I don’t have the answer to the question I ask in the title here. But I fear a budding social movement is at risk of being minimized.
As more and more women come forward to talk about the sexual harassment, sexual manipulation, sexual exploitation and, in some cases, sexual assaults they’ve experienced throughout their lives, some male victims of sexual assault are including themselves in the “MeToo” movement.
I’m not trying to downplay the gravity of their experiences. Most of the men stepping forward were boys when they were sexually assaulted by priests, Scout leaders, school masters, uncles and the like. We’ve been hearing their stories for years now in the media, and we know the psychological damage lasts a lifetime.
What happened to most of these boys is criminal, quite literally. They were sexually assaulted. And the perpetrators in many cases are being brought to justice.
But the #MeToo movement was — and still is, mostly — about women and the sexual harassment and sexual manipulation they experience in myriad forms throughout their lifetimes, from the time they are little girls to the day they die. Yes, many women are sexually assaulted — and those are criminal acts like those experienced by aforementioned boys. But almost every female on the planet has been sexually harassed repeatedly throughout their lives in ways that can’t be prosecuted in a court of law — something that the vast majority of men do not experience.
It brings to mind the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and people who respond to it by saying “all lives matter.” Yes, of course all lives matter. But, as a Vox article points out, the point of the #BlackLivesMatter movement is to show that “black people’s lives are relatively undervalued in the US — and more likely to be ended by police — and the country needs to recognize that inequity to bring an end to it.” Most white people simply cannot relate to the myriad forms of discrimination encountered by black people, so responding to the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag with “all lives matter” is downplaying the significance the BLM hashtag and the issues that it is addressing.
The #MeToo movement is about the way a patriarchal system has misvalued and mistreated females — and still does — for centuries. It is about standing up to rampant, overt sexual objectification and harassment in myriad forms in most social settings in societies throughout the world.
Yes, we know that some boys have been molested, too. And we cry for them and decry the criminal acts and urge the justice system to act.
But #MeToo was only meant to be about the female experience, wasn’t it?
What say you?
Photo: Alyssa Milano encouraged use of the hashtag after accusations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced in 2017. (Photo credit: Facebook)