It started on Sunday night.
Two seemingly innocuous words, "Me too," began to appear on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, first in trickles, then in spurts. By Wednesday (October 18), a veritable flood of #MeToo posts had come to dominate the Internet, as primarily women and femme-identifying folk used the hashtag, created by activist Tarana Burke and popularized by actress Alyssa Milano, to share experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
"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," Milano wrote in her now-viral tweet.
In response to this call-to-action, bravery and truth spread across social media like a wildfire, and such transparency around a topic that's been too many people's realities for far too long is a powerful thing, indeed. But what the #MeToo movement has comparatively struggled to capture is men's culpability; namely, that the onus shouldn't be on victims to share their stories in the hopes of (finally) having their realities acknowledged and believed, but should instead be on the perpetrators of these acts of violence (verbal or otherwise) and their brethern. Because when you think about it, #MeToo as a hashtag may be new, but the conversation around it is anything but. The first Take Back the Night March was in 1975. A similar #YesAllWomen hashtag gathered momentum in 2014. And Burke initially coined the "Me Too" concept well before that, in 2007.
Women being honest about their experiences with harassment and assault, then, is nothing new. But what does have the potential to become new is a greater number of male allies stepping up to the plate and accepting responsibilty for holding one another accountable in preventing this kind of violence. For this to happen en masse would be truly unprecendented. And following the surge of #MeToo posts, some men seem determined to make that happen.
One such man is Facebook user Indigo Nai. In a compelling post shared on Tuesday (October 17), Nai makes the argument for what #MeToo fails to capture — and it should be required reading for all men. Check out the full post below.
"Women are owning the internet today. Every woman I know is speaking up and reaching out, drawing others into the circle. They are all saying ‘Me too; I have been assaulted, too'.
On the other side of the line, men are being uncharacteristically quiet. While women are raising their voices and implicitly asking if men will acknowledge their experience at our hands, we are saying nothing in return. Effectively, we are gaslighting women with our silence. We are pretending their experiences did not happen. We are implying that while there may be bad men, we must not be the men they’re talking about. We are acting as if all of the bad men stand on the other side of a line that we have drawn in the sand. We refuse to see that that line in the sand is a circle that we've drawn around ourselves.
Let me shout it out for those sitting in the back: there are no ‘good men’, gentlemen. There are no ‘bad’ men. There are no ‘gentlemen’. There are just men. And men are not raised to be gentle. Whether you see it or not, our society has raised us to be women's wolves.
What women are saying today about men is obvious to me, and so, because I am a man, I have no alternative but to acknowledge women’s experience at my hands:
I have a list. It isn’t long, but it’s not good. And like most men, my list is probably longer than I’d like to think. My history ranges from kissing acquaintances without warning to treating silence as if it was consent, to being more aggressive while intoxicated than I am while I was sober. I pursued women I wanted to the point of their emotional exhaustion, to the point where it was easier to give in than keep restating their boundaries. I penetrated a new partner without a condom once. A long time ago, I gave a friend enough champagne that her ’no’ became a ‘yes’. It wasn’t a yes the next morning.
Those last two, for everyone seated in the back, count as sexual assault. At least. Which means that I have sexually assaulted women.
Whether we know it or not, whether we allow ourselves to admit it or not, every man has a list of times that he has violated a woman's boundaries. Men are raised in a society that teaches boys that they are entitled to have access to women’s bodies. You may not be drugging women’s drinks in a nightclub, you may not be stalking sex workers in a van, but you have probably pressured someone sexually more than once in your life. The game teaches men to assume that women want what we want. The game teaches women that they are supposed to want what men want. Men benefit from this, women do not, but the game is rigged to hurt everyone. The only way to end that cycle is to reject the game itself.
Now that I’m older, I understand that. I didn’t then. I’ve learned. But for every man that learns, ten more boys are coming up. The men who have learned have a responsibility to own their past and share what they have learned so that the pain of that past isn’t wasted. It would unforgivable to hide the pain I've caused women simply because I was afraid that it would reflect poorly on me. It reflects just as poorly on me when shared as it would if I was the only one that knew.
Guys, let's put our egos aside for a second and talk like men: if you think you aren't a part of the problem, that you're immune to the problem, or have transcended the problem, then you actually are the problem. Because it's not a 'problem'; it's our society as a whole. Sexual assaults on women are the tide, and the tide is not receding. If we're going to draw lines in the sand, let’s draw those lines so that they protect women from the men that would assault them, not to protect men from having to confront who we actually are.
TL: DR; If virtually every woman that you know has been assaulted, harassed, or has been a survivor of harassment, how many of the men that you know do you think have assaulted or harassed women?
What if the real answer is #AllOfUs?