The #MeToo Movement Needed this Backlash

The Backlash against the #MeToo movement is disconcerting but expected, and maybe just what the movement needed. After all, there is growth in adversity, with the caveat that the adversity is embraced. And whether we want to or not, we need to listen to the voices dissenting the movement. Simply dismissing their complaints with a standard, one size fits all stamp, red and reading: REJECTED as Misogynistic only creates unnecessary enemies, and stifles opportunity for growth.

The Arguments Against the #MeToo Movement:

The #MeToo Movement Creates a Moralistic, Punitive Environment where Sexual Interest is Policed:

Ok, take a breath, but there is a point here. It would be a misfortune for men, and women if every sexual advance, and desire had to follow a formulated script complete with trigger warnings. Sexual attraction, sexual interest, and sex are sticky. Period. The cry to end all forms of sexual interest and advances in the workplace may be unrealistic, too, given that many men and women work together, and actually meet at work. I met my first husband at work. He was my manager, and I was the aggressor in seeking a first date that eventually led to a marriage. Should I be stoned at the next sunrise?

Of course, not, but someone please find me an example where a man has lost his career, his family and/or his life savings because a woman accused him of expressing—in a respectable manner, sexual interest in her at the workplace, or any place? Let’s be clear: Coming up to a woman, and grabbing her ass, without her asking is NOT an example of expressing sexual interest in a respectable way. Finding it necessary to stare down every woman who walks by you in a skirt with a whistle is not respect either—especially in a workplace setting.

The #Metoo Movement is not seeking a sterile environment where all desires are relinquished to no man’s land. It is simply asking that men look at women as equals to them (and not as mere objects for their pleasure), and express desire with that equality in mind. The key word in this is simply, ASK. Ask a woman if she would like a kiss? A dinner date? Give compliments with the context in mind. Is the setting a bar, or a business meeting? If you’re at a business meeting, complimenting Suzie’s new top while gazing down her chest is inappropriate.

Perhaps persistence pays off, and honestly, sometimes it does. We all know of couples who got together after one persisted, and that is okay, as long as the person being persisted does not make it clear that they want nothing to do with the pursuer. We all KNOW the difference between flirtatious persistence, side grins, giggles and a person who is notably uncomfortable and annoyed. A person pushing away and saying NO is an example of where persistence is NOT paying off. Despite the porn script, NO really does mean NO.

The #MeToo Movement is Turning Women into Victorian Victims:

Again, this is a legitimate concern. And, honestly from the outside, looking in, I can see why someone would feel this way about the movement. Women are, after all, tweeting in droves and some of the language used to describe certain events can appear pronounced. We are, for better or worse, living in the era of the snowflake, and this coming from a self-proclaimed snowflake. In this age of trigger warnings, it has been argued, successfully, that we (especially the younger generation) have become overly sensitive, expecting to be coddled against anything that might offend them or anyone within a 500 mile radius. In this climate, an unwelcome kiss can be described as inducing trauma. At first read, these kinds of reactions to mild sexual conduct can seem overblown at best, and at worse, people clamoring for their seat in the media spotlight—however, short-lived that light may linger. And, where the hell did all these sexual assault survivors even come from anyways? It almost appears as if the #MeToo movement turned strong women into weaklings with one hashtag. It seemed we went to bed resilient, perfectly capable of wiping an unwanted kiss off our cheek, and woke up with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. What the hell happened?

I’ll tell you what happened: Someone gave us permission to speak, and boy, did we heed the call! Like wolves howl to bring in the pack, a howl went out, and women came. And girls, and boys, and men. And not only were sexual assault survivors given the permission to talk, they were validated in their belief that what happened to them was NOT okay. You see, women bathe in a culture that consistently tells them that they are objects and to be a desired object (even if that desire is unwanted) is something a woman should take to the bank, head over heels. Even if we (women) are not directly assaulted by another person, society itself has reduced women and young girls as objects for the male gaze. And this sexual objectification in the media does have real-life effects on young girls and women, including sysmtpoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women also bathe in a culture that often blames them the for sexual abuse inflicted on them. We all know the dialogue: say it with me: “What were you wearing?” “Were you drinking?” “Why did you go to his place?” And we can go on, can’t we? (Note: if prosecution of a rape is the goal, a survivor of sexual assault will have to answer some questions pertaining to an investigation). So when unwanted sexual misconduct happens (a grope, rape, forced sex acts, etc.) women often second guess and blame themselves, along with the rest of society.

So, it’s not that overnight, survivors of sexual violence and misconduct became helpless victims. It’s that overnight, survivors were given a voice, and a choice to use that voice, but more importantly, their feelings of betrayal, disgust, and hurt, were VALIDATED. They were ALLOWED to express how they felt, and those feelings were NOT dismissed. To answer my own question: The survivors who have come forward are not weak. It takes courage to talk about uncomfortable experiences, period.

The #MeToo Movement Convicts Without Due Process:

Again, they have a point.

And yes, we have to admit this: Not every accusation tweeted is real. Statistics tell us that. Not every allegation of sexual assault can be true. There are allegations that are either flat-out lies or some that have been exaggerated. I have read some cases myself that left me wondering: Did this really happen? And that is a valid question especially if the person accused is facing legal action. To be fair, and I know I’ll be slammed for this, but unlike robbery where you are either robbed, or not, sexual conduct is a bit more blurry. Ignoring this is elementary. I mean: What exactly is sexual assault? Sexual misconduct? If a woman is plastered when a rape happens, can we believe her account of the event given that alcohol impairs the memory? Such inquiries are legitimate  if prosecuting a sexual assualt is the end goal. Simply asking these questions should not banish a person to the land of misogynist nit-wits. This is just not a good place. Trump lives there.

Statistics tell us: Roughly 4-6% of claims of sexual assault are discovered to be false. And these false accusations have tell-tell characteristics, such as the accuser will usually—not always—focus on a stranger rather than pin-pointing an actual assailant. Alongside these false reports, there are cases that will never be reported: The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that out of every 1,000 incidents of sexual assault, only 310 are reported, meaning that most cases of sexual assault are not false reports but rather legitimate cases that are simply not reported at all. In fact, sexual assault, to include first-degree rape is the crime least likely reported, least likely to result in arrest, and the least likely to lead to a conviction in which the perpetrator spends time behind bars. RAINN further reports on their website, that every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, yet only 6 of the 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. These are cold, hard numbers. If legitimate cases of rape go unreported, and even if reported, probably not convicted, the chance of a man being jailed for a false rape is rare. Does it happen, yes, but it is rare, making the idea of innocent men languishing in prison over trumped-up rape charges more of red herring than reality.

Let’s be clear; there is a big difference between the due process one would receive in a court of law and the due process of the media. The media’s taking of certain experiences detailed by women and creating sensationalized stories to get a click is not the result of the #MeToo movement gone awry, but rather the result of fast-food journalism. In the age of the meme, and people considering them legitimate news sources, journalism has taken a back seat. It may not even be along for the ride, in some cases.

Yet, again, I ask: Give me an example of a man who has been accused of mild sexual conduct who has been destroyed in the media? And that destruction further translated to negative consequences to his career, family life, etc.? Two cases come to my mind when I think of men who have been accused of mild sexual misconduct in the media circus. James Franco, and Aziz Ansari, both of which, after allegations were made, were both offered a platform to speak against the allegations. I do not know too many people who get a seat on the Colbert show, like James Franco did, to rebut negative allegations against them. Both of these men were also boosted (defended in several articles) by the media while the women who shared their negative experiences about them were treated rather harshly. In public spaces, like Facebook and Twitter, these women were outright trashed. So, if anyone has been railroaded in the media for the sake of clicks, it has been the women who simply spoke of their experiences.

The #MeToo movement is Trivializing Actual Cases of Rape:

Yep, they have a point. I can imagine that people who have experienced cases of brutal rape can find that their stories fall to the bottom of mounting sexual allegations. I have heard personally from women who were victims of child sexual abuse say they feel insulted that other women are using the same label they use—sexual assault, to describe milder experiences of assault. And I can understand–and even relate to their feelings on this. I have also heard women complain that many of the women given air time to share their experiences are primarily white, wealthy, famous women. Again, I agree. I would like to hear from more everyday people and not just celebrities, the same celebrities who in a few weeks will play a Hollywood role that disempowers women. Their is validity in these grievances. It is difficult to empathize with someone suffering when you have suffered a heck of a lot more or to sympathize with someone who has access to resources that the everyday person could not even fathom. And, yes, there is a difference between rape and an ass grab. Just as there is a difference between a slap to the face and gunshot wound to the head. However, show me a claimant of mild sexual misconduct (a nasty comment, a boob grab) that is equating their experience to someone who suffered a violent rape, child molestation, or other such event?

Every day we share our experiences. We complain about running out of coffee, stumping our toes, losing 30.00 in blackjack, a traffic jam. While complaining, people are starving, farm animals live in miserable conditions, bombs go off, children die. The point is some allegations will be lesser than others, and their suffering is less. It is nonsensical to say otherwise. However, to tell someone they cannot, or should not share their personal experiences because, in comparison to others, it falls short is absurd. With that logic, most of us have absolutely nothing to complain about and most of our experiences are meaningless.

The #MeToo Movement Ignores the Plight of Men: What about Men?

What about men? Yes, those poor unfortunate souls who hold the vast majority of power in the world: What about them? Firstly, the #MeToo movement has not ignored men. Think Keven Spacey. He had several allegations made against him and as a result, can pretty much kiss his career goodbye. The guy is literally a social pariah at this point. In fact, the most recent film he did, “All the Money in the World,” the filmmakers actually went back and re-edited all the scenes that included him out of the movie. The filmmakers made it clear that they would not support a man who had used his power and influence to take advantage of younger men. Ironically, the same filmmakers paid their male lead, Mark Walberg, 1.5 million dollars to reshoot the scenes without Spacey, while paying their lead female, Michelle Williams, a mere 1,000 (just 1% of what her male co-star was paid) for the same work. Heroically, Walberg donated the entire 1.5 million dollars to the #timesup movement.

Kevin Spacey’s victims were not women, but men. And these men were given a platform to speak, their voices were validated, and consequences were swiftly rendered against their attacker.

And this the reality of sexual abuse, isn’t it? It can happen to anyone. Men are vulnerable too, especially young boys. These boys and men deserve to be heard, and they deserve justice. But, let’s be clear: The vast majority of sexual assault victims are women. Let’s look at statistics again…oh, those pesky numbers! RAINN reports: 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, whereas 3% of men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) provides more statistics: On a college campus, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted, whereas 1 out of every 16 men reports sexual assault on campus. If anyone is being left out, or forgotten in the #MeToo haze it is not men, but children. Children, defined as persons under 18 years old, are the MOST vulnerable to sexual abuse, with RAINN reporting that 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult before the age of 18, with 82% of child victims being female. In 88% of child sexual assault cases, the perpetrator is a male, 9% are female, 3% other (transgender, etc.). The numbers are clear: Most sexual assault case victims are female, and most of the perpetrators of those crimes are male. This is not to imply that all men are abusive. The vast majority are not. However, we have to ask ourselves: If we have gender equality, why are women so vulnerable to being victims of sexual abuse at the hands of men? Could it be a cultural problem? A symptom of patriarchy? You can decide.

The #MeToo movement is not perfect, nor will those who represent be perfect, but it is a movement needed, it is about damn time, and #timesup. I personally hope it is not a movement fractured with internal squabbles or one that stalls out because it refused to grow and adapt; because women are depending on it. We need this movement and just for us, but for all women, all across this globe, and for me at least, it is a movement not even just for women, but for all that suffer under the oppressive hands of inequitable power structures.

 

6 thoughts on “The #MeToo Movement Needed this Backlash

  1. Very cogent piece, and a lot to think about here. It’s great to be able to read and hear different perspectives about the #MeToo movement. I mean, the differences in opinion among just women is fascinating. Anyhow, great post. Let’s hope #MeToo doesn’t go the way of Occupy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. And So true! Sexism is just one battle we face on the planet, one that matters a lot, but we have so many other issues, too, that I hope we as a species figure out. It would be nice to live in a world where equality is not some liberal ideal, but reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A solid critique. You asked for an example of a false accusation. I would say that Aziz Ansari is one; his accusation is at least an example of the dilution of the movement. Another issue you haven’t touched in your post is conflation of feminist issues like equal representation in government and the wage gap with #metoo. The question of the validity of those positions aside, conflating them with assault and harassment further weakens the movement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I respect your opinion on the matter but I disagree that joining issues such as lack of female representation in government, or gender wage gap with sexual harassment is conflation but rather, in my opinion, the act of seeking long term solutions to sexual harassment and assault. Generally, when one person has more power (representation, money, etc) than another, the one in the lower status position is vulnerable to abuse (sexual, physical, financial, etc) by the one in the higher status position. When women are on equal footing with men in pay, represntation and capital, sexual abuse will lessen. As of now, women are way UNDERREPRESENTED in media and government. Looking at our lack of influence in the media can explain pretty quickly why women are often portrayed as hypersexed objects. Men are creating for the male gaze. The female gaze is left in the dust.

      As for the case of Aziz, I get it. I really do. It does seem a bit bold for the accuser to call her experience sexual assault. Perhaps a better description of the event would be “uncomfortable.” But, why get caught in semantics, and lose the heart of the matter? The truth is that so many women have experienced what Aziz’s accuser described. Women are consistently pressured to please men visually and physically. It is almost written into the female guide book whereas men are scripted to pursue. I get that sexual interest is not always prim, proper and neat but in this instance, the woman said no several times and Aziz just keep persisting. He wasn’t very concerned with what her thoughts, ideas, or desires were. If he had been concerned with her wishes, the first few No’s would have stopped him. And that’s really want women want and deserve. We want to be equal partners in sex, lust and desire. We want our bodies back from the pages of Hustler where they’ve been objectified for male pleasure without much regard to what brings us pleasure. Is that too much to ask?

      I hope that makes sense. I’m not the best at explaining things. And thanks again for your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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