Over this past weekend, a post by the actor Alyssa Milano turned into a viral call to arms for those who have been victims of sexual abuse. The phrase “me too” has been used to refer to (primarily) women who also have suffered at the hands of others. Social media has been ablaze from posts of women who are speaking out about their stories of sexual harassment and violence.
Since it became a rallying cry for millions of people, there has been a backlash, some of it well-meaning. Mostly there have been those that criticized the lack of acknowledgment of men who have also been sexually harassed and abused.
Indeed, that is certainly a serious issue as well. And in 2017, there is a definite social stigma against men who speak out about having been victims of sexual assault. The original post itself (and subsequent hashtag) wasn’t specifically excluding men… but the fact that it has mostly been used by women should be understood as a further example of the ubiquitous nature of systemic sexism. Yes, men have suffered abuse – at the hands of other men, as well as women. However, for men, sexual abuse isn’t a near-universal concern in their day-to-day lives. Most men don’t fear walking down the street in their neighborhood. Most don’t worry that being alone in a room with a woman may lead to their assault. Equality is still a distant goal in how men and women treat each other.
That’s what I wanted to write about.
Today, on Facebook, I penned a brief diatribe that I wanted to repeat on my blog. This isn’t necessarily for women, except in the sense that I want the women who know me to understand that I have their backs. They have a friend. But I don’t say this looking for kudos. I just want the women in my life to know that their proclamations of “me too,” have impacted me as well. And even more importantly, I want to redirect it to the men I know… please listen to these women. And please don’t be afraid to speak out as well. Don’t be afraid to call out other men. And don’t be afraid to tell your stories.
Anyway, this is what I wrote:
I know I’m a little late to this… I wasn’t completely sure how to word it.
But, me too.
Not in terms of being a victim of assault or harassment, but in that anyone who has said “me too,” has an ally in me.
It was sobering to see just how many “me toos” there were on Facebook this past weekend. There’s also something tragic in the idea so many people should have to bare their souls and publicly share personal tragedies in order to get others to take notice of such a pervasive problem. I hope that any man, especially straight white guys like me, noticed this and put some serious thought into what it means.
Men, this isn’t about having sisters or daughters or women friends. It shouldn’t be about a woman’s relation to you. It should be about fairness for 51% of humanity.
It’s important to note that a little more than half the human population, even now, in 2017, still routinely suffers from being victimized, assaulted, and treated as lesser human beings than their male peers.
And while every single group of person is capable of victimizing every other group (and certainly has), it’s a simple fact that women almost universally have been victims – in some way – of sexual violence or harassment, and that its usually a man’s fault.
I’m not anti-male here. This isn’t self-hatred. But I do want us dudes – especially straight white ones – to recognize the massive inequities that we benefit from, and work to change this. Whether or not one has a girl or woman in our lives, we should care about these inequities. We should be allies. We should call out abuse and make sure that it doesn’t happen around us.
We should be horrified that there were so many “me toos.” Guys, we need to do better. If you see harassment, cat calling, abuse, or any other terrible behavior directed at women – please don’t hesitate to speak out. I’m not necessarily saying start a fist fight. Definitely one should work within their means. But if you see something wrong, respond in some way. Don’t let sexism and abuse occur unchallenged.
The culture of misogyny will change when we force it to be no longer acceptable to treat women as lesser beings. And we men need to take responsibility for that.