woke up.
But after a couple of days I thought myself into thinking that it was totally cool. That I was totally cool, because, single dudes in their 20s amirite?
But that only lasted for about a month. And it’s something that lurks around in the back of my head ever so often. Or re-emerges every time I see she’s requested me on Facebook as a friend. Again. And again. (Facebook, you should really get on that by the way. Like, some kinda “Three rejected friend requests and you’re blocked” deal).
And no, I’m not the brave soul who wrote this Neshamas post, but I know that feel bro. That spiritual violation overlaid with physical violation. A dollop of shame with just a dash of Jew guilt. Season to taste.
Also, just like Jenny Listman and her tale of Elie Wiesel assaulting her when she was 19, I’m not providing further details, I’m being as explicit as I intend to be, and I also won’t be rehashing or retelling this story save for right here, and right now. After all, it has nothing to do with the work I do, nor–as it happened once I was already MaNishtana–is it the “reason” why I’m an applecart-upsetter (my sincerest apologies to all those who thought I handed them a “Gotcha!” moment to dismiss my work).
But coming back to being critical of the timing of male #metoo voices, I replied to each of those pushing back that I would reply this week, a week after the height of #metoo. A week after the uplifting of women’s voices who experience institutionalized sexual oppression that even us #alsomes never will.
After all, our stories are still important too, right?
Important enough that they’re still potent and relevant even a week later?